I was asked to write a 3000-word entry on the First Amendment for the Encyclopaedia Britannica. I think I came up with something suitable, but as usual it’s hard for an expert author to tell whether the product is clear to readers who are not experts.
I’d therefore love to have feedback from a few 11-to-17-year-olds who can read the draft and tell me whether it is clear to them, and how it can be made clearer. And if they can understand it, my hope is that a typical adult reader can understand it, too.
So if you know of a 11-to-17-year-old who might view reading and commenting on the draft as something fun rather than as a chore, please e-mail me at volokh at law dot ucla dot edu, and I’ll send either you or the 11-to-17-year-old a draft. I would prefer, though, readers who are not already constitutional law buffs (that’s in some tension with the “view reading and commenting … as something fun” requirement, I realize). I would also need feedback by next Monday, since the final draft is due July 15.
For whatever it’s worth, I have eight extra copies of my First Amendment casebook, which contains an outline of the law together with excerpts from leading cases. I would happily send a copy of the book to the first eight reviewers who can help me with this. Or if the reviewer is interested chiefly in the free exercise of religion and the establishment of religion, rather than in free speech and press, I’d be happy to send copies of my Religion Clauses casebook (I have a couple of dozen of those). And of course I would publicly thank the reviewers on the blog, if they so prefer (again, for whatever it’s worth) and if their parents agree.
UPDATE: Just to make clear, the Encyclopaedia isn’t aimed at 11-year-olds, and I don’t want the entry to be targeted at the average 11-year-old or written in the style that average 11-year-olds might find in their daily reading. But my expectation is that the typical (say) 16-year-olds who are willing to take time to review the entry are probably unusually academically and intellectually inclined. That’s great for them, but it also makes them unrepresentative of the typical reader, who will often be a high school student who has to read the entry for some class project. That’s why I didn’t want to ask only older teenagers for help: My thinking is that if a smart and studious 11-year-old finds something unclear, then it’s a good bet that an average 16-year-old will as well. (Though the standard Britannica‘s main target audience is educated adults, I’m pretty confident that many high school students use it, too. And even educated adults tend to prefer something that is put as clearly as possible, with as little technical jargon as possible.)