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Newspapers inform and educate readers. They are expected to play their role as educators through language they use in their columns. Their readers may include a few scholars, but rest of them are commoners who may have studied only up to 12 th standard. Those newspapers who realise this select news and features that would appeal to a large number of readers and not for the few scholars. They are expected to use language that can be easily grasped by these readers. This is particularly important because readers have no time to read the daily newspapers.

Do the newspapers, their reporters and other contributors write simple, precise and brief language? Is the language containing complicated sentences replete with avoidable clauses? Do the reporters write to impress the readers, rather than inform?

Reporters are expected to provide the readers information and facts about events without any personal bias. Readers should be free to draw their own conclusions from these facts. Journalists of the previous generations observed these guidelines faithfully.

The Principal Investigator of this research project was a reporter of United News of India for 17 years and later worked with The Indian Post and The Observer of Business and Politics (both defunct) for another 13 years. He taught News Reporting in media schools in Pune and other places.

Teasers for journalists ...
Here is the lead of a front page story, above-the- fold, in a leading newspaper of December 14, 2011. “Buying and running cars and two-wheelers could soon become a costly affair with a Planning Commission working group suggesting a green surcharge of Rs. 2 on every litre of petrol, a green cess of 3% of the annual insured value of all private vehicles and a steep urban tax to be collected at the time of purchase of private vehicles.”

One notices that the reporter is anxious to give his readers all important points in one single sentence of 60 words. If you check spelling and grammar, the MS Word says it is a ‘long sentence’ and advises you to ‘Consider revising.’ Run the Readability Test of MS Word, and it tells you that Flesch Reading Ease (FRE) is 17.6, and Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level (F-KGL) Test 25.7 The FRE indicates that there is no Reading Ease. The F-KGL formula tells you that this sentence will be understood by the students of the 25 grade (in an American school). Both the tests simply mean that the sentence was difficult for readers to understand.
Let us attempt a re-write of the same lead, as follows:
Buying and running cars and two-wheelers could become a costly affair if suggestions of a working group of the Planning Commission are accepted. The group has suggested a green surcharge of Rs. 2 on every litre of petrol and a cess of 3% of the annual insured value of all private vehicles. This is besides a steep urban tax to be collected at the time of purchase of private vehicles.
Now we have three sentences totalling to 70 words. The FRE shot up to 55, and F-KGL is 11.3. This means that a student of even 11th grade can understand the sentences easily.
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