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Saturday, August 13, 2005

The ESV is not the easiest reading Bible version

Adrian Warnock has just posted that the ESV is the easiest Bible version to read. Unfortunately, it appears that Adrian has not interacted with the technical literature on the Internet on the difficulties of applying the reading level tests to certain kinds of texts. And it appears that Adrian has not read the several blog posts we have recently had on on this very topic.

The real answer is that the ESV is not the most easy to read of the English Bible versions. The tests Adrian used to evaluate reading levels do not adjust for the obsolete words and syntax and the non-English syntax and obscure wordings in much of the ESV. The tests only indicate, as we have previously blogged, average number of syllables per word (that is, average word length), average sentence length, and some reference to degree of passive sentences. When we try to apply the reading tests to texts which are not written in contemporary English, we get distorted results.

Unfortunately, once statements are posted on the Internet, or appear in print, they take on a life of their own and those who have no basis for thinking otherwise accept such statements as "fact" when they actually are not. This is a sad outcome of the lack of peer-review for individual Internet websites and blogs.

My friend and dear brother Adrian, of course, never intended to mislead anyone with the test results. The problem is elsewhere, that there is not sufficient documentation warning those who use the reading level tests that they will not give accurate results for certain kinds of texts, among which would be the ESV which is not written in contemporary, good quality literary English. The tests assume that the English is already good quality contemporary English which would receive good passing grades from English composition teachers.

We must, as I have said in recent blogs, not try to drive square pegs into round holes. We must not use tools on the wrong material. When we post on any topic, we need to try to interact with what has already been published on the topic, so that what appears on the Internet will be as credible as possible.

UPDATE: Adrian has retracted his claim. It turns out he was unintentionally including ESV cross-references in the testing procedures. The cross-references skewed the readability results.

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At Sat Aug 13, 04:42:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

I am glad to see that Adrian Warnock now agrees with you, for he has retracted his statement, and now, in, writes:

ESV NOT the easiest read after all.

I am afraid I made a basic but honest mistake in my previous post on the ESV being an easy read, ...

At Sun Aug 14, 12:42:00 PM, Anonymous Clay Knick said...


As much as I love the ESV for
study, it is not easy to read.
I've endorsed it, but my initial
enthusiasm for it has waned. I
like its classic feel, closeness
to the RSV, and formal equivalence.
But it does not read well. For
that I prefer the NIV, TNIV, or
NLT2. For worship I'm moving
towards use of the NIV, TNIV, or


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