Tax Season and the Plain Style
Hearing the term “Plain Style” the idea is that it is a simple, easy, for all ages read. It would be assumed then that a website that specializes in anything for dummies would be plain style, that is quite the opposite. Tax season is a haze of confusion and stress and then add actually doing taxes and the confusion is through the roof. So, taxes for dummies, it would be assumed, would be dumbed down so that the average jo would understand it. Through a textual analysis and a contextual analysis, it shows that plain style is just as confusing as official style writing, and it brings up the question, is “for dummies” plain enough for plain style.
For Dummies is a platform, both website and novel form, that transforms “hard-to understand into easy-to-use.” The platform changes information that is confusing for the average person into basic information that any entry level learner would understand. They pride themselves that, “dummies make learning anything even easier.”
The plain style of “taxes 101” is far from plain. While most of the article is based on For Dummies, the remaining of the article is within another website called LearnVest, already making it harder for the entry level learner. And something that is supposed to bring the topic to an easier level does not add active voices within the examples given and the breakdown of sections. That in general brings into question if “for dummies” is actually for dummies and in plain style and able to reach a larger portion of the population.
One portion of the article is titled “taxes in a nutshell,” it essentially discusses the basics of why taxes exist and why citizens pay them. When plugging the following portion of the article,
“Taxes are compulsory contributions to the state you live in, and to the federal government, levied by the government to pay for things that society as a whole need but people can’t pay for individually. That includes everything from the roads you drive on to law enforcement to the salary of the President of the United States.
These taxes aren’t optional, and trying to hide or outrun them never really ends well. (Just Google “celebrity tax evasion.”) Plus, 96% of Americans believe it’s your civic duty to pay taxes, so the best thing to do is get a basic understanding of taxes so that you can pay them accurately and on time, with minimum stress and pain — financial or emotional.
in a readability calculator is comes out showing that the grade level of the article is 13th grade, looking at most high school, there is not a class that teaches the breakdown of taxes and what they are or do. So, it is leaving out a big portion of the population because the average college graduate does not know how to do their taxes, or has never done taxes before. Also, looking more deeply into the word choice, the use of like “compulsory contributions” is not going to make sense to most people when it could be more easily said as, required contribution would better branch to individuals of all kinds in society. Within that portion of the article there is also the discussion of “your civic duty,” it is a term that is thrown around, however people that are supposed to have a 13th grade level understanding won’t necessarily know what is meant by that because the basis of one’s civic duty is based in individual ideals.
The author of the article, Alden Wicker, has written multiple other articles about taxes for the website LearnVest, such as taxes for a freelancer, taxes for a married couple, taxes for homeowner, etc. Due to the large number of articles pertaining to taxes it seems like Alden Wicker is a viable source when it comes to looking into taxes and getting tips and tricks on finishing taxes.
Looking through a different lens, the overall discussion of taxes is nicely broken down and the easily accessible manner of which one can find it makes it more plain style. The author being an avid author that pops up on the website is beneficial for the plain style, each article about taxes is going to stick with the desire to keep the information accessible and flow in a similar manner to make it easy for the audience at hand.
The author gives the article a more talkative, easy to read flow, starting right away with the first and second paragraph,
“Nobody forgets the first time, whether it was at their high school job at the ice cream parlor or their first job out of college, that they eagerly tore open a paycheck, already planning a shopping spree . . . only to find that someone had stolen a huge chunk of their money! (If you haven’t felt this sinking feeling yet, prepare yourself.) / Yup, that big missing chunk went to taxes. But don’t think you’re not getting anything for it! Here are a few examples of what your taxes get you: the clean water running out of your tap, the police keeping your neighborhood safe, and the garbage that gets picked up on your curbside.”
Within the first two paragraphs there is a lot of use of “you” and more talkative language with the use of terms like, “huge chunks,” “yup.” Not only the simple terms but the author uses analogies with known real-world things to connect the reader with their taxes, the action of doing them, and what their taxes go towards with, “Here are a few examples of what your taxes get you: the clean water running out of your tap, the police keeping your neighborhood safe, and the garbage that gets picked up on your curbside.”
Plain style is not cut and dry, just as with the official style, plain style still has a specific audience it is trying to reach. And plain style doesn’t necessarily mean that it is going to be dumbed down and “for dummies,” it means that it is going to be in more basic language in which a wider variety of people can benefit from. Looking specifically at the “for dummies” website, texts on the website are going to be easier to understand than their more official style counterparts, but it can also mean that there missing components of the deeper information that might need to be known. They
Plain style skims the surface of topics and information, it makes information available to a broader audience, but that can come at the expense of information necessary to the topic because it was too hard to understand. With all of that too it can still be just as confusing as official style, when looking specifically at the topic of Taxes and the plain style that comes from “for dummies,” plain style doesn’t suddenly make a person with no expertise in a topic a master, it gives the basics, but can still lead to confusion and misunderstanding.