I've noticed some fiction authors (James Patterson, for instance) over time "dumbed down" their writing to include less obscure words and less poetic descriptions.
It's my understanding that this approach to writing is actually making literature "more accessible", as larger groups of people will be able to understand it.
Is there a reference that authors use for this? For instance, do they make sure their works can be read at a high school level? (A rule of thumb somebody gave me was "no words with over 4 syllables")