Can a sixth grader understand it

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Published April 16, 2017

If a Sixth Grader Can Understand It, You’re on the Right Track

There’s a beautiful verse from Ecclesiastes: “I saw that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to the men of skill. But time and chance happen to them all.”

George Orwell wanted to make a point of how terrible and unmeaning obscure language can be. He took that beautiful verse and wrote: “Objective consideration of contemporary phenomena compels the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must invariably be taken into account.”

That’s a magnificent lesson in writing. Make your prose soar and clear. Beautiful and powerful. Be more Ecclesiastes and less Orwell.

You’ll notice, also, that the verse from Ecclesiastes has 38 words— 35 of them are one syllable.