One-Minute Book Reviews

January 20, 2009

Barack Obama’s Inaugural Address Is Written at an 8th Grade Reading Level

Filed under: News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 4:21 pm
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Barack Obama’s inaugural address is written at an 8th grade reading level – specifically, Grade 8.3. This is an excellent showing compared with the reading levels of the novels of bestselling authors such as Mitch Albom (Grade 3.4) and Stephenie Meyer (Grade 4). But the level of Obama’s address isn’t as high as that of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address (Grade 10.9) or Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Four Freedoms” speech (Grade 11.2).

Reading levels of other presidents’ writing appeared in the 2007 Presidents’ Day post “Bizarre But True: GWB Writes at a Higher Level Than Thomas Jefferson.” And the levels of other authors were listed in the Nov. 16, 2006, post, “Does Mitch Albom Think He’s Jesus?,” which also tells how to find the reading level of a text using any recent version of Microsoft Word.

© 2009 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.


  1. […] Fun with the inauguration #1: Obama’s speech written at an 8th grade reading level. for comparison, Twilight is at a 4th grade […]

    Pingback by The International House of Bacon » Blog Archive » Post-Inaugural Link Dump — January 22, 2009 @ 9:12 am | Reply

  2. I wonder what the average reading ability is in the US or in the West in general–8th grade is 13-14 years old and I’ll bet that’s not far off. I have a sneaking suspicion that this was written by a skilled speechwriter hitting the target in terms of the comprehension abilities of the average person.

    Comment by Chris Routledge — January 22, 2009 @ 4:38 pm | Reply

    • You’re probably right, Chris. I’ll have to look into the average reading level. Equally interesting would be whether the average reading level has dropped over the years given that JFK also had great speechwriters who wrote at a higher reading level.

      Comment by 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom — January 23, 2009 @ 12:27 pm | Reply

  3. Janice, the trouble with using Microsoft’s Flesch-Kincaid readability analyzer is that it only measures text Readability, not text Difficulty. The real measure of difficulty is vocabulary and to compare two authors you need to analyze their vocabulary. Jefferson may have a talent for writing very readable, yet very content-rich prose (ya think!) . Try this free Dale-Chall text analyzer at
    What difference does the Readabilty vs Difficulty analysis make? I thought your the Flesch-Kincaid level for Obama’s inaugural seemed low–in my memory he used an unusually large number of challenging words–sure enough, when you do a Dale-Chall analysis you get 9th-10th grade, not 8th.
    Here are first 200 words of Obama’s speech–and the Dale-Chall analysis at end of text.

    My fellow citizens: I stand here today humbled by the
    task before us, grateful for the trust you’ve bestowed,
    mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank
    President Bush for his service to our nation — as well
    as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout
    this transition. Forty-four Americans have now taken the
    presidential oath. The words have been spoken during
    rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace.
    Yet, every so often, the oath is taken amidst gathering
    clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has
    carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of
    those in high office, but because we, the people, have
    remained faithful to the ideals of our forebears and true
    to our founding documents. So it has been; so it must be
    with this generation of Americans. That we are in the
    midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at
    war against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred.
    Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our
    collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the
    nation for a new age.

    Dale-Chall Readability Formula for This Passage =
    (0.0496 * 16.66 Avg. Number of Words Per Sentence) +
    (0.1579 * 19.5 Percent of Words in Sample Not Found on Dale Familiar Word List) +
    3.6365 = 9-10th Grade Level

    Comment by Carlja9 — January 27, 2009 @ 2:23 pm | Reply

  4. […] talking about the general refusal of broader society to hold itself to a higher standard than an elementary school reading level for fear that the great unwashed masses won’t be able to play […]

    Pingback by Y’All Stupid. — November 4, 2009 @ 7:46 am | Reply

  5. […] don’t worry, America. I’m aware that your average reading level is somewhere in the middle school range, and I intend to break down these intellectual concepts into terms you can understand. Each week, I […]

    Pingback by Merry Christmas, America. « Jersey Shore, Ph.D. — December 23, 2009 @ 4:52 pm | Reply

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