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The Fog Index

Posted on Wednesday, August 30, 2017 at 4:20 PM

Assessing the readability of a Mashable.com excerpt.

This month's sample comes from an August 29 article on Mashable.com ("Google Is Rolling Out a New Feature on Google Maps That'll Make Parking a Lot Easier" by Colin Daileda). Here's the text we're evaluating:

"Few things make me want to rediscover religion like trying to find parking in New York City. The few times I've driven here, it's been only vaguely irritating until it's time to park, which is when dread seeps through the walls of my skull. So many shiny cars sitting idle, their owners already in post-parking bliss. Fire hydrants open holes of hope only to mock me as I roll past what I thought was an empty space. I rage at cars that could be positioned closer to each other, which would give me maybe enough space to squeeze into a spot. By the end of it all, I find myself praying to the parking gods, please, for a slab of free asphalt."

Word count: 122 words
Average sentence length: 20 words (17, 27, 12, 21, 24, 21)
Words with 3+ syllables: 4 percent (5/122 words)
Fog Index: (20+4)*.4 = 9 (9.6, no rounding)

It's rare that we find a sample whose Fog Index falls in the single digits. The key factor here may be word choice. Even with a longer sample than usual (122 words total), we have only 5 longer words, or 4 percent of the sample text. This balances out the average sentence length of 20, which might have driven the score out of ideal range if paired with more flowery phrasing.

What makes this sample so Fog-free, in the end, is its simplicity. The writer hasn't dumbed anything down or compromised in the name of readability. The sample manages to merge smart commentary with economy of language. Readers don't need to pause to catch their breath between phrases or sentences because the punctuation does so for them. In this regard, this is one of the more textbook examples of Fog-free writing we've found since we started running this monthly column.

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