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Teaching Stylistic Simplicity with a Computerized Readability Formula


A study was conducted to test whether quantitative feedback would help students write with the stylistic simplicity appropriate to their audience and purpose without sacrificing other elements of good writing. Two business and technical writing classes received identical reading assignments, classroom activities, and writing assignments; but one class got feedback on their writing from a computerized readability formula, the Simplified Test Approach for Readability (STAR), which was based on the Flesch readability formula. Five assignments were tested in all, and a nine-point scale was used to assess appropriateness of stylistic simplicity. The results were suggestive but not conclusive. The overall achievement of students in the STAR group correlated more positively with scores on the stylistic simplicity scale than did the achievement of students in the control group. However, the control group scores on the stylistic simplicity scale were not highly predictive of overall achievement. That is, the control group students may have mastered stylistic simplicity, but their learning did not consistently correlate with overall achievement. Further analysis suggested that feedback to students about grade level equivalents in readability may have accounted for the relation of overall achievement to stylistic simplicity. (RL)


Schwartz, H.J. Teaching Stylistic Simplicity with a Computerized Readability Formula. Retrieved March 27, 2023 from .

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