Sunday, June 04, 2006

Rudolph Flesch

March 13, 2006

"Creative thinking may mean simply the realization that there's no particular virtue in doing things the way they always have been done." ~Rudolph Flesch

Who was Rudolph Flesch? Rudolf Flesch (1911-1986) was born in Vienna, Austria, and immigrated to the United States in 1938. As a linguist and literacy expert he produced a series of books that established himself as an expert in written communication.

Flesch had an enormous influence on American writing styles and reading habits through books entitled The Art of Plain Talk (1946), The Art of Readable Writing (1949), and The Art of Clear Thinking (1951). Time Magazine called him "Mr. Fix-It of writing." He advocated simplicity and directness in prose. In 1951, he produced the Associated Press Writing Manual, and AP style to this day closely follows Fleschian precepts. In 1955, his book Why Johnny Can't Read became a bestseller, partly due to the anxiety of Americans about competition from Russia during the Sputnik era.

His influence on Theodore Geisel (better known as Dr. Seuss) was enormous. He was also influential among journalists and advertising copywriters. While common language became simpler, however, Flesch was less successful in influencing business and academia. In those fields language became thick and laden with jargon.

Several readability indices, including those that are a part of Microsoft Word, are based on the work of Rudolph Flesch.


At 8:31 AM, Blogger J S Sai said...

I have read a great deal about Flesch. Your post has summed up his contribution very well.


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