Grading Presidential Language

February 10, 2009

This is akin to shooting fish in a barrel, I suppose. But if you treasure words and how they’re put together, you’ll enjoy Mark Nickolas’ simple but clever idea: use Microsoft Word’s readability tool to compare the language Barack Obama used Monday answering questions at his first presidential press conference versus that of George W. Bush eight years ago.

Nickolas, managing editor of Political Base, reports that President Obama spoke at a 10th-grade and Bush at a 7th-grade level. Hardly shocking but a quantitative measure of what we already knew.

More important to me is how many words each president spoke. Obama used nearly 3,500 more than his predecessor. That’s the equivalent of 8 to 10 typed, double-spaced pages. Granted, Obama has much more to talk about than Bush did in February 2001. But in these dire times we need as much information and candor as our leader can muster, and we’re getting both.

UPDATE: According to the Flesch-Kincaid Readability Test, the same tool Nickolas used, this post is written at a 10th-grade level.