33

I wonder whether reading the articles of the journals similar to The Economist (including Time, etc) are in a style that make them difficult to flow even for native-readers?

Is the effort to read them is as smooth as other every day text for a native speaker (not a language learner)? For example consider the first paragraph of the following article:

SEPAHUA, a ramshackle town on the edge of Peru's Amazon jungle, nestles in a pocket on the map where a river of the same name flows into the Urubamba. That pocket denotes a tiny patch of legally loggable land sandwiched between four natural reserves, all rich in mahogany and accessible from the town. “Boundaries are on maps,” says a local logger, “maps are only in Lima,” the capital.

As a non-native speaker I can read almost all academic papers in various fields smoothly. It's not the case for The Economist. The above example is not a complex one the context neither in vocabulary. But its sentences are composed in an unnatural way. So the question is: Are any native speakers with a bachelor degree able to flow the Economist as smooth as Wikipedia articles?

There are certainly far better examples to support the question, such as the following sentence which is convoluted enough to puzzle even native English speakers:

“That they were mysteriously thwarted by Democrats over the measure for three legislative sessions in a row suggests that some compromise may still be possible, if only behind closed doors—and, perhaps, among the university working groups that right now are hammering out what campus carry—a phrase that almost everyone seems to have a strong view on—actually means.”

https://www.economist.com/news/united-states/21677664-texass-new-campus-carry-law-may-yet-er-backfire-revenge-nerds

  • 27
    "There are certainly far better examples to support the question. Feel free to refer to them." If you know of more fitting examples, please include them in your question. Do you mean for us to find the examples for what you are asking? To that I'd say it's rather difficult to read minds and doing so risks leading the question. – Gossar Mar 28 '18 at 1:55
  • 14
    What makes you think sentences are composen in an unnatural way? – 9ilsdx 9rvj 0lo Mar 28 '18 at 8:45
  • This question is generating a lot of discussion, so I've moved that discussion to chat. Feel free to continue the discussion there. Comments should be limited to clarification of the question. Answers should be posted as answers. – ColleenV parted ways Mar 29 '18 at 19:30
  • 2
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it appears to fall within the following category of questions not to ask: 'there is no actual problem to be solved: “I’m curious if other people feel like I do.”'. – Lawrence Mar 31 '18 at 16:24
  • 1
    In truth, I was somewhat ambivalent about voting to close and delayed casting my vote for quite a while. Closing (and reopening) usually takes 5 votes and the yellow notice might list only the majority reason and there were already 4 votes to close as 'opinion-based', which I didn't agree with. What is the actual English-learning problem (within the community's charter) that you would like to have the community's help to solve? I might have missed it, but if you can state that problem, I'd be happy to vote to reopen. – Lawrence Apr 1 '18 at 0:14

13 Answers 13

28

Yes, the prose feels "artificially complex" because it's "literary nonfiction."

Your frustration is completely understandable. You can read sophisticated scientific publications and absorb information-dense Wikipedia articles easily, but this article feels awkward for you to read. The prose in the article could indeed be described as "artificially complex," but whether "artificially complex" is good or bad depends on your opinion of literary nonfiction.

Literary nonfiction is a type of prose that employs the literary techniques usually associated with fiction or poetry to report on persons, places, and events in the real world.

The Literary Article

Why does this article feel different than your average scientific publication? Why do I call it "literary"?

Exhibit A: The Phrase, "of the same name"

The first item on our list of literary aspects to examine is the phrase, "of the same name," which forced me (a native English speaker) to reread the first sentence twice.

SEPAHUA, a ramshackle town blah blah blah blah blah'blah blah blah, blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah river of the same name blah blah blah blah.

This sentence states the name of the town at the beginning, then inserts the phrase "of the same name" towards the end, asking the reader to have kept track of the name from beginning to end. I posit that simply repeating the name "Sepahua" would more simply communicate the information, but I wouldn't call Charles Dickens "pretentious" for selecting a phrase like that for a novel. Maybe the author likes the sound of the phrase, or maybe the author wants to highlight the fact that the town and the river are connected -- more on that later.

Exhibit B: The Metaphor, "nestles in a pocket"

Next let's look at a more traditional literary device, the metaphor.

...a ramshackle town... nestles in a pocket... where [two rivers meet].

The metaphor "nestles in a pocket" evokes an image of a kitten snuggling into the folds of Grandma's apron. Compare that to the Wikipedia entry for an Amazonian city:

Manaus or Manaós before 1939 or (formerly) Barra do Rio Negro, is the capital city of the state of Amazonas in the North Region of Brazil. It is situated near the confluence of the Negro and Solimões rivers. With a population of more than 2 million, it is the most populous city of both the Brazilian state of Amazonas and the Amazon rainforest.

I'm not going to say that's a well written introduction, but if that's the type of writing a reader is used to, then "nestles in a pocket" will definitely feel like an awkward way to describe the geographic location of a town.

Before you proclaim that "confluence" is a randomly chosen Thesaurus entry for "junction," note that "confluence" specifically refers to the place where two rivers join. Again I'm not calling the prose here "good," rather the example serves to highlight why The Economist article feels different.

Also, consider why the author might want to give you the "warm, fuzzy feeling" from a phrase like "nestles in a pocket." The author is trying to transport the reader to the town.

Exhibit C: The Hyperbolic Quote: "maps are only in Lima"

Turn back to the Economist article to the quote in the last sentence of the first paragraph:

“Boundaries are on maps... maps are only in Lima”

While this quote doesn't convey a scientific fact about logging in the Amazon, the quote tries to give the reader some context with which to better understand why logging regulation has proven a stubborn problem. In the first paragraph, the reader learns about this remote town where local loggers scoff at big city regulators' attempts at drawing lines through the untameable Amazon jungle. Who knows if this quote accurately portrays the attitudes of professional Amazon loggers? For that reason the quote would be struck from a scientific publication. Still, the flowery imagery is meant to transport the reader to the Amazon jungle to get the needed perspective for the rest of the article.

Other Articles from The Economist

Scanning a few random Economist articles, I find that many, but not all, of the authors try similarly to give them a literary feel.

For contrast, consider this Economist Daily Chart entry, "Americans are richer than they were in the 1970s". The opening paragraph probably feels much more like the Wikipedia description.

AMERICA’S economy has grown massively during the past four decades, but not all of its workers have reaped the rewards. Perhaps the statistic most cited to demonstrate how unequal the gains have been is the median household income. Official statistics from the Census Bureau show that this number has remained flat for 40 years. However, a recent analysis by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found that it actually rose by 51% between 1979 and 2014. Why are the CBO's numbers so much cheerier?

Note that unlike the "Trade, timber and tribes" article, this article didn't dedicate an entire paragraph to a personal connection with someone affected by the information in the article. The information density of the sentences is roughly the same, but the diction and phrasing in the Daily Chart is more straightforward and plain. Even so, note that the word selection (e.g., "massively" and "cheerier") give the prose a bit more flavor than the Wikipedia article, but not so much that I'm looking for the nearest kitten to hug.

A Non-Literary Alternative Article

This article deeply disturbs the fellow who despises literary flourishes and emotional appeals. Not only the style, but much of the content of the article would be struck from an academic publication. If you cut through all the fluff in the article, you're left with two relevant facts that it's trying to communicate. Give it a sentence for context and a sentence of conclusion, and you're left with this:

In 2001, the government of Peru auctioned off logging rights in regions of the Amazon with 40-year permits to log 5% of the area each year. Recently, a report performed by Peru's forestry regulator found that only 22 of the 79 regions it investigated contained as much mahogany as the loggers claimed. Despite the underreported logging, a study by the Carnegie Institution, using satellite data from 2001 to 2005, concluded that the policy succeeded in limiting damage to the forest. This leaves reason to continue the policy, though questions remain as to how to increase enforcement to further reduce illegal logging.

(Side note: I wish I had read those 4 sentences instead of the article. For me it wasn't the style that bugged me, but the lack of meaningful content. Seriously, why on Earth is there a random paragraph telling me that there's still 15 uncontacted tribes in the Amazon? What does that have to do with deforestation?)

Conclusion

Back to your question: "Is the language of The Economist artificially complex?"

In answering your question, I've tried to show here that the answer is both "yes" and "that's not necessarily a bad thing." Furthermore I wanted to break down what I mean by "literary nonfiction," which I think is why this article feels different from Wikipedia and academic articles.

In terms of pure utility, both the style and the content of the article inefficiently conveys the relevant facts of the news story. However, for some people this style of writing is more enjoyable to read than something that more plainly states facts. Furthermore one could argue that literary techniques can more effectively (note: not the same as "efficiently") convey information, but that's subjective.

Your frustration with literary prose as a non-native speaker is understandable. Indeed, many if not most native speakers are frustrated right along with you. I suspect that "native English speakers who read The Economist" is not a representative sample of native English speakers in general.

  • 1
    Deforestation threatens the lives of the uncontacted tribes. Knowing about the uncontacted tribes increases the stakes of the deforestation threat. – Yakk Mar 30 '18 at 19:41
45

The Economist is a serious publication. Its stated mission is: “to take part in a severe contest between intelligence, which presses forward, and an unworthy, timid ignorance obstructing our progress”.

Such a mission demands a high intellectual level of journalism and can be expected to demand high educational standards amongst its readers. It does not over-simplify issues to make them easier to understand.

Inevitably such a publication will tend to use sophisticated language that may be very difficult for non-native speakers to follow unless their command of English is very strong.

  • I have read some humorous things in The Economist, so how serious can it be? – m_a_s Mar 28 '18 at 18:46
  • 18
    @m_a_s Seriousness doesn't imply humourlessness. – loading... Mar 28 '18 at 20:38
  • 3
    @loading...Seriousness can certainly imply humorlessness. M-W.com: 3. a.: not joking or trifling – m_a_s Mar 28 '18 at 21:10
  • 2
    What impresses me the most in the Economist is that it's completely possible to disagree with their point of view but they make a very good job of not writing anything wrong even in topics which aren't directly related to economy. It always bothers me a lot to find stupid physics mistakes (e.g. kW/h instead of kWh) in Le Monde or Der Spiegel, which never happen in The Economist. It's refreshing. – Eric Duminil Mar 29 '18 at 9:54
  • 3
    I agree with you completely, but there is a caveat, and that is that the Economist can introduce artificial complexity for the sake of adding artificial complexity, which doesn't add to the passage or improve flow or clarity. The first sentence in OP's passage suffers from that because they introduced an ambiguity that simpler language would have avoided. Good writing flows and varies in cadence, and it mixes simple and complex to improve the enveloping satisfaction of reading a well-written passage. Deliberate complication just for the sake of it indicates bad writing, not elevated writing. – K_foxer9 Mar 29 '18 at 18:39
27

Yes, The Economist is difficult, but whether it is demanding will depend on what other prose you consume on a regular basis, and how much of it. I do not find it gratuitously abstruse in the way I do academic writing, something Pinker and others have criticized, for example.

There are a variety of English readability formulae, variously flawed but widely used, among them the Flesch-Kincaid tests, the Coleman-Liau index, the Gunning Fog score, and the SMOG index. They calculate a score based on the number of letters or syllables per word and the number of words of different difficulty levels per sentence, which is then indexed against an age or years of formal schooling a native would require to understand a passage of text written at that score. There are many free websites that will score a passage of text for you.

The Contently blog scored popular articles on various news websites using a mix of these scores, with over 12 years of formal education estimated as needed to understand the article from The Economist. By comparison, the article from the New Yorker scored about 11, the New York Times a bit under 9, and Cosmopolitan magazine a little over 6. While these results are not from a scientifically valid survey, scoring your example passage with the same metrics returns an average of 11.8, suggesting that it is at least more difficult than average.

Is it artificially complex? I doubt it. Consider satire newspaper The Onion's old point-counterpoint entitled "According To The Economist, NASA Is An Industrial Subsidy In Disguise vs. Oooh, Look At Me, I Read The Economist!" The counter-point position mocks an Economist reader he assumes wants to be seen as sophisticated or well-informed, not literary. The New Yorker or the London Review of Books might be presented for contrast.

  • 4
    +1 The Economist's own Language Blog actually had a piece about readability scores (possibly pay-walled) a few years back (in the context of criticisms of then-President Obama's speeches). The Flesch-Kincaid scores found for their own three sample Economist articles ("which I hope we can all agree is a reasonably well-written publication") were 10.3, 10.6, and 10.8 (years of education). – 1006a Mar 28 '18 at 16:28
  • @1006a I hope you don't believe that Flesch-Kincaid is a reliable measure of grade level to understand a particular text. It's just a calculation involving number of words, sentence length, and syllables. It doesn't account for how common the words are or how simple or complex the structure of the sentence is. (score 9.3) If I make my preceding sentence one long sentence using a dash and "and" the score jumps to 22.8 (according to MS Word). I don't think changing the punctuation a little and adding "and" changes the reading difficulty all that much. – ColleenV parted ways Mar 29 '18 at 21:46
  • @ColleenV I think we all realize the readability scores are crude. Particularly amusing are the inflated scores that fitness magazines can muster on account of a few technical terms. But while you can't judge a household's wealth by the size of its house, you can nevertheless discern a correlation. The measures wouldn't persist if the results were indistinguishable from statistical noise. – choster Mar 29 '18 at 22:11
  • 1
    @choster For the purposes of this question though, F-K is a terrible measure. Someone learning English may have a much easier time reading academic papers with multi-syllabic words and long, but explicit sentences than popular media text full of ellipsis and idiom. – ColleenV parted ways Mar 29 '18 at 22:22
  • @ColleenV Yes, I'm well aware. The article I linked to actually goes into some detail on the subject. My comment was primarily intended to demonstrate that the scoring is at least relatively consistent across Economist articles. I do think it's reasonable to use the scores as one indicator among others; all else being equal, writing with a score of 12 is going to take more processing than writing with a score of 4. – 1006a Mar 29 '18 at 22:31
19

This writing is intended to show the high education level of the writer, and it's also very dense. For example, in the first sentence,

SEPAHUA, a ramshackle town on the edge of Peru's Amazon jungle, nestles in a pocket on the map where a river of the same name flows into the Urubamba.

You learn many things:

  • Sepahua is the name of a town.
  • It's located in Peru, and on the edge of the jungle
  • It's located near a river
  • The river is also named Sepahua
  • The river flows into another river called the Urubamba.

They're trying to present a great deal of information in a way that won't be grating if you already happen to be aware of this town, its location, and the local waterways.

But I'm surprised you also mention not being troubled by academic writing. I find that academic writing (at least in my field) tends to be so dense as to not be intelligible without extremely careful parsing.

  • 21
    is intended to show the high education level of the writer I don't think showing off is the motivation. The goal is well-crafted sentences that are pleasant to read, and maybe evoke a feeling of traveling. Much nicer than lots of short simple sentences, but slower to skim. Your bullet points almost work as sentences, and you could put them all together into a paragraph saying the same thing as the Economist's phrasing. It'd be more skimable if you were looking for one specific piece of info: good for technical documentation, not an article you'd read for pleasure. – Peter Cordes Mar 28 '18 at 2:23
  • 2
    You've missed the point that the town is at the point where the Sepahua and Urubamba rivers meet. – David Richerby Mar 29 '18 at 9:02
  • 1
    Another pertinent point is that it's a ramshackle town, indicating that, by and large, the standard of living is poor -- but the next sentence gives further context. – Rosie F Mar 29 '18 at 16:27
15

The above example is not a complex one the context neither in vocabulary. But its sentences are composed in an unnatural way. So the question is: Are any native speakers with a bachelor degree able to flow the Economist as smooth as Wikipedia articles?

To answer the question: I would expect that any native speaker with a bachelor's would be able to fully understand the given example by, say, the second or third reading if not the first.

However, with regards to "any native speakers" this seems both subjective and over-broad. Individual opinions will vary, but for me the given example flows quite naturally and certainly smoother than most Wikipedia articles, which tend to have a rather broken pace.

Perhaps the problem is that is is too smooth for someone unfamiliar with this style in writing. Without the frequent breaks provided by full stops and the anchorage of simple verbs perhaps the ideas merge and one gets lost in the stream? Swimming in the ocean is different to swimming in a lake or even a river. Reading dense prose is not the same as reading simple prose, or even dense technical writing. Experience and familiarity are as important as education.

Complex, yes.
Artificial, no (at least not compared to scientific writing).
Unnatural, no.
Smooth, very.

13

The Economist is an older newspaper that transformed into a magazine. Like most magazines in the Age of the Internet it also offers its articles on a website.

The Economist publishes a 200+ page style guide---a self-professed "Bestselling guide to English usage"---that is now in its 11th edition. The magazine also attempts to ensure a uniform voice in its articles to keep thee authors anonymous---especially in the editorials.

  • 2
    I'd upvote if you could embellish that last bit. I.e. is that the only reason why you think they'd have an enforced style? Would you consider that “artificially complex”? – can-ned_food Mar 27 '18 at 17:31
  • @can-ned_food I woudn't say it's complex, but perhaps a bit artificial (i.e. not true to any particular author's writing style). – m_a_s Mar 28 '18 at 19:01
  • 7
    I don't dispute the truth of anything you say here. But how does it answer the question? – David Richerby Mar 29 '18 at 9:01
  • @DavidRicherby Point taken. Enforcing a uniform voice to ensure anonymity may create an artificial writing style, but I would not characterize it as complex. After all many authors (journalists in particular) are often encouraged to cram much information or "paint a scene" into the first few sentences of an article/chapter/scene/etc. – m_a_s Mar 30 '18 at 13:50
11

No

Here's the same passage written plainly.

Sepahua is a ramshackle town on the edge of Peru's border in the Amazon jungle. It's situated behind a fork of two rivers, the Sepahua, with which it shares its name, and the Urubamba. The area is home to a tiny patch of legally loggable land surrounded by natural reserves rich in mahogany, and accessible from the town. "Boundaries are on maps," says a local logger, but "maps are only in Lima," the nation's capital.

It's not significantly longer, but it dwells on each detail, which brings too much attention to the details added only to enrich the passage. The original is structured in such a way that the details don't distract from the main focus of the passage

Note: This answer has been changed significantly, and the first few comments concern the original.

  • 6
    It isn't longer, but it's less colorful and more staccato. I prefer the original, stylistically. – choster Mar 28 '18 at 0:01
  • 9
    This shows how a style like Wikipedia's is actually less smooth than The Economist. – Gossar Mar 28 '18 at 0:10
  • 1
    Fair enough. Reading the two again, it occurs to me that the original's style exists to weave ancillary details in without detouring from the main point, where this one visits each detail by itself. Looking at it more, I agree, but I'm not sure what to do with my answer – user70585 Mar 28 '18 at 0:13
9

The sentences are complex, with multiple clauses and modifiers, but they're mostly pretty straight forward. The most confusing thing about the passage you quote is that it first says "a ramshackle town ... nestles in a pocket on the map." Here it's using figurative language, treating a map as actually containing land. But then it says "That pocket denotes", switching to treating the maps as representing land. I think that's poor wording.

  • 1
    I agree, "denotes" is a poor word choice. Though I personally don't think that's a well written passage in general. – Faheem Mitha Mar 29 '18 at 11:50
9

For what it's worth, as a native English speaker with a Bachelor's degree in IT-related gubbins, I find the quoted text to be perfectly natural and easy to read. I detect no artificiality about it.

Is it structured in the way that you'd hear a 14-year old drug addict talking "on the streets"? Or in the way that a five-paragraph blog written as clickbait may be written? No, it's not.

But it's also quite far from the form of a scholarly article or the decision of a High Court judge.

Take from that what you will…

  • +1 for introducing me to the term "gubbins," which I shall immediately appropriate for my own use. Far superior to "odds & ends" or my own nonsensical synonym "pleh." – mc01 Mar 30 '18 at 16:02
5

Whether a text will be found difficult or not to understand depends on the interplay between reader factors and text factors.

Reader factors include proficiency in the language of the text, background knowledge of the text topic, and mental alertness when reading.

Text factors include frequency or commonness of the vocabulary, syntactic complexity, and clarity of expression.

The text in question has a few rather uncommon words (ramshackle, nestles, loggable) but is clearly expressed. As for syntax, the only feature that might be considered complex is the inclusion of three appositives*. Appositives are relatively uncommon in spoken language, and this may be a reason why the OP finds it difficult to 'flow' (follow?) the text.

The text strikes me as clear and well-written, and certainly not artificially (or deliberately) complex.


* a ramshackle town on the edge of Peru's Amazon jungle

* all rich in mahogany and accessible from the town

* the capital

3

Print journalism, including The Economist, is restricted by the size of the printed page and the space available in a print issue. To convey as much information as possible within the first 60-100 words, authors and editors explicitly craft complex sentences to fit more details up front. This complexity is not unique to a specific publication, but is a function of journalistic writing for a target audience.

A "straight news" story typically fits the Who, What, Where, When, and Why ("5 W's") in the first 20-40 words of the lede. This takes practice to do well, and can result in odd-sounding, convoluted, or confusing sentences.

Longer feature stories like this Peruvian logging story, or a magazine's cover story, instead often lead with a short quote or vivid description to draw the reader in. Features make up the bulk of content for printed news magazine like The Economist, The Atlantic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, etc. These publications tend to dive deeper into stories found in daily papers, so they must cover more in the same restricted space while still dealing with short attention spans.

The "lede" (or "lead") paragraph of news stories is dense and concise because readers often don't read beyond it. A journalist must 1) capture the reader's attention and 2) tell as much of the story as possible before the reader turns the page or clicks away. This is known as the "Inverted Pyramid" style: cram information toward the top of the story because otherwise nobody will read it. (This is the origin of the phrase: "Don't bury the lead,"meaning "put the most newsworthy bits first").

The 2nd paragraph or "nut graph" of a feature story usually includes whatever key information was not included in the lede. If you continue your Peruvian logging story, you will see the "5 W's" all concisely explained in the 2nd paragraph. A reader only needs to read the first 2 paragraphs to get the gist of the entire story and why it is important.

Professional journalists writing for such print publications must restrict themselves to the number of columns/pages/inches of text allotted for a story. If the text or "copy" is too long for the layout (along with all the photos, captions, pull-quotes, infographics, etc), it gets reworked just like the opening paragraphs until everything fits. As with the lede, this can also result in more complex or less conversational phrasing.

Compare the restrictions of print journalism to other writing styles and goals:

  • A student might pad their essay with repetition and larger font size to increase their page count to meet a minimum page requirement.

  • A PhD candidate writing a dissertation or seeking publication in a peer-reviewed journal must write enough to both present findings and preempt anticipated criticism with the use of shared cryptic jargon and excessive detail about project methodology.

  • A blogger's goal might be to create as much content as possible to maximize ad revenue and click-throughs, linking together dozens of mindless rambling pages on the same topic.

  • PR & marketing firms literally spend months crafting 1 Tweet for an ad campaign or a sound bite. Politicians and celebrities instead blurt out whatever nonsense pops into their heads, abrv'd 4 space cuz they R 2 dumb 2 do otherwise.

So, "is the language of The Economist 'artificially' complex?"

I would say no - it is complex by design and by necessity. It is the result of the work required to fit the writing to the target medium.

As news magazines become solely online publications, this forced complexity and dense writing style has begun to disappear. In its place, we see the sorry quality of what passes for "journalism" and "news" in many online-only publications.

  • 1
    While this is true to some extent, I think you exaggerate the necessity of complexity in journalistic writing. The multitude seems content to consume The Sun and the New York Post, which maintain pretensions to journalism, after all. Surely, the Economist writers would be capable of reaching a broader audience if they similarly "dumbed down" the language a bit, so one might indeed interpret the current style as "artificially" complex. FTR, I hope they never do; that after all is why no one has cared what Time thinks for a few decades now. – choster Mar 30 '18 at 17:17
  • Tying to explain the mechanics & rationale for why these articles are written this way. Agree it's also a function of topic & audience. People or The Sun can devote the same physical space to vapid celebrity gossip as The Economist might have to distill a decade-long complex trade dispute. Tabloids are hardly "journalism." True their "need" to refine their text differs with the category & audience, as well as the medium. I suggest it's not an arbitrary stylistic choice to "sound educated" as stated elsewhere, but a result of operating within restrictions to reach their audience. – mc01 Mar 30 '18 at 17:57
2

It seems that your question consists of two questions:

Q1. Is the language of The Economist artificially complex?
Q2. Are any native speakers with a bachelor degree able to follow the Economist as smooth as Wikipedia articles?

Regarding Q1: To be precise, we would first have to understand what you mean by "artificially". If you mean "made more complex than necessary on purpose", then we need to wait for a writer or editor of the Economist to log on, because everyone else can only speculate about their intentions.

Regarding Q2: I am a non-native speaker, so I cannot answer that exact question from personal experience. I can report that I am friends with native speakers who seem to have no issue with reading the Economist. Personally, I read a lot of Wikipedia articles on math and I often find reading the Economist more accessible than those Wikipedia articles. In general, I would say that I enjoy reading the Economist more than I enjoy reading Wikipedia, because the writing style gives it a bit more of a "story-telling" feel than the "listing the facts" style of Wikipedia articles.

1

I wouldn't say it is super complex. Definitely not "hard" for a native speaker of above average intelligence (demographic magazine is going after).

That said, there are some reasonable criticisms to be made of the style. It reminds me of the brilliant takedown that Tom Wolfe did of the artificial language of the New Yorker (Tiny Mummies and then Lost in the Witchy Thickets). Time Magazine has long been known to have some of same style issues: "backwards the sentences reeled" is a famous comment.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.