Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Human Resource Education and Workforce Development

First Advisor

Satish Verma


The objectives of this study were to assess the readability of the mass mailing written material produced at the county level of the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service, and to determine the variance in readability explained by selected variables. A mail questionnaire to 100 randomly selected county agents was used, with a 98% response rate. Readability of agents' mass mailing written material was assessed using the Fry Readability Graph. Descriptive statistics and correlation coefficients were calculated. Stepwise multiple regression at the.05 level was used to develop a model which explained readability of material. Findings indicated that respondents spent about six hours weekly writing educational material for Extension clientele. Forty-two percent of the respondents had taken no college writing courses (beyond freshman English), and another 45% had taken only one college writing course. Adult audiences material (M = 11.2) was written at a readability level about one and a half grades higher than youth audiences material (M = 9.6). Agricultural material (M = 11.2) was written at a readability level about a grade higher than home economics material (M = 10.4). Two-thirds of the agents writing for adult audiences wrote material with an average readability of 10th grade or higher, which is above the reading level of the average adult in the U.S. Three-fourths of the agents writing for youth audiences wrote material with an average readability of 8th grade or higher, while 75% of Alabama 4-H members are in grades 4-7. Readability grade level of material tended to increase with agents' higher educational attainment, and with increase in agents' hours of inservice communication training. Readability grade level tended to decrease as agents spent more time writing for Extension clientele. Males, who wrote only agricultural materials, tended to write material at a higher readability level than females, who wrote only home economics materials. Recommendations are that agents be informed that materials are being written at readability levels too high for intended audiences, and that agents be provided inservice training aimed at use of readability principles and writing at grade levels appropriate for intended audiences.