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The Fog Index

Posted on Tuesday, February 28, 2012 at 11:27 AM

Assessing the readability of a NYTimes.com article.

This month, we calculate the Fog Index of a February 26, 2012, excerpt from NYTimes.com ("Risk and Riches in User Data for Facebook," by Somini Sengupta).

"Advertisers can tailor messages on Facebook on the basis of demographics like age and gender and on the preferences and affinities of its users. If Facebook users click the 'like' button for a particular grocery store chain, for instance, their name -- and sometimes their picture -- can appear as part of an advertisement for the chain on the Facebook pages of their friends. The same can be done when users read a news site connected to Facebook, or a song they stream from one of Facebook's many entertainment partners, though users can tweak their settings to prevent Facebook from using such information for advertising."

--Word count: 105
--Average sentence length: 35 words (24, 40, 41)
--Words with 3+ syllables: 10 percent (10/105 words)
--Fog Index: (35+10)*.4 = 18 (no rounding)

The clear culprit here is sentence length. At 105 words, we have just three sentences. Let’s see if we can bring the Fog score below 12 by splitting up some longer sentences.

"Advertisers can tailor Facebook messages using demographics and user preferences. If Facebook users 'like' a given grocery store, for instance, their name and picture can appear as part of an ad for the chain on their friends' Facebook pages. The same can happen when users read a news site connected to Facebook or stream a song from a Facebook entertainment partner. Users can tweak their settings to prevent Facebook from using their data in this way."

--Word count: 76
--Average sentence length: 19 words (10, 29, 22, 15)
--Words with 3+ syllables: 7 percent (5/76 words)
--Fog Index: (19+7)*.4 = 10 (no rounding)

We were able to eliminate more than a quarter of the words from the original sample. We also cut average sentence length nearly by half and our Fog Index by 8 points.

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