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The Fog Index

Posted on Saturday, July 30, 2016 at 11:00 AM

Assessing the readability of a NewYorker.com excerpt.

This month's Fog Index text comes from a July 27 NewYorker.com article, "Does the Snapchat Generation Even Know What Yahoo Is?" by Om Malik. Here's the sample, with longer words italicized:

"Yahoo is a perfect illustration of how large Internet companies die -- by fading into irrelevance. A healthy Internet service possesses three qualities: it encourages habit formation; it appeals to a younger demographic, which can age alongside it; and it displays evidence of growth. Yahoo once had all of these qualities; now it has none. These days, despite my early affinity for the company, I don't use any Yahoo products except for its fantasy-baseball pages -- and those only because my fellow stat nerds won't switch to ESPN. Every time I log in, I am reminded of the company's mediocrity."

--Word count: 98 words
--Average sentence length: 20 words (15, 28, 11, 32, 12)
--Words with 3+ syllables: 14 percent (14/98 words)
--Fog Index: (20+14)*.4 = 13 (13.6, no rounding)

This sample is in pretty good shape. The Fog score is slightly inflated at 13, so we'll need to trim at least two points from it to fall within ideal range. At first glance, sentence length appears to be the main culprit. Let's see what we can do:

"Yahoo is a perfect illustration of how large Internet companies die -- by fading into irrelevance. A healthy Internet service fosters habit formation, appeals to a younger audience that can age with it, and shows clear growth. Yahoo once had all of these qualities; now it has none. Despite my early fondness for the company, I no longer use any Yahoo products except its fantasy-baseball pages. I use those only because my fellow stat nerds won't switch to ESPN. Every time I log in, I am reminded of the company's mediocrity."

--Word count: 90 words
--Average sentence length: 15 words (15, 21, 11, 18, 13, 12)
--Words with 3+ syllables: 11 percent (10/90 words)
--Fog Index: (15+11)*.4 = 10 (10.4, no rounding)

We didn't need to do much here to shave three points from the original Fox Index. The main culprits were the second and fourth sentences. In the former instance, we cut 7 words from the sentence to lighten the load. In the latter, we split the sentence in two. These changes cut 5 points, or 25 percent, from the original average. We also were able to shave 3 points from the ratio of longer words.

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