Sarah Palin Emails at an Eighth-Grade Level: Comparable to Obama’s First State of the Union

AOL Weird News conducted an analysis of Sarah Palin’s emails using the Flesch-Kincaid score.  The analysis revealed that Plain drafts emails at an eighth-grade level.  (The actual scores, according to two separate analyses, vared between 8.2 and 8.5). According to the experts, this is surprisngly high.  From the article:

AOL Weird News brought samples to two writing analysts who independently evaluated 24,000 pages of the former governor’s emails. They came back in agreement that Palin composed her messages at an eighth-grade level, an excellent score for a chief executive, they said.

The AOL analysis is similar to a prior post of mine using the exact same methodology to assess presidential State of the Union speeches (see my post Grading Presidential Rhetoric).  Here are the main results from that analysis:

Surprisingly, Palin’s emails grade just below Obama’s first State of the Union speech, which was estimated at an 8.79 grade level.   Obama’s joint-congressional session speeches (denoted with the star), on the other hand, grade at a 9.44.  Clinton falls between these two estimates, with a 9.27 estiamted grade level for his State of the Union speeches.  George W. Bush, on the other hand, comes in at a whopping 10.2.  Surprisingly, Bush’s speeches are more (!) complex than Obama’s.  Reagan, the “Great Communicator,” grades at a level similar to Bush (a 10.2 grade level).  The president with the highest grade level?  Kennedy, whose State of the Union speeches achieve a grade level of 12.3.

Now, of course, there is a huge difference between private emails and State of the Union Speeches.  Also, the methodology used to create these scores uses the average number of words per sentence and the average syllables per word.  Nothing in these analyses rates the appropriateness or suitability of those words.  Still, it is perhaps surprising that Palin’s emails (according to the study) and Obama’s first State of the Union speech (according to my results) achieve similar eighth-grade scores.

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