Shades of Sir Humphrey



Screen Shot 2016-09-29 at 16.04.12.pngThat popular diocesan magazine Teulu Asaph is at it again. In the last issue the editors explained Mission Areas to their readers. This time they have called in the Venerable Peter Pike, Archdeacon of Montgomery to explain the tortured terms more fully. Unfortunately, he doesn’t seem to understand them either.

The first question he is asked is “What is a church committee?”  The first part of the answer is easy. Each church may elect its own Church Committee (CC) to be responsible for running itself. [That word ‘may’ is interesting. Does it mean that a church may choose not to accept this responsibility? If not, who will?] This CC will do all those things which PCCs currently do, except for matters now given to the Mission Area Conference (MAC).   At this point the Archdeacon is reduced to quoting from The Decree (whatever that is) to explain what bits MAC will now take over.

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“The Mission Area shall appoint a Mission Area Conference which shall have the powers and responsibility of both the Parochial Church Council and the Deanery Conference as set
out in the Constitution (sections 4b and 4c) including, but not limited to, promoting the whole mission of the Church and assessing the needs of the Mission Area in respect of finance, personnel, and buildings and property.” This is Sir Humphrey speak with a vengeance.



Do you know anything about the Fog Index of readability or the Flesch reading ease score? Or the one I really like which is the Smog score. [Simple Measure of Gobbledygook] You really need to if you want people to read what you have written, and, more importantly, understand it.

If your sentence is 8 words long everyone will understand it. 9-14 words and your readers will absorb 90% of what you’ve written on first reading. 20 words is a good modern day average. Clever writers like Dickens could have sentences of 30 words but not too often. Increase the sentence length to 43 words and only 10% will make sense of it without effort. You would need a reading level capable of absorbing a legal document.

The sentence which forms the third paragraph above is 65 words long!  I fed it into one of the readability test websites for their analysis.

They gave it a score of 0.3 and added the comment, “That’s really hard going. This is at the same reading level as the Harvard Law Review. Chances are, you could do a few things to simplify it.”

I then put this bit of the Gospel according to St Mark, chapter 1 40-44, through the same readability test.

“40 And a leper came to him beseeching him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” 41 Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, “I will; be clean.” 42 And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. 43 And he sternly charged him, and sent him away at once, 44 and said to him, “See that you say nothing to any one; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to the people.”

They gave Mark a score  of 79.4 and commented, “Nice. That’s the same reading level as Harry Potter.”


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