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A new methodology to measure impression management - A linguistic approach to reading difficulty

2005-05, Merkl-Davies, Doris M., Brennan, Niamh, McLeay, Stuart

Previous studies on impression management in the form of reading ease manipulation use readability formulae, such as Flesch, Fog, and Lix, and cloze scores. Readability formulae are based on word and sentence length and thus constitute crude measures of reading difficulty. Cloze scores do not measure comprehension, but inference. This study uses an approach based on linguistics and psychology, overcoming the validity problems inherent in readability formulae and cloze scores. This is achieved by means of (1) basing its assumptions of what constitutes text on research carried out by discourse analysis, a sub-discipline of linguistics, (2) by means of basing its assumptions of readability on psychological assumptions of comprehension difficulty. What is more, it uses an objective and quantifiable method of measuring readability by means of using computer-assisted corpus analysis. The four measures of reading difficulty in this study are based on the grammatical devices within and between sentences and include the following: (1) amount of cohesive ties within and between sentences, (2) distance between grammatically linked expressions, (3) proportion of new and given information, (4) amount of pronouns in a given text.