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The Fog Index

Posted on Tuesday, August 30, 2016 at 10:10 PM

Assessing the readability of a Mashable.com excerpt.

This month's Fog excerpt comes from an August 29 article on Mashable.com ("Hospitals Try Giving Patients a Dose of VR" by Ian King and Caroline Chen for Bloomberg). Here's the sample paragraph, with longer words italicized for reference:

At Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles, Ronald Yarbrough is waiting in a room that overlooks the hospital's landing pad, hoping to see [a] helicopter bring him a donor heart. He needs a transplant after his artificial one failed and is being kept alive by a machine. He has been trying a Samsung Gear VR headset and specially created software from a startup called AppliedVR. It helped take his mind off the fact that he's confined to a small hospital room that can feel like a jail cell. When his muscles relaxed, his pain receded, he said.

--Word count: 94 words
--Average sentence length: 19 words (27, 17, 18, 23, 9)
--Words with 3+ syllables: 4 percent (4/94 words)
--Fog Index: (19+4)*.4 = 9 (9.2, no rounding)

This is one of the lowest raw Fog scores we've seen over the years. In the past, we've taken pieces that were borderline and made some cosmetic changes to get the score into ideal range. This time, though, we don't want to edit further. (Exception: We've added the missing "a" in the first sentence above, in brackets.)

One might edit the second sentence to clarify that it's the subject's heart, not his transplant, that is artificial and being kept alive by a machine. (Our version: "He needs a transplant because his artificial heart failed and is now being kept alive by a machine.")

To cut average sentence length, we could recast the "hoping to see" clause as a new sentence, but it isn't necessary. The longer sentence at the beginning helps to offset some of the shorter sentences that follow. There are so few longer words that we don't need to simplify the language as we often do.

In other words, there's not much Fog to cut through here. So we won't fix what isn't broken.

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