I am going to pose a thought that I think a hundred years ago would have been welcomed as common sense and supported by the literary world as a standard of fact. Today, however, I think this statement would be a bit more controversial given the “statistics” people use to back their opinion against it. Here it is.
A writer is an artist with an obligation to educate through the presentation of their piece of art.
Whether you agree or disagree, I hope you will read on so I can explain why.
The reason I am writing this is I have been reading a lot of blogs lately written by “successful” writers/authors supporting a statistic that your writing should be “dumbed down” for an eleven-year-old to be able to comprehend it because most readers don’t have a better reading comprehension above that level. Some blogs explain further that this really should only apply to what you post online in your blog or a magazine or newspaper article. Some, however, support the idea that all writing, including novels, should be dumbed down and simplified. (No adjectives in a fictional novel? Really? How boring!)
When I read these articles, I was floored. Whatever happened to “knowledge is power”? In a world where the job markets are saturated with far too many candidates and far too few jobs to fill, competition to be the best you can, is at its highest level. Good paying jobs today require you to have good speaking and writing skills. You are the face and voice for your company. If you cannot appear smarter than an eleven-year-old, why should they hire you?
Companies want people that can learn and be trained on whatever they need you to do. If your comprehension is only that of an eleven-year-old, can you really be trained to use complex computer programs, deal with difficult customers on the phone or in person in a professional manner, and possibly lead and manager other people?
I won’t bore you with siting journals or scientific studies – a simple internet search can lead you to the research if you so desire it, but it has been proven in a number of studies, as well as by teachers I have known that a good foundation in reading and writing allows the brain to better understand other subjects, such as math and science. Reading is the gateway form of education to learning everything else more efficiently.
So, what is the responsible writer educating his/her readers on? Aside from the obvious – grammar, spelling, and complex sentence structure, a good responsible writer teaches, through their art, how to convey thought in an understandable way, how to describe something in more than one way, how to paint a picture in someone’s mind, how to hope and love, how to triumph, and so many other wonderful things. Reading shouldn’t just be for simple quick entertainment like watching a television sitcom. Reading should be an experience that leaves you wanting more from life. It should leave you feeling empowered and stronger. It should leave you richer than before you read that first word. Reading is an exercise of growth.
A responsible writer, not a writer only looking to cash in on readers, wants to leave their reader with a wonderful experience and help them climb higher and mature.
Writers are growing and maturing with each piece they write. As they polish their craft and get better at writing, that writing becomes more complex and vivid. If readers don't grow with them, writers aren’t going to have an audience anymore.
A society with a majority having only the comprehension level of a preteen should be scary enough of a concept to convert writers to not pander to this “dumbing down” theory. If it’s not, what a sad world we have to look forward to.