Was it written for your audience? : Readability analyses of the information provided in English on a Swedish municipality’s website

University essay from Mälardalens högskola/Akademin för utbildning, kultur och kommunikation

Abstract: In today’s multicultural society it is increasingly important that information is made available in a way that allows it to reach as many people as possible. The present study investigates the readability of the information provided in English on a Swedish municipality’s website. While Umeå Municipality sets a good example when it comes to providing information in foreign languages, the question is how easy the information is to read. The methods used to measure the readability of the texts were three automated readability formulas as well as additional analyses focusing on sentence structure and the number of clauses per word. The results show that despite obvious efforts to follow the guidelines for providing public information, more attention needs to be given to the form of the texts themselves. The complexity of the texts as gauged by the reading formulas was in all cases greater than what is recommended for information written for the general public. Some of the texts would seem to require the reader to have a college degree to fully comprehend the information. The supplementary analyses, especially when it comes to the number of clauses per sentence, confirmed the complexity of the texts. The importance of ‘writing for your audience’ thus seems to have been neglected for parts of the analysed material, which implies that some readers may not fully understand their rights and responsibilities regarding the areas addressed on the municipality’s website.

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