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The Fog Index

Posted on Wednesday, September 28, 2016 at 1:34 AM

In the news: Assessing the readability of an NYTimes.com excerpt.

This month's excerpt for our Fog Index exercise comes from a September 25 NYTimes.com article ("Making Video Ads That Work on Facebook's Silent Screen" by Sapna Maheshwari and Katie Benner"). Here's the text, with longer words in italics:

"Advertising is a medium that has long relied on the hummable jingle, the memorable catchphrase and the familiar voice-over to connect with its audience. Now, as technology companies like Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat hustle for a bigger cut of television marketing dollars by adding videos, they have been working to show advertisers that their videos can be just as effective, even if they are played on mute or are viewed for just a few seconds. With advertisers seeking to reach an increasingly fractured and fickle audience, the challenges of presenting ads on platforms that are not one-size-fits-all are sure to be much discussed at Advertising Week, a top industry gathering that begins Monday in Manhattan."

--Word count: 115 words
--Average sentence length: 38 words (24, 51, 40)
--Words with 3+ syllables: 16 percent (18/115 words)
--Fog Index: (38+16)*.4 = 21 (21.6, no rounding)

We have our work cut out for us here. We need to cut 10 points from our Fog Index. The chief culprit is sentence length: We have 115 words split into just 3 sentences. Let's see if we can resolve the issue without infringing too much upon the writers' style:

"Advertising has long relied on catchy jingles, striking slogans, and familiar voice-overs to connect with its audience. Now sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat are hustling for more TV marketing dollars by adding videos. They want to prove that their videos can work even if they are played on mute or are viewed for just a few seconds. Audiences are becoming fractured and fickle, so there are many challenges in presenting ads on platforms that are not one-size-fits-all. These issues are sure to be a hot topic at Advertising Week, a top industry show that begins Monday in Manhattan."

--Word count: 99 words
--Average sentence length: 20 words (17, 17, 24, 20, 21)
--Words with 3+ syllables: 8 percent (8/99 words)
--Fog Index: (20+8)*.4 = 11 (11.2, no rounding)

We had to wrestle with the text quite a bit to bring the Fog score below 12. Turning 3 sentences into 5 only got the job partway done. We had to look at the longer words and edit further to eliminate some of them. Words like "advertisers" and "audience" are difficult to replace, and they are key players in this paragraph. Ultimately, we were able to get down to 11 while also cutting 16 words from the original.

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