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Today, we’re going to examine Murphy’s Fifth Law. That of readability. This law was found scrawled on a shovel, written with a piece of coal. Beating all odds, it survived in a farm shed in Kentucky for over 200 years. It simply said: “Big Words Hurt Little Heads.” – I.M. Murphy. Seems Murphy may have lacked a little tact on the day that was written.

Accordingly, we’ll accept as fact that Murphy was way ahead of the times. In 2022, we know that most people read at the level of a 12-year-old. At least in the US. In the UK, some sources say it’s wise to lower that age level to 9. Wow.


I hope not. It may just mean we’ve gotten lazier in our reading habits. More scanning. Less actual reading. Big words are bad. They smother surrounding little words. We miss things.

If you’ve read any of my other pieces, you’ll note my writing style is different today. We’re going to see if we can get a better grade with Yoast. Not that I think Yoast has the right to grade by paper. This is just an experiment Timmy. We’ll see if keeping it simple gets us a better score. And more importantly – will it be engaging? I’ve already fallen asleep twice while writing it.

Consequently, I can’t recall what it was like to read as a 12-year-old. Even if I could, my mother made sure I was well read, even as a lad. She rightly believed that reading was fundamental. Not bragging, but evidently, at that age I had a better vocabulary than most adults. I loved words, and still do. I reckon I’m going to leave it to Yoast to see how well I can write. But only for today. I will not let any program kill my love of the English language. Pfffftttt.

My greatest fear is that I’ll get a good grade, but when I wake up, I’ll wonder who wrote this drivel. You won’t need to use The Google to figure out what any of these words mean. Remember, this is science Timmy. We’re taking one for the team.


On that topic, let’s also consider if writing is art or science. And where the balance lies. It seems to me that writing always has been and always should be an art form. You need only look at the classics. No doubt art. But then Al Gore invented the internet. Well, we can’t blame it all on him. Newspapers and magazines were dumbing it down well before.

I do think the internet and its need for speed has hastened the fall of artful writing. At least in the digital world. Some studies say we read only 18% of the content on a web page. That’s enough to discourage any content manager. It’s a true “why even bother” moment.

But content managers know there’s more to the story. You see, Timmy, while humans may only read 18% of a page, bots read a lot more when they crawl across our sites. So the science says we must write to engage the bots. And somehow that just makes me sad. But this is the reality of life in the digital universe Timmy.


So where is the happy medium? Darned if I know. Somewhere between art and science lies the sweet spot. Since this is the first time I’ve written to please Yoast, we’ll have to see how I fair. The balance has to be out there somewhere. But I think, beyond this experiment, I’ve already decided I’ve no intention of trying to find it. Unless someone tells me differently of course.

And why do I not care to find the balance? One simple reason. I give folks reading these blogs more credit than the people who study issues of readability do. Pretty sure most of you read at a higher level than a 12-year-old.

For the record, just by adding 2 “transition” words, The Yoast’s readability icon jumped from its ‘meh’ face to a happy one. Based on that alone, I reaffirm that Yoast hasn’t earned the right to grade my paper.

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