When writing for mass media (newspapers, mags, business proposals, you get the gist) it is stressed (and stressed, and stressed again) that you are NOT to write above a 8th grade reading level. This is because the national reading level is apparently so low that writing anything better would be considered over peoples heads. so those of us with a broader vocabulary are stunted and put off balance by trying to use five little words to replace the one that would have fit perfectly.
AND YET- Disney channel- with its shows geared towards elementary schoolers and junior highers (though honestly probably gets watched by people on both sides of that age bracket)- regularly uses words like 'amalgam' and 'quagmire,' and no one has a problem understanding whats going on. explanations? And don't feed me a line about how our children are just learning so much more now, the schools are stepping up, kids are just smarter now. please. I still have to translate myself around people my own age and younger.
I've heard from a lot of people that its for peoples whose first language is not English, but honestly, that's kinda ridiculous. I went to a school that was 90% Hispanic, and most of them spoke English better than most 'white kids.'
obviously, the mass public can function at a higher reading level than everyone thinks. Good ol' Disney has proven that. this writing block is just handicapping us. If we were to raise the bar, I would bet nearly anything that the reading average would go up too.