I am guilty of suggesting this to my clients, but now I wonder... When I was much younger, a great teacher ( hi there, Sister Mary Andrew) told our class that the average reading level was grade 6. I have read, or heard, this same comment many times over the years. Most magazines, newspapers and best selling authors accept this fact and write accordingly. Now, I'm not so sure that we are doing the right thing.
As writers, do we have a responsibility to improve the quality of our work and thus raise the bar in the reading public, or does our responsibility end at the number of copies sold? I am talking to those authors who target the mass public audience and not to the academic writers who target a much smaller group of people who can appreciate the fact that they use words with more than two syllables.
Is it good enough, for those of us who write to the great unwashed, to cater to the lowest common denominator or should we assume that our audience can handle something a bit more challenging? I ask you - do you have the courage to write for an audience that will be challenged by your use of language arts? Can we all rise slightly higher and reach for better vocabulary and drag the average reader along with us? Should we? Is the economic risk too high to even bother? What would happen if popular writing was targeted at a grade 8 level - would the reader give up, or move up?
I guess what I am asking is, should we accept the fact that education seems to be changing and the standards (at least, on an anecdotal basis) seem to be dropping? Or, should we support the education system by attempting to push the readers a little higher?