« Reader-Tailored Design | Home | Advice from a Master »

The Fog Index

Posted on Monday, November 23, 2009 at 4:54 PM

Assessing the readability of a Newsweek.com excerpt.

This month, we take a look at an article about college loans published on Newsweek.com ("College Students Hit by High-Interest Loans"; November 20, 2009). We calculate the Fog Index of this sample using a simple formula based on the total number of words, the number of three-plus-syllable words, and sentence length. Here is the sample:

"Consumer advocates see nothing wrong with schools that offer to help finance their students' educations. It's rates as much as 10 percent higher than federal student-loan rates that have them worried. Before the recession and credit crunch hit the student-loan market, it wasn't uncommon to see federally backed loans hovering around 3 percent or even lower. For qualified students, 8 percent bank loans are still common. Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of Finaid.org, says it's hard to estimate the average private student-loan rate, but he said most loans are in the low double figures. Eighteen percent, however is near predatory and driven by a pure profit motive, says Loonin."

There are 107 words in this sample, with an average sentence length of 18 words. The percentage of words three syllables or greater (omitting the exceptions listed in the March 2009 issue) is 13. Adding 18 and 13 gives us 31. Multiply 31 by 0.4 to arrive at a Fog Index of 12 (no rounding).

Given this number, we can conclude that the readability of this passage is good compared to past excerpts we have assessed. The ultimate goal for writers is a Fog Index of less than 12, so this sample suffers from only slight fog. Trimming the two longest sentences, which weighed in at 25 and 26 words, would result in a Fog score under 12.

Add your comment.

« Reader-Tailored Design | Top | Advice from a Master »