COLLEGE PARK, Maryland — President Donald Trump’s inaugural address Friday scored a reading grade level of 7.6 on the Flesch-Kincaid scale, tied for fifth-lowest among addresses since Abraham Lincoln.
The scale, which weights syllables per word and (to a far lesser degree) words per sentence to determine a grade level, shows Trump’s inaugural address a full grade level lower than the average of Barack Obama’s speeches in 2009 and 2013.
Trump’s speech was the eleventh address since Lincoln’s first inaugural to dip into middle school reading levels, a barrier first broken by Franklin D. Roosevelt in his fourth inaugural address in 1945. The highest Flesch-Kincaid grade level inaugural address since Lincoln was given by Rutherford B. Hayes in 1877, scoring 18.3, or post-baccalaureate reading levels.
In general, reading levels have shifted downward since the 19th century, now hovering in middle- and high school-ranges instead of college reading levels. Characteristics of low Flesch-Kincaid score speeches include monosyllabic words and, to a lesser degree, short sentences.
Sources: U.S. Senate, NPR Trump speech transcript, Flesch-Kincaid test via Microsoft Word