The musician is using plain language to generate support for his Senate bid in Michigan, but challenges remain.
On July 12th, 2017, the rapper, producer and actor, Kid Rock, announced his candidacy for the US Senate. The Michigan native made the announcement on Twitter, generating a huge response from fans and critics. But the interesting thing here is not the fact that Kid Rock is running for the Senate. After all, celebrities have embraced politics for decades.
The interesting thing is what Kid Rock has already highlighted as a key issue in US politics. That key issue is plain language. Kid Rock wrote that people “should be able to easily understand and navigate the laws, tax codes, healthcare” and everything else to do with government policies.
Campaign in poetry and govern in prose
It’s a topical point, and one that we welcome. Voters have become weary of long-winded, conventional politics, and want their representatives to speak in plain language. They want to relate to their representatives. They also want to fully understand the policies that will have a real effect on their lives.
The election of Donald Trump as president has supported that point. He identified with voters while using a third grade reading level. The old saying goes, you campaign in poetry and govern in prose. However, in the US, it seems like this saying has been flipped on its head. More and more candidates like Kid Rock campaign using basic language. When they get into office, the major challenge is to make sense of federal government language.
Kid Rock has identified that people are confused over the language that the government uses to write its laws. It is just not plain English.
We have seen enormous issues over the language that the federal government uses. For example, there have been several complications in the healthcare sector in recent years.
A simple case in point would be the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare. There has been endless debate over every facet of the Act. For the purposes of this article, let’s steer clear of the political ramifications of the Act. Let’s focus on the language and analyze it.
For our analysis, we used VisibleThread Readability. It’s a lightweight readability tool for Doc, Web and Text analysis. The nice thing is that it flags issues at paragraph level and it’s free. There is also a paid version which generates some nice reports. But we were fine with just the free version. Here is a sample passage from the Act, a 970-page document.
As we can see, this is bad English. It uses the passive voice twice. The readability is very poor, with a Grade 18 reading level. That’s a reading level of someone with an advanced third-level degree.
This standard of writing is typical in this context. Too often, government policies and documents are just too complicated for many people to understand. It doesn’t have to be this way. It is possible for the government to write policies that more people could follow.
Let’s see what we can do with this sample piece of text. We are looking for clear English now. The key is to eliminate long sentences and the passive voice. We also want to improve the readability of the text and present clear language.
Now, the readability has improved by ten percentage points. Moreover, we have dropped five reading grade levels after simplifying the language. There are neither long sentences nor examples of the passive voice. We have not diluted the message.
Kid Rock’s message is timely
He has vowed to “get in the Senate and try to help someone”. He has also said that “you never met a politician quite like me”. Those statements have a reading level of Grade 2 and Grade 6, respectively. That’s the kind of plain language that politicians need to use to get their message across to the people.
Obviously federal government language will never be written in the clear English that a candidate like Kid Rock uses. But there is no reason why government policies cannot be in simpler, plain language that people can understand. Politics has many similarities to business: there’s no room to ramble.
- Politicians using plain language are performing excellently and engaging with voters.
- Kid Rock’s Senate run epitomizes this trend.
- However, the federal government uses bad English.
- We analyzed a random piece of text from the Affordable Care Act, and made suggested improvements.
- You can easily score content for plain language by using tools like VT Writer. These tools provide instant reports on problematic content and suggest fixes.
- You can use tools like this for any subject matter, scoring product brochures, blog posts etc.