« National Geographic Redesign | Home | Compartmentalize »

The Fog Index

Posted on Saturday, April 28, 2018 at 11:50 PM

In the news: Assessing the readability of a TheAtlantic.com sample.

This month's Fog Index excerpt comes from an April 21 TheAtlantic.com article ("Salad Panic" by James Hamblin). Here's the sample text, with longer words italicized:

"At the moment the utility of this story may be to jolt us out of complacency about the kinds of risks we come to accept as background noise. In just the last few months, influenza has killed 156 kids in the United States. Around 10,000 Americans have been killed already this year in automobile crashes. We're all more likely to be harmed or killed in our cars on the way to the store to buy lettuce than by the lettuce itself. We are all more likely to be harmed by the air pollution caused by driving cars to get the lettuce. Driving cars is a tremendous and serious health risk which most of us could do a lot more to avoid. Push alert."

Word count: 123 words
Average sentence length: 18 words (28, 15, 12, 26, 20, 20, 2)
Words with 3+ syllables: 7 percent (8/123 words)
Fog Index: (18+7) *.4 = 10 (10.0, no rounding)

Our calculations show a Fog Index of 10, well within ideal range. Health reports like this one can get bogged down (or fogged up, as the case may be) with complex vocabulary and dense descriptions. That is not the case here. The author conveys the facts in easy-to-read language, pausing often to allow readers time to process the information. The percentage of longer words is quite low for a 123-word sample.

If we wanted to, we could pare down the Fog Score even more by swapping out a few longer words. But it isn't necessary. Our goal is to bring a sample's Fog score below 12, and this sample already weighs in well below that number. We can learn valuable writing and editing lessons from it. As for romaine lettuce, eat with caution.

Add your comment.

« National Geographic Redesign | Top | Compartmentalize »