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Don Mansfield

Readability of Federal Solicitations

Readability of Federal Solicitations  

19 members have voted

  1. 1. How readable should a Federal solicitation be?

    • Grade 7-8 Reading Level
      7
    • Grade 9-10 Reading Level
      4
    • Grade 11-12 Reading Level
      7
    • Grade 13-15 Reading Level (College)
      1
    • Grade 16+ Reading Level (College Graduate)
      0


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Federal solicitations require boilerplate information that lowers readability, but if we are talking 'should' based on opinion: Grade 7-8 seems appropriate. This is based, in part, on the Department of Defense use of Flesch-Kincaid reading ease standards; the Plain Writing Act; and success with plain language contracts in industry.

In the Flesch reading-ease test 8th and 9th grade is considered plain English; 10th to 12th is considered fairly difficult to read.

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The answer is context dependent.  Some requirements and specifications for systems (think aircraft or spacecraft design or quantum computing) require terminology that will naturally reduce readability  - I don’t think it is reasonable to assume the Government should write those solicitations at a Grade 7-8 reading level.

Ultimately, the Government should strive to be an attractive business partner and readability of solicitations is certainly part of that; however, I think one standard to rule them all would have second and third order effects that could reduce the accuracy of a solicitation in an attempt to enhance accessibility.

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PepeTheFrog agrees with Jamaal Valentine and Matthew Fleharty. The technical specifications (SOW or "PWS") will necessarily be at a higher level, but everything else should be dumbed down as much as possible to the minimum level of 7-8. 

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On 11/30/2018 at 5:59 AM, Matthew Fleharty said:

The answer is context dependent.  Some requirements and specifications for systems (think aircraft or spacecraft design or quantum computing) require terminology that will naturally reduce readability  - I don’t think it is reasonable to assume the Government should write those solicitations at a Grade 7-8 reading level.

Ultimately, the Government should strive to be an attractive business partner and readability of solicitations is certainly part of that; however, I think one standard to rule them all would have second and third order effects that could reduce the accuracy of a solicitation in an attempt to enhance accessibility.

Thanks, Matthew. Now when are you going to do my new Problem of the Day?

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Don, what did you win? 

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I think we as a profession have barely nibbled at the plain language buffet so far.

Here is a link to an example of plain language being used to explain comlicated stuff; Einstein's General Theory of Relaivity "using only the ten hundred words people use the most often":

https://www.newyorker.com/tech/annals-of-technology/the-space-doctors-big-idea-einstein-general-relativity 

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20 hours ago, FAR-flung 1102 said:

I think we as a profession have barely nibbled at the plain language buffet so far.

Here is a link to an example of plain language being used to explain comlicated stuff; Einstein's General Theory of Relaivity "using only the ten hundred words people use the most often":

https://www.newyorker.com/tech/annals-of-technology/the-space-doctors-big-idea-einstein-general-relativity 

Loved it.

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On 12/12/2018 at 12:56 PM, FAR-flung 1102 said:

I think we as a profession have barely nibbled at the plain language buffet so far.

Here is a link to an example of plain language being used to explain comlicated stuff; Einstein's General Theory of Relaivity "using only the ten hundred words people use the most often":

https://www.newyorker.com/tech/annals-of-technology/the-space-doctors-big-idea-einstein-general-relativity 

I used to follow this author's web comics. 

I haven't followed it in a while to know if he still posts regularly, but his website is still active. https://xkcd.com/  

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