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The Fog Index

Posted on Thursday, October 30, 2014 at 2:15 PM

Assessing the readability of a Forbes.com article.

This month, we're calculating the Fog Index of an October 26, 2014, Forbes.com article ("Complex Data Analytics, Put Simply" by Adrian Bridgwater). Here's the excerpt:

"These technologies will lead us onwards to looking at machine learning. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is starting to sound a lot less artificial if we start to understand the heuristics involved behind the way we deal with information. Heuristics are methods for problem solving based on learned experiences and logical guesswork rather pre-established mathematical formulas. Using many of the methods, channels and tools discussed here we are reaching a point where computers can start to make decisions that look after us. Yes we already have aircraft autopilots that operate within a comparatively (to our brains) defined physical world, but we are talking about deeper and more complex level of human understanding through analytics. The world is getting better, probably."

--Word count: 118 words
--Average sentence length: 20 words (11, 26, 17, 26, 32, 6)
--Words with 3+ syllables: 18 percent (21/118 words)
--Fog Index: (20+18)*.4 = 15 (no rounding)

In this sample we have a pretty high number of longer words (21 out of 118 total). We are dealing with highly technical subject matter, so paring this down will be a challenge. Let's see what we can do to cut at least 3 points from the existing Fog score.

"These technologies will lead us onward to looking at machine learning. Artificial intelligence (AI) starts to sound much less artificial if we study the heuristics involved in how we manage data. Heuristics are problem-solving methods based on learned experiences and sound guesswork rather proven mathematical formulas. Using many of the methods, channels and tools discussed here, we are reaching a point where computers can start to make decisions that look after us. Yes, we already have aircraft autopilots that function within a comparatively (to our brains) defined physical world. But we are talking about a deeper and more complex level of human knowledge through analytics. The world is getting better, probably."

--Word count: 111 words
--Average sentence length: 16 words (11, 20, 15, 26, 17, 16, 6)
--Words with 3+ syllables: 13 percent (15/111 words)
--Fog Index: (16+13)*.4 = 11 (no rounding)


We came in just under the wire with a Fog Index of 11.6 (11 with no rounding, per Fog-Gunning guidelines). In some cases we made simple word swaps to reduce the number of longer words. However, thesaurus mining alone cannot cut through fog. We were able to turn six sentences into seven, and we did some other trimming for clarity. These minor changes cut our Fog score by 4 points.

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