I’m working on a newsletter piece.  I’m aiming for an 8th grade reading level (don’t want anyone to have to work too hard), but Microsoft Word says this is at grade 10.6.  I tried to avoid excessive convolution, obfuscation, syllablization, and bloviation*, but still, the reading level is too high.  Tell me, can you read this?

The New Democratic Majority: Will It Make a Difference?


If you watched the State of the Union speech on TV in January, you heard the President talk about AIDS in third world countries.  To his credit, Mr. Bush created the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), and has poured far more money into fighting AIDS in Africa than any previous administration.


What about AIDS in the United States?


Nearly half a million people in the U.S. are living with AIDS.  There are Americans with AIDS in every state going without medicine or regular doctor visits, and even without housing or food. Yet you don’t read about them in the newspaper.  And the government doesn’t seem to notice.


The Ryan White CARE Act, a 1990 law that provides money for medical treatment, drugs, and related services to AIDS patients, has been flat-funded for six years. In December the Congress reauthorized the law, renaming it the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Modernization Act of 2006. 


Changes made to the law increased the number of people eligible to receive services.  While that is good news, there’s a catch.  Not enough additional funding was added in the President’s 2008 budget proposal.  That means that some agencies serving AIDS patients will actually get less money this year.


The Democratic Party now holds the majority in the House and the Senate.  Although they could make AIDS in the United States a priority, we haven’t seen any evidence that they will.


In February the Congress approved more money for global efforts to combat AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria than the President’s budget requested.  But the domestic AIDS crisis is nowhere on the agenda.  New Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from San Francisco, has a long history of advocating for people with AIDS in California.  However, if she is planning to continue that advocacy for the whole nation, she’s keeping it to herself.


Similarly, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid supported a funding increase for PEPFAR and other overseas health efforts, but has been largely silent about AIDS at home.


We can’t count on our elected officials to ensure that our friends and neighbors with AIDS in Washington State have adequate housing, nutrition, care, and medicine.  We the People must continue to look out for one another.  We at (Nifty Agency) are committed to continue offering our care and support to those in need, for as long as the need exists.

Clear?  Boring? What?

*Bloviate: To speak or write verbosely or windily.


26 thoughts on “

  1. Well, it’s easy enough.  Given the amount of time for attentions span, more than reading level, I’d say you could maybe eliminate the 3rd Paragraph (“The Ryan White…”) and add a word or two of it into the next para.  And I’m guessing this will be accompanied by something that actually solicits an expression of support for some particular thing or a contribution?  Otherwise, it looks fine to me!
    I love the word “bloviation,” though.  I have to look that up.  I can just picture the mess if the person at the next desk bloviated all over the place–yech!

  2. “In December the Congress reauthorized the law, renaming it the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Modernization Act of 2006.”
    Maybe the spelling of “reauthorized” should be checked.

  3. I looked up “bloviation” in that enormous New Webster’s Dictionary that actually belongs to you, I think.  It’s not in there.  I’ve never heard the word before.  
    Your article is clear and reasonably interesting, given the subject matter;  but it can never hurt to dumb it down. Dumb, dumber and dumbest, the further down the better!

  4. Sounds clear to me.  If this is a part of a quest for funding, for “Nifty Agency”, do you have a clear idea of how, specifically, the agency will be affected, or is it all up in the air at this point?  Does the agency already rely upon any private funding?  How many people does it serve on a regular basis?  Is there a projected rise of services needed, and what would that be, if so?  Maybe too much detail, but maybe people would consider those questions, rather than a broad appeal.  Don’t know the target here, so it’s hard to form any specifics.

  5. You may want to reword “flat-funded”.  Other than that, I think its perfectly readable to an eighth-grader!
    I was waiting for a statement at the end “Please call your local congressman, whose number appears at the bottom of your screen, and tell them….”

  6. I too stopped at flat-funded. And I think the words are fine, but some of the sentences are a little long (for 8th grade level) and complicated. I think if you went through and simplified some sentences it would be perfect.

  7. Your brilliant choir has gotten it all covered already.  Yes, it was clear to me, but I went one year after high school, and politics interests me. Ninth graders,,,, on the other hand… So, the “Ryan White”- paragraph needs to be reworked or dumped. “Flat funded” might mean something in talk radio editorials but not to the average disinterested party. And commas. A comma in a sentence indicates either a change of direction in thought, or a list.  Both of those increase the comprehension level required. As an appeal, you’ll want to sharpen it down to the urgent details, narrow the focus further and exorcise the acronyms. My take.
      You made up ‘blowviation”, didn’t you ?

  8. I finally found “bloviate” in the Official Scrabble Dictionary.  It says it means “To speak pompously”.  Not the same thing as “verbose  and Windily”.  It’s sort of like the difference between Rush Limbaugh and William  Buckley!

  9. I think it’s sentence structure that’s killing you, and the names and titles of politicos.  Shorten all the sentences.  I work with 8th graders and this reads higher than most of thier text books. 

  10. I’m not really sure it’s possible to write an AIDS politics piece at an eighth grade level.  But if you must, I’d say your readers eyes will glaze over at PEPFAR.  Just say “Mr. Bush has poured more money…”

  11. I’m in 9th, and it’s perfectly clear. Easy enough.My 8th grade stuff was way harder than this, but I was in advanced classes and what not, so I dunno. But I’m def sure it’s good for regular 8th graders.Which reminds me of that dumb, dumb show “Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?”

  12. It’s clear enough, but a skeptic might ask, what’s “not enough funding” mean, and why are only “some” are getting less, and why are they getting less? Have they failed to meet a government standard for funding? It doesn’t sound like an across the board reduction if only “some” are getting less. Where’s the argument for why more funding is needed? Besides government, what other financial resources have been garnered? Are those funds up or down? And why should anyone suppose that Democrats are better suited at funding AIDs relief? Where’s the evidence of that? Why not conclude with a stronger pitch for private donations?

  13. It’s readable. I just woke up and I didn’t have to read any of that twice to understand it. The thing about that test that Word uses to figure out what the reading level is, they do some funny with with the average letters per word and average words per sentence and then they do something with those numbers and…..whatever..It’s pretty cool, actually, but it would be boring if I explained it.I’m in 12th grade, and I’ve never been able to write something under a 10th grade level, but nobody seems to notice.

  14. So is it true that the 2008 budget has more money, just not enough more money?  Meaning that more people are eligible but there is less money per eligible person?  It’s not clear how the budget could increase and some service centers would get less funding.
    (Sorry, it’s the scientist in me not understanding the whole story)

  15. First of all I learned something reading the piece, so thanks for that!  As for the grade level, I agree with what many already noted: shorter, less complex sentences overall would help.  Paragraphs 2 (“Nearly half a million people…”), 4 (“Changes made to the law…”) and 5 have simpler sentence structure and directly express your points. These paragraphs I think would be “8th grade level” without change.  The Ryan White Care Act paragraph I would scrap altogether or knock out nearly all of it if you feel strongly about keeping it in.  It’s the best example of long, involved sentences and some wording that crosses grade levels and challenges the reader.
    personally I would also delete the comments about Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid – they are irrelevant really to the point you are making and are speculative.  You are trying to inform about what is and is not going on.
    “In February the Congress approved more money for global efforts to combat AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria than the President’s budget requested…”  I would shorten also, ie:   Congress recently approved more money for worldwide AIDS relief than the Presiden’t budget requested but no mention was made of funding for the AIDS crisis here at home. (something like that).
    great piece though…. and very important!

  16. I would go more into the catches. For access to funding here and abroad the strings attached to this money tie people who are dying in knots. It sounds like aid without giving any money up when the aid has 100 different conditions to meet…

  17. I don’t agree with Microsoft Word, but I do agree with BarnBear; the hamsters need to know. Now if only those hamsters could’ve seen long before now how our fearless leader has an abominable habit of never putting any money where his mouth is. Sigh.

  18. I bloviate on my blog excessively, so thanks for helping me to define the thing that chases commenters away. Not that I am going to change my writing style to appease a few commenters, but knowledge is power, and I now have enough power to give the hamster running my electrical generator a ten minute sunflower seed break.

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