Write Like a Politician with Simple Language Editor for Mac

Mar 27, 2016 - 20 Comments

Simple Language Text Editor for Mac

Have you ever noticed that most politicians speak in remarkably simplified plain language? This is intentional, with most communicating far below their educational achievements and speaking somewhere around a fourth grade level, and sometimes a bit higher. The idea is to make concepts simple, with the message easy to understand, easy to remember, and easy to digest. While politicians may do this to improve comprehension or even pander, it’s actually harder to write (and speak) with a simplified vocabulary than you may think. That’s where this fun little free Mac app comes in, it aids in that simplification process, and it’s actually pretty useful for anyone looking to improve their communication!


ClearText is a simple language editor for Mac OS X, it only allows for 1000 of the most commonly used words in the English language to be entered, forcing the user to reduce word complexity and to simplify their speech. Words that are deemed to complex by not being in the common vernacular are flagged with yellow (or deleted) immediately, so that you can rewrite them in plain terms. This is not only perfect for writing pandering political speeches, but it could genuinely be useful for writing and speaking to a specific target audience or crowd.

The app is pretty simple by design, but supports full screen mode, different fonts and text sizes, and the typical basics you’d expect in a basic text editor. Is it going to replace Microsoft Word? No of course not, nor is it intended to.

According to the ClearText developer, the idea for the simple language text editor came from reading the book ‘Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words’ by Randall Monroe, which discusses everything from constellations, tectonic plate shifting, to rocket science in wildly simplified terms and easy to understand language, using only the 1000 most common English words.

Thing Explainer book explains complex things in simple language and was the inspiration for the ClearText Mac app

There’s obviously some potential for humor here, but this is not a knock on the simplified language approach to communicating, it’s simply an acknowledgement of it, since clearly there is some efficacy behind the strategy, from the political realm to just simplifying a communication strategy for whatever purpose.

Or, you can go the complete opposite direction and speak like this:

Or, if you want people to learn, perhaps a better approach is working to simplify the explanation of complex concepts, like the excellent SpaceTime channel on YouTube does with astrophysics:

Anyway, we like to cover things that are fun to play around with sometimes, and ClearText fits the bill, give it a try.

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Fun, Mac OS X

20 Comments

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  1. Not impressed says:

    Dumbing down the population even further is a terrible idea. These guys are talking at a 3rd grade level, because people are ignorant. Why celebrate that and encourage it? A text editor that forces you to speak like an ignorant troglodyte? No, please no.

    No wonder people routinely vote against their own interests. You have Harvard graduates talking at them as if they both topped out in 3rd grade, except the elite Ivy grad is smart enough to take advantage of the 45 year old 3rd grader by getting into power and writing the laws to favor themselves… and boy do they.

    • Oratorio says:

      Bravissimo! You nailed it!

    • InTheory says:

      The average American is not all that bright. See http://www.relativelyinteresting.com/do-you-know-more-about-science-than-the-average-american/

      It’s an 11 question test about science and the average score was 5.8. Our educators are doing a poor job. It’s no wonder politicians need to speak down to the public if the average American is no smarter than a preteen.

      Sadly so many of these average Americans are voted into positions of power.

      • Fnordmeister says:

        Easy. 11/11. However, 3 is only mostly true; the Earth and sun revolve around a common central point, and there are 365.2422 days in a year, not 365.25.

      • Stephen Strum says:

        Watching the Republican primary debates does not approach the level of 4th graders. I have never seen so many buffoons gathered under one roof. I think, perhaps, the public should have selected some 4th graders to debate Trump, Cruz, Carson & a few others. Then the Republican candidate for president would have been at least a lot more believable.

  2. Mac User says:

    Not Impressed,

    As crazy as it sounds, the research says otherwise.

    http://www.businessinsider.com/use-simple-language-to-sound-smarter-2015-9

    • Oratorio says:

      Business Insider, your bible for truthful articles? I am rolling on the floor laughing. To sound smarter? How about to BE smarter!

  3. Wharf Xanadu says:

    Simple is good within reason. Ignorance is not good. But what’s wrong with simple?

  4. bobF says:

    I could use this when corresponding to foreign nationals, is there an earlier version of this. I’m still running MAC OSX 10.9.5

    • Looking in the readme file that came with the _full_ download, there is a link to on online resource: check your typing (live) –
      https://xkcd.com/simplewriter/

      As to dumbing down: I teach English in a university in SE Asia and often have to edit papers. My biggest problem (as a native speaker) is to understand the terminology and vocabulary that many writers use: why use one syllable when four will do? These journal articles use language that seems intended to impress not inform. I teach engineers and need them to write text that does not confuse people; a vocabulary of 1,000 words is a fair level.

  5. Steve says:

    Ernest Hemingway famously sought after a clear writing solution.

    He said, “If I started to write elaborately, or like someone introducing or presenting something, I found that I could cut that scrollwork or ornament out and throw it away and start with the first true simple declarative sentence I had written.”

    So this app doesn’t have to function only as a dumbing down assistant.

    Is that comprehensible or did I use too many big words?

    • Robert says:

      A perfect answer – if the goal is to be understood, then simplicity is key. As long as the content of what you have to say isn’t compromised, I think the idea is to clearly say what you need to say in the simplest way possible.

      Clarity for all (well, as many as possible :) is better than pretentiousness and confusion for some. If the goal is to get your point across. That being said, for some, the goal is to seem more intellectual than they may otherwise feel they are.

      I’m not sure, but I think it was Einstein who said if you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.

      For those of you lamenting the poor state of American education, that’s a different issue. In fact, if we taught and spoke in a way that people could understand, the smarter they’ll be. I have a bias of needing to be understood – I say this as a college professor of 24 years and author of 2 textbooks.

      Hopefully I’ve been clear :)

      • Sarah says:

        Well said.

        There’s a time and place for everything, and the ClearText app definitely works in many situations.

        Simple explanations are the best for opening and closing written or spoken information when a clear summary is needed.

        If you are not sure, just think about the simplicity of “a picture is worth a thousand words”.

        Too often, experts confuse summarizing an idea, a concept, a product, a fact with giving a detailed description.

        • Robert says:

          Thanks – interesting comment about ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ – I teach artists and designers. We have the added burden of letting our visuals do the talking. While a picture is indeed worth a thousand words, we need to make sure they’re the thousand words that we wanted them to recognize in the first place. It’s harder than it looks!

  6. Randall King says:

    The app doesn’t seem to check text that’s been pasted. it only seems to work when I type in the text. That makes the app mostly useless to me. I’m not always sitting in front of my Mac when I’m composing text. Bummer. Seems like a good idea.

  7. robert says:

    I work in an international company where not everyone speaks good English – this looks like a good tool to double-check software documentation to ensure it is more easily understandable.

    oh wait.. doesn’t work with pasted text?! bummer indeed

  8. Bernard says:

    “write simple”, surely it’s “write simply”, adverbs have not been eliminated yet, AFAIK.

  9. Robert says:

    Definitely not a perfect solution – I checked out the initial explainer books and some things were hard to understand–mostly because it looks like the author thought it more important to hold on to the 1000 words than be true to the goal of what you get when using them.

    Oh well.

  10. Wharf Xanadu says:

    The new version has a Trump mode which helps to write like Trunp speaks. And we all know how effective a speaker he is, the tepoblicsns love him.

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