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The Fog Index

Posted on Tuesday, May 31, 2011 at 9:45 AM

Assessing the readability of a Time.com excerpt.

This month, we examine an excerpt from a June 6, 2011, Time.com article ("Self-Serving Stewardship: How Manufacturers Help the Planet"):

For Coca-Cola, that realization came in the mid-2000s, when the global beverage giant became entangled in a controversy over its water use at a bottling plant in India. Nearby villagers held the company responsible for a dramatic drop in the level of the region's groundwater. Their demonstrations caught the attention of environmental activists, and the resulting negative publicity sparked protests and boycotts at college campuses across the U.S. and Europe. Coming as it did at a time when the company was expanding its pure-water products like mineral water, the unrest rang as a warning. In the future, Coca-Cola's fortunes would be tied to those of the environment.

--Word count: 107
--Average sentence length: 21 words (28, 17, 25, 24, 13)
--Words with 3+ syllables: 18 percent (19/107 words)
--Fog Index: (21+18)*.4 = 15 (no rounding)

This sample is in fairly good shape, but there's enough Fog to warrant further revision. Remember, the ideal is a Fog score below 12. At first glance, we see that the average sentence length is on the high side at 21 words, and there is a significant percentage of 3+-syllable words. Let's see if we can improve the score.

"Coca-Cola realized this in the mid-2000s, when the company came under fire for bottling water in India. Villagers in the area blamed Coca-Cola for a severe drop in regional groundwater levels. Environmentalists heard their protests, and there was a rash of college protests and boycotts across the U.S. and Europe. The unrest rang as a warning to the company, who was expanding its mineral water product line. In the future, Coca-Cola's fortunes would be tied to those of the environment."

--Word count: 80
--Average sentence length: 16 words (17, 14, 19, 17, 13)
--Words with 3+ syllables: 13 percent (10/80 words)
--Fog Index: (16+13)*.4 = 11 (no rounding)

Economy of language and simplicity were the keys to cutting the Fog score of this excerpt. There were excess words and phrases that we could afford to trim without sacrificing meaning.

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