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The Fog Index

Posted on Thursday, February 27, 2014 at 11:52 PM

Assessing the readability of a Time.com excerpt.

This month, we analyze the Fog Index from a February 21, 2014, article on Time.com ("The Smartphone App Wars Are Over, and Apple Won" by Harry McCracken). Here's the excerpt:

"It would be nutty, of course, to argue that Android's failure to overcome the iOS software advantage means that Apple has nothing to be paranoid about on the app front. But maybe the big scary threat isn't Android. Maybe it's the same one that eventually made Windows less of an inevitable fact of life on the desktop: As cloud-based services got more and more sophisticated, and the business models behind them improved, the apps available for any particular platform stopped mattering that much. Facebook, after all, is Facebook whether you're using it on a Windows machine, a Mac or a Chromebook."

--Word count: 101 words
--Average sentence length: 20 words (30, 8, 19, 26, 18)
--Words with 3+ syllables: 7 percent (7/101 words)
--Fog Index: (20+7)*.4 = 10 (no rounding)

Our goal is to end up with a Fog score below 12, and this sample fits the bill. We could nitpick to try to get the score even lower, or we could focus on what this excerpt gets right. It's more than just the small percentage of longer words and relatively low sentence length. We all could pare our writing down to the barest essentials. We could express ourselves in abrupt sentences while consciously avoiding "big words," but the writer of this excerpt proves that we don't have to. We can write the occasional 30-word sentence. We can use bigger words when the sentence calls for them. If we've done our job as writers, we can keep our writing readable without giving up our unique style.

What say you, editors? Is there anything you would change about the sample to improve the Fog score?

Add your comment.

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