Great post from What Makes Them Click about determining the reading level of your text. Seems there is an actual formula called "The Flesch-Kincaid Reading Score" that measures the reading level and easy of a passage. For fun, I decided to look up the first passage in George Bush's memoir, "Decision Points" versus Barack Obama's, "Dreams from My Father".
It was a simple question. "Can you remember the last day you didn't have a drink?" Laura asked in her calm, soothing voice. She wasn't threatening or nagging. She did expect an answer. My wife is the kind of person who picks her moments. This was one of them.
"Of course I can," came my indignant response. Then I thought back over the previous week. I'd had a few beers with the guys on Monday night. On Tuesday I'd fixed myself my favorite after-dinner drinks: B&B, Benedictine and brandy. I'd had a couple of bourbon and Sevens after I put Barbara and Jenna to bed on Wednesday. Thursday and Friday were beer-drinking nights. On Saturday, Laura and I had gone out with friends. I had martinis before dinner, beers with dinner, and B&Bs after dinner. Uh-oh, I had failed week one.
Flesch-Kincaid Grade level: 6. Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease score: 65.
I had originally intended a very different book. The opportunity to write it first arose while I was still in law school, after my election as the first black president of the Harvard Law Review, a legal periodical largely unknown outside the profession. A burst of publicity followed that election, including several newspaper articles that testified less to my modest accomplishments that to Harvard Law School's peculiar place in the American mythology, as well as American's hunger for any optimistic sign from the racial front -- as morsel of proof that, after all, some progress has been made. A few publishers called, and I, imagining myself to have something original to say about the current state of race relations, agreed to take off a year after graduation and put my thoughts to paper.
Flesch-Kincaid Grade level: 12. Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease score: 38.
Interesting results. Grade level 6 vs. 12. Reading ease 65 vs. 38. So Bush is writing a 6 grade level, but at 65 is more difficult to read than Obama at 38. One more point to make is that on average American reads at an 8 grade level. I know this isn't very scientific, but from these short passages, who is the more better communicator?