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The Fog Index

Posted on Friday, April 28, 2017 at 9:53 PM

Assessing the readability of a Newsweek.com excerpt.

This month's Fog Index text comes from an April 27 article on Newsweek.com ("Record Levels of Toxic Flame Retardants Found in College Dorms" by Douglas Main). Here's the sample:

"Regardless of how much risk these chemicals pose, it's a good idea to try and limit your exposure to them, scientists agree. Dodson recommends replacing furniture if it's more than a few years, as new furniture is less likely to contain flame retardants, and also making sure the product is made without flame retardants. Regularly vacuuming and dusting, pursuits that college students aren't particularly known for. also help enormously. Diamond also suggests ventilating rooms to avoid a build of chemicals leaching from furniture and electronics, almost all of which contain flame retardants. She also advises to not eat with your hands after touching electronics like cell phones, tablets and keyboards, all of which contain flame retardants."

(Note: The stray period in sentence 3 appears in the original. We've changed it to a comma in the edited version below.)

--Word count: 116 words
--Average sentence length: 23 words (22, 32, 15, 23, 24)
--Words with 3+ syllables: 16 percent (19/116 words)
--Fog Index: (23+16)*.4 = 15 (15.6, no rounding)

Here we have a somewhat scientific discussion. It is often harder to cut the fog in samples like this because so many technical terms are involved. Let's see if we can

"No matter how much risk these chemicals pose, scientists agree it's a good idea to limit your contact with them. Dodson advises replacing furniture that's more than a few years old, as new pieces are less likely to contain flame retardants. You should also make sure the product is made without the chemicals. Regular vacuuming and dusting, pursuits that college students aren't well known for, also help a lot. Diamond also suggests ventilating rooms to avoid leaching of chemicals from furniture and electronics, almost all of which contain flame retardants. She also advises to not eat with your hands after touching electronics like cell phones, tablets and keyboards. These all contain flame retardants too."

--Word count: 114 words
--Average sentence length: 16 words (20, 21, 12, 16, 21, 18, 6)
--Words with 3+ syllables: 11 percent (12/113 words)
--Fog Index: (16+11)*.4 = 10 (10.8, no rounding)

We wrestled a bit with this one to bring down the Fog score. We were able to split up two longer sentences, making 7 sentences out of 5. We also reduced the number of longer words by nearly one third. Our changes ultimately cut 5 points from the original Fog Index.

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