Our Sponsor Sideshow Collectibles Send us News
Lord of the Rings Tolkien
Search Tolkien
Lord of The RingsTheOneRing.net - Forged By And For Fans Of JRR Tolkien
Lord of The Rings Serving Middle-Earth Since The First Age

Lord of the Rings Movie News - J.R.R. Tolkien
Do you enjoy the 100% volunteer, not for profit services of TheOneRing.net?
Consider a donation!

  Main Index   Search Posts   Who's Online   Log in
The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Main:
The readability of Tolkien

Ataahua
Superuser / Moderator


Oct 2 2017, 9:51pm

Post #1 of 12 (2021 views)
Shortcut
The readability of Tolkien Can't Post

This blog post about the reading level that authors write within includes Tolkien's books in the first two bar charts, and finds that he rates well for both reading level and reading ease:

https://contently.com/...e-the-way-you-write/

I admit that I had never thought of Tolkien as being an easy author to read - just engrossing.

And I have a question: when someone is in grade eight (for instance) in the US, about what age would they be? (In journalism school we were taught to write for a reading age of 13-year-olds.)

Celebrimbor: "Pretty rings..."
Dwarves: "Pretty rings..."
Men: "Pretty rings..."
Sauron: "Mine's better."

"Ah, how ironic, the addictive qualities of Sauron’s master weapon led to its own destruction. Which just goes to show, kids - if you want two small and noble souls to succeed on a mission of dire importance... send an evil-minded beggar with them too." - Gandalf's Diaries, final par, by Ufthak.


Ataahua's stories


Silverlode
Forum Admin / Moderator


Oct 2 2017, 11:00pm

Post #2 of 12 (1951 views)
Shortcut
Eighth grade age in the US [In reply to] Can't Post

Entry age is usually 13, turning 14 during the school year. I've heard that most writers are told to go for that age level.

My biggest pet peeve with a lot of the modern authors I've read is that not only the vocabulary but the complexity of sentences seem to be declining of late, which makes them boring for me to read even if the basic story is a good one. I find this more with American authors than British, so I blame it on the American publishing houses deciding to aim for the lowest common denominator. I gave up on reading one bestselling author (I think it was Grisham) because, though the legal intrigue of the plots were good, it was written almost entirely in simple sentences. I started to feel like I was reading Dick and Jane Go to Court and got too bored to care. In order to make it to favorite author status with me, I need books to be well and interestingly written as well as having a good plot and characters. Tolkien, of course, had an excellent feel for the aesthetics of language and that makes him a pleasure to read, on top of the excellence of his storytelling.

Silverlode

Roads go ever ever on
Under cloud and under star
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.
Eyes that fire and sword have seen
And horror in the halls of stone
Look at last on meadows green
And trees and hills they long have known.




Ataahua
Superuser / Moderator


Oct 2 2017, 11:56pm

Post #3 of 12 (1949 views)
Shortcut
About those short sentences... [In reply to] Can't Post

I think this 'about writing' post on Facebook needs to be read by more authors: https://www.facebook.com/...54156230?pnref=story

One of my favourite authors, Jacqueline Carey, had too much of a love of using short sentences for effect. In one book, it got really tedious (even though the story itself was great). I like to think someone pulled her aside and told her to fix that for her next book (which she did, thankfully).

I like your description of Tolkien having a feel for the aesthetics of language. I was trying to describe what I think of Tolkien's writing style but couldn't put it in to words - but you've nailed it. Smile

Celebrimbor: "Pretty rings..."
Dwarves: "Pretty rings..."
Men: "Pretty rings..."
Sauron: "Mine's better."

"Ah, how ironic, the addictive qualities of Sauron’s master weapon led to its own destruction. Which just goes to show, kids - if you want two small and noble souls to succeed on a mission of dire importance... send an evil-minded beggar with them too." - Gandalf's Diaries, final par, by Ufthak.


Ataahua's stories


Darkstone
Immortal


Oct 3 2017, 3:54am

Post #4 of 12 (1914 views)
Shortcut
Cool! [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for the link!

With my current writing project I'm stepping way out of my comfort zone so I need all the help I can get!

(Damn it, Jim! I'm a writer, not an author!!)

******************************************
Queen Beruthiel, Queen Beruthiel, there's no one like Queen Beruthiel,
She's broken every Gondor law, she breaks the law of Earendil.
Her powers of feline-ation would make Aiwendil stare,
And when you reach the scene of crime - Queen Beruthiel's not there!
You may seek her in the Hallows, you may search throughout the square –
But I tell you once and once again, Queen Beruthiel's not there!

- Old Tollers' Book of Fat Cats on the Mat



Kilidoescartwheels
Tol Eressea


Oct 3 2017, 4:55pm

Post #5 of 12 (1866 views)
Shortcut
My two cents on the subject [In reply to] Can't Post

Thinking about it, I'm not that surprised that some of the classic literature is also relatively easy to read. You have to wonder if a piece is really "well-written" if the majority of people reading it can't really comprehend it. I think a part of good writing, regardless of subject, is being able to effectively convey the message. Yes, I've been disappointed by books that were too simplistic, but I've been equally put off by overinflated writing styles that never seem to get to the point.Mad

Perhaps instead of lamenting that most writing is geared toward 8th or 9th grade reading levels, we should be more concerned with whether 8th or 9th graders can actually READ at the appropriate level - or other adults, for that matter!Wink

Check out my new book here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1521753377


(This post was edited by Kilidoescartwheels on Oct 3 2017, 4:56pm)


Kilidoescartwheels
Tol Eressea


Oct 3 2017, 4:58pm

Post #6 of 12 (1862 views)
Shortcut
Good advice! [In reply to] Can't Post

I'll have to remember that!Cool

Check out my new book here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1521753377


Aunt Dora Baggins
Immortal


Oct 4 2017, 6:50pm

Post #7 of 12 (1775 views)
Shortcut
Clarity of writing reflects clarity of thought. [In reply to] Can't Post

There's always that one professor about whom the students say "S/he's really smart, but I just can't understand the lecture." My take is that usually that professor doesn't really understand the lecture either. The mark of someone who knows what they're talking about is that they can explain it to an eighth-grader. And the same goes for writing. If it's really dense, chances are it's trying to hide muddled thinking.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
GNU Terry Pratchett
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"For DORA BAGGINS in memory of a LONG correspondence, with love from Bilbo; on a large wastebasket. Dora was Drogo's sister, and the eldest surviving female relative of Bilbo and Frodo; she was ninety-nine, and had written reams of good advice for more than half a century."
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"A Chance Meeting at Rivendell" and other stories

leleni at hotmail dot com
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



squire
Half-elven


Oct 5 2017, 12:59am

Post #8 of 12 (1730 views)
Shortcut
Sometimes that's true [In reply to] Can't Post

But sometimes, in my experience, the lecturer is using vocabulary and references that are appropriate to the subject at an advanced level of presentation, and those who are completely lost have inadvertently wandered into the wrong room.

I agree that someone who knows what they're talking about should always be able to lower the level of their explanation to that of an eighth-grader, if called upon to do so: for example, when speaking in politics or for a mass market entertainment. But I don't think every lecture, especially in college or other adult venues, need be set to that level when the audience is not a bunch of eighth graders (or older people of an equivalent level of education, relative to the subject at hand).

Of course, at any level, some people are much better at clarity than others, and that does reflect an organized mind, a mastery of the subject and of the language, and an understanding of their audience.



squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
Archive: All the TORn Reading Room Book Discussions (including the 1st BotR Discussion!) and Footerama: "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
Dr. Squire introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


= Forum has no new posts. Forum needs no new posts.


NottaSackville
Tol Eressea

Oct 5 2017, 3:05pm

Post #9 of 12 (1664 views)
Shortcut
There's a third and fourth option as well [In reply to] Can't Post

I've known plenty of professors at research universities for whom teaching was an annoyance required of the job, not what they were interested in doing, and already having tenure, not something they cared about being good at. Teaching down to the level of the students required more effort than they were willing to put in to this annoyance.

There's also a subset of professors that are so wrapped up in their lifelong field of research that they simply have lost the concept of what other people know and don't know. They are typically the ones you absolutely do not want to be cornered with at a gathering.

Happiness: money matters, but less than we think and not in the way that we think. Family is important and so are friends, while envy is toxic -- and so is excessive thinking. Beaches are optional. Trust is not. Neither is gratitude. - The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner as summarized by Lily Fairbairn. And a bit of the Hobbit reading thrown in never hurts. - NottaSackville


Alveric
Rivendell


Oct 9 2017, 10:23pm

Post #10 of 12 (1485 views)
Shortcut
sounding clever [In reply to] Can't Post

It's the curse of graduate school. All of a sudden you're expected to sound much more intelligent and edgy, and the easiest short-cut is jargon. I've done it myself, although once past the dissertation, I have endeavored, or rather, tried, to write clearly.

And as for the gradual simplification of prose in fiction, I think it's partly to blame of J. K. Rowling--or rather, on publishers trying to tap the "YA" market. I have always found Rowling's prose extremely flat in style. She tells a clear story, she has lots of imagination, her minor characters are lovely, but the prose itself is almost without character. In. My. Opinion.


noWizardme
Valinor


Oct 10 2017, 2:05pm

Post #11 of 12 (1461 views)
Shortcut
Spufford on reading Tolkien [In reply to] Can't Post

Francis Spufford was 6 years old and not yet able to read when he was sent home with the mumps. Back then in the 1960s, quarantine in bed was what you did with mumps, and the young Spufford stayed in bed with The Hobbit:


Quote
When I caught the mumps, I couldn’t read; when I went back to school again, I could. The first page of The Hobbit was a thicket of symbols, to be decoded one at a time and joined hesitantly together…. By the time I reached The Hobbit’s last page, though, writing had softened, and lost the outlines of the printed alphabet, and become a transparent liquid, first viscous and sluggish, like a jelly of meaning, then ever thinner and more mobile, flowing faster and faster, until it reached me at the speed of thinking and I could not entirely distinguish the suggestions it was making from my own thoughts. I had undergone the acceleration into the written word that you also experience as a change in the medium. In fact, writing had ceased to be a thing—an object in the world—and become a medium, a substance you look through.”

The Child that Books Built, Francis Spufford


In the above, he's talking about 'decoding' - turning the little black lines into words, sentences, meaning. As your blog poster 'discovers' this is easier to do in works that have shorter sentences and fewer unusual words. But (I think) maybe to much emphasis is put on that, because of testing what a child can read by asking them to read aloud. A proportion of words you couldn't read aloud isn't necessarily a problem, if the story is good:


Quote
"At the same time, I couldn’t read quite a lot of the words in The Hobbit. I had accelerated into reading faster than my understanding had grown. If I press my memory for the sensation of reading the second half of the book, when I was flying through the story, I remember, simultaneous with the new liquid smoothness, a constant flicker of incomprehensibility. There were holes in the text corresponding to the parts I couldn’t understand. Words like prophesying, rekindled and adornment had never been spoken in my hearing. No one had ever told me aloud to behold something, and I didn’t know that vessels could be cups and bowls as well as ships. I could say these words over, and shape my mouth around their big sounds. I could enjoy their heft in the sentences. They were obviously the special vocabulary that was apt for the slaying of dragons and the fighting of armies: words that conjured the sound of trumpets. But for all the meaning I obtained from them, they might as well not have been printed. When I speeded up, and up, and my reading became fluent, it was partly because I had learned how to ignore such words efficiently."

ibid http://amzn.eu/0xm1PGo



The converse is also true - of course it's possible to write a very boring or incomprehensible story that uses only simple words and grammar. Such a story would measure as very 'readable' on one of the systems that will give you a numerical measure, but would not be 'readable' in the sense of 'being worth reading'.

~~~~~~
Where's that old read-through discussion?
A wonderful list of links to previous chapters in the 2014-2016 LOTR read-through (and to previous read-throughs) is curated by our very own 'squire' here http://users.bestweb.net/...-SixthDiscussion.htm


Ataahua
Superuser / Moderator


Oct 10 2017, 6:04pm

Post #12 of 12 (1432 views)
Shortcut
Thank you for sharing those passages. [In reply to] Can't Post

Francis clearly became extraordinarily profficient in drawing in readers with his own writing!

Celebrimbor: "Pretty rings..."
Dwarves: "Pretty rings..."
Men: "Pretty rings..."
Sauron: "Mine's better."

"Ah, how ironic, the addictive qualities of Sauron’s master weapon led to its own destruction. Which just goes to show, kids - if you want two small and noble souls to succeed on a mission of dire importance... send an evil-minded beggar with them too." - Gandalf's Diaries, final par, by Ufthak.


Ataahua's stories

 
 

Search for (options) Powered by Gossamer Forum v.1.2.3

home | advertising | contact us | back to top | search news | join list | Content Rating

This site is maintained and updated by fans of The Lord of the Rings, and is in no way affiliated with Tolkien Enterprises or the Tolkien Estate. We in no way claim the artwork displayed to be our own. Copyrights and trademarks for the books, films, articles, and other promotional materials are held by their respective owners and their use is allowed under the fair use clause of the Copyright Law. Design and original photography however are copyright © 1999-2012 TheOneRing.net. Binary hosting provided by Nexcess.net

Do not follow this link, or your host will be blocked from this site. This is a spider trap.