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The Fog Index

Posted on Tuesday, December 30, 2014 at 6:41 PM

Assessing the readability of an excerpt from TheAtlantic.com.

This month, we calculate the Fog Index of a December 22 excerpt from "The Web Is the Real World" by Adrienne LaFrance. Let's look at the passage:

"Think of it this way: When Google became synonymous with online searching, it wasn't just because Google was the best known search engine out there. It was because search engines completely changed our behavior. And Google was the one that blended a new business model with a user experience that was simple, appealing, and, crucially, connected people with the answers they wanted. Google didn't just create new behaviors, it changed how we expect to interact with information. And in the five years since Uber launched, it has come to represent a shift of the same magnitude. The near ubiquity of the smartphone means we've brought the web out of the "computer room" -- yes, people really used to call it that -- and into the world, where we are weaving it into the way we do everything."

--Word count: 135 words
--Average sentence length: 23 words (25, 9, 28, 15, 19, 39)
--Words with 3+ syllables: 9 percent (12/135 words)
--Fog Index: (23+9)*.4 = 12 (no rounding)

This excerpt is right on the cusp. It weighed in at 12.8 on the Fog scale (12 with no rounding). Traditional Fog-Gunning standards call for a score below 12, so let's try to shave off at least a point.

"Think of it this way: When Google became synonymous with online searching, it wasn't just because Google was the best known search engine out there. It was because search engines completely changed our habits. And Google was the one that blended a new business model with a simple, appealing user experience that connected people with the answers they sought. Google didn't just create new behaviors, it changed how we expect to interact with information. And in the five years since Uber launched, it has come to denote a shift of the same magnitude. The widespread use of smartphones means we've brought the web out of the "computer room" -- yes, people really used to call it that -- and into the world, where we are weaving it into everything we do."

--Word count: 129 words
--Average sentence length: 22 words (25, 9, 25, 15, 19, 36)
--Words with 3+ syllables: 6 percent (8/129 words)
--Fog Index: (22+6)*.4 = 11 (no rounding)

Cutting the Fog in this sample was difficult because it was so close to the ideal range. This passage didn't need much editing. For the most part, information was split into shorter, easy-to-read sentences. Therefore, we focused on cutting some of the longer words. We were able to cut the percentage of words with 3+ syllables by 3 points, thus bringing our Fog Index down to 11.2 (11 with no rounding).

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