I was reading the USA Today newspaper last weekend and came across the word “nadir” in an article on homicides. I have never heard the word “nadir” ever in my life. I read like a fiend and write quite frequently. OK so I chalk it up to a word I missed along the way and continued reading. THEN I see the word “doyenne” on the page. Seriously? I’ve only been reading the paper for about ten minutes and there are two words I don’t recognize. I’m befuddled.
The curiosity was killing me … what grade level is this newspaper written for was the only thought going through my head. I was thinking grade 18, at least graduate school. Ummm… no it’s written at the 10th grade level! Please if you know a 10th grade student, ask them if they are familiar with these words!
Later in the week I was reading a judicial opinion and came across the word “insuperable” and again thought myself here is another word, three words in three days I don’t recognize. I am not so shocked at a word in a judicial opinion that I am not familiar with, it happens.
I started thinking -- I wonder how many jurors listen to words that befuddle them? I would imagine many. I would also imagine that a word that a juror doesn’t understand could have devastating consequences. We need to be careful that the words we use to convey ideas, particularly complex ideas can be understood.
Here is a website that you can paste your text in to and it will give you the grade level of understanding. A jury consists of many grade levels so you need to be aware not to use words that are too high above or too low below the average grade level. Last week if you asked me I would have said that a tenth grade level should be good. This week I would say maybe start at the ninth grade level and work up slowly from there.
I planned on sharing the definitions of those words. But that’s much too easy. Click on the links.
INSUPERABLE - http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/insuperable