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The Fog Index

Posted on Wednesday, December 30, 2015 at 4:12 PM

Assessing the readability of a Forbes.com excerpt.

This month, we're examining sample text from a December 28 Forbes.com article ("Should You Invest in Bitcoin? 10 Arguments Against as of December 2015" by Laura Shin). Here's the excerpt, with longer words italicized:

"The emergence of Bitcoin and other digital currencies is certain to move society into a digital asset future. But the question is whether the Bitcoin blockchain, out of all the virtual currencies and similar protocols, will conduct all or a significant portion of these transactions. After all, there currently almost 700 other digital currencies, and surely more to be created. Because it's so early, and for several of the reasons laid out above, in particular governance issues, there's a possibility that Bitcoin could go the way of MySpace or AOL and that another protocol overtakes it."

--Word count: 96 words
--Average sentence length: 24 words (18, 27, 15, 36)
--Words with 3+ syllables: 19 percent (18/96 words)
--Fog Index: (24+19)*.4 = 17 (17.2, no rounding)

We need to cut at least 6 points to fall within the ideal range. Particularly damaging here is the percentage of longer words. Let's try to cut through some of the Fog here:

"The rise of Bitcoin and other online currencies will move the world into a digital asset future. The question is whether the Bitcoin blockchain, out of all the digital payment systems, will conduct all or most of these transactions. After all, there are almost 700 other existing options. Surely more will be created. Because it's so early, and for several of the reasons discussed above, in particular governance issues, Bitcoin could go the way of MySpace or AOL and another option could overtake it."

--Word count: 84 words
--Average sentence length: 17 words (17, 22, 9, 5, 31)
--Words with 3+ syllables: 8 percent (7/84 words)
--Fog Index: (17+8)*.4 = 10 (10.0, no rounding)

Here we have cut the Fog by roughly 40 percent. Our biggest hurdle was the number of longer words (19 percent of the original sample). The words "digital," "protocol(s)," and "currencies" appeared several times each, so we tried to reduce these in particular. Our edits cut 12 words from the original word count, a reduction of 1/8th. This lightened the overall load and helped bring the Fog down to 10. We might even have taken it a step further and tried splitting up the last sentence (which lost 5 words in the trimming but still stands at 31 words). But, in the name of preserving rhythm and not overediting, we let the longer sentence stand.

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