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The Fog Index

Posted on Thursday, March 30, 2017 at 12:44 AM

Assessing the readability of a TheAtlantic.com excerpt.

This month's Fog Index sample text comes from a March 29 article on TheAtlantic.com ("Escaping Is Not a Form of Understanding" by Adrienne LaFrance). Here's the text we're analyzing, with longer words in italics for reference:

"There are deep and complicated tensions in these questions. Hawaii is beautiful, yes, but it is not simply an 'Eden of happy Americans.' Though many people in Hawaii are proud of its nearly 58 years of statehood, others don't consider themselves to be American at all. The state's economy is hugely dependent on both tourism and federal jobs, both of which can be viewed as complicit in a form of settler colonialism that shapes the way people perceive and experience life in Hawaii. This is heavy stuff, and worthy of consideration by all Americans, especially those who visit Hawaii."

--Word count: 99 words
--Average sentence length: 20 words (9, 14, 23, 37, 16)
--Words with 3+ syllables: 12 percent (12/99 words)
--Fog Index: (20+12)*.4 = 12 (12.8, no rounding)

We only need to cut one Fog Index point here to fall within ideal range. There's a simple fix that ought to do it:

"There are deep and complicated tensions in these questions. Hawaii is beautiful, yes, but it is not simply an 'Eden of happy Americans.' Though many people in Hawaii are proud of its nearly 58 years of statehood, others don't consider themselves to be American at all. The state's economy depends hugely on both tourism and federal jobs. Both of these can be viewed as complicit in a form of settler colonialism that shapes the way people perceive and experience life in Hawaii. This is heavy stuff, and worthy of consideration by all Americans, especially those who visit Hawaii."

--Word count: 98 words
--Average sentence length: 16 words (9, 14, 23, 11, 25, 16)
--Words with 3+ syllables: 11 percent (11/98 words)
--Fog Index: (16+11)*.4 = 10 (10.8, no rounding)

All we did was split sentence 4 from the original into two new sentences and tweaked a phrase. ("Is hugely dependent on" becomes "depends hugely on" in the new version.) This small edit cut the Fog by 2 points.

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