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a REALLY simple text editor

January 23, 2013

upgoerfive If you know someone who is inebriated with the exuberance of his own verbosity* you might suggest that he look into The Up Goer Five Text Editor. Theo Sanderson, a Cambridge parasitologist, created the editor to help people describe complex ideas using simple language. Sanderson was inspired by the xkcd cartoon Up Goer Five, which explains rocket science using the “ten hundred” most common words in the English language.

I can easily imagine useful applications. An instructor could choose a passage from a text and have students rewrite it using the Up Goer Five editor. Professors could also use it to reconsider the ways they explain difficult concepts. To give you a sense of the difficulty, words in this article that are NOT accepted by Up Goer Five include: editor, describe, simple, science, common, English, language, choose, original, activity, puzzle, and limit.

Let’s apply the editor to a bit of educational jargon. Here is Grant Wiggins’ definition of a rubric:

A printed set of guidelines that distinguishes
performances or products of different quality

Below is an alternative created with Up-Goer Five.

Something written to explain how good someone’s work is
and how it’s different from what other people do.


My definition is close but doesn’t exactly say the same thing as the original. We often need uncommon words to describe a concept accurately. The point is not to stop using such words. What’s important is that this activity required me to think carefully about the original definition. It was an enjoyable puzzle – and deciding to limit the number of words you use will make the task trickier still.

The Up Goer Five text editor is a tool that can help us reframe the language we use to present information. It offers a change in perspective, a challenge to write in a new way.

SourceThe Up Goer Five Text Editor (ProfHacker).

*This is part of a quote attributed to Benjamin Disraeli.

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