Only 13% of adults can read and compare two essays. What does that mean for editing? Who are we serving? Today, in my How To column at Copyediting.com, I look at the definitions and prevalence of illiteracy.
Illiteracy and functional illiteracy were defined by UNESCO in 1978:
A person is illiterate who cannot with understanding both read and write a short simple statement on [their] everyday life.
A person is functionally illiterate who cannot engage in all those activities in which literacy is required for effective functioning of [their] group and community and also for enabling [them] to continue to use reading, writing and calculation for [their] own and the community’s development.
Yes, it is ironic that the language UNESCO used to write about illiteracy is accessible to only the very most literate people; and those people probably cringe from the effort of reading it nonetheless.