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The Fog Index

Posted on Saturday, May 31, 2014 at 10:35 AM

Calculating the Fog Index of a TheVerge.com excerpt.

This month, we analyze the Fog score of text from a May 27 TheVerge.com article ("Amazon Confirms Its Fight with Publishing Giant Hachette Is Real, and It's Far From Over" by David Pierce). Here's the sample:

"Amazon's spat with publishing conglomerate Hachette has been unofficial but well-documented, as the retail giant uses its considerable muscle to gain more favorable terms in a deal with one of its largest book partners. On Tuesday it swung its biggest hammer yet, saying formally that it's buying less inventory from Hachette and is no longer taking pre-orders on its books. That means that while you can still buy a Hachette book on Amazon, you can't do so ahead of its publication date, and the company will only buy the book from Hachette when you buy it from Amazon. That means slow shipping and no cheaper prices -- none of the perks of being an Amazon supplier or customer."

--Word count: 117 words
--Average sentence length: 29 words (34, 26, 38, 19)
--Words with 3+ syllables: 9 percent (10/117 words)
--Fog Index: (29+9)*.4 = 15 (no rounding)

Our Fog Index here is a few points above the ideal (less than 12). The clear culprit is the 29-word average sentence length, so let's see if we can break up the text a bit.

"Amazon's spat with Big Five publisher Hachette has been unofficial but well documented. Thanks to its considerable muscle, the retail giant has gained more favorable terms in a deal with one of its largest book partners. On Tuesday it swung its biggest hammer yet, confirming that it's buying less inventory from Hachette and is no longer taking pre-orders on its books. That means that while you can still buy a Hachette book on Amazon, you can't do so ahead of its publication date. What's more, the company will only buy the book from Hachette when you buy it from Amazon. That means slow shipping and no cheaper prices -- none of the perks of being an Amazon buyer or seller."

--Word count: 119 words
--Average sentence length: 20 words (13, 23, 25, 22, 17, 19)
--Words with 3+ syllables: 6 percent (7/119 words)
--Fog Index: (20+6)*.4 = 10 (no rounding)

We made very light tweaks to this passage to improve the Fog score, with a net gain of two words. Four sentences became six, and we cut a few longer words for good measure. In the end, we reduced our Fog Index by five points without reinventing the wheel.

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