Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A-Z Challenge V = Visibility Zero

The Fog Index. Many of you will know all about this having attended "how to write clearly" courses. I suppose it mostly concerns official, business writing but I also think it can affect any writer.

Premise number one for all writers: who are we writing for? Intellectuals? Will they impressed by four-syllable words? Long sentences? If the answer's yes, then I suggest you go straight onto the next blog. But if your goal is to write crisply and clearly then read on...

The Fog Index was invented by an American anti-jargon activist, Robert Gunning

In my opinion, it's only a guideline, not a rule of thumb (who likes those anyway? Kick them out the door for a start), so - as in all of your writing - take this advice as you feel like it:

This is how it works:

  1. Choose a piece of written work which is at least 100 words long. Count the number of words.
  2. Divide the total by the number of sentences, which will give you the average sentence length.
  3. If a long sentence contains two or more complete thoughts (such as those separated by commas, colons or semi-colons) treat each thought as a separate sentence.
  4. Count the words of three or more syllables (not proper nouns or those compound words: caretaker, antisocial, transatlantic).
  5. What's the percentage of multi-syllable words (divide the number of multi-syllable words by word total and multiply by 100)?
  6. Add your average-sentence-length figure to your multi-syllable-percentage figure. Multiply the total by 0.4.
Are you still with me? Use a calculator! :)

The result is the FOG INDEX for that piece of writing.

A Fog Index of 13 or over means you have a heavy-going reading passage.

Have fun!


  1. Great advice!!! I do try and do the 'seperate' thoughts into seperate sentences too; but did know the 'rest' of the tipes. I have so much to learn & I knew that. :-) Going to save this for a reminder!

    So glad you visited me so I could find You!!! Following back and will visit often to learn more. Going now to check out more post!

    Have a Wonderful day,Lauracea!
    Coreen XO

  2. Fantastic advice. It is difficult to keep in mind who our target audience is and that they may or may not be interested in dissecting our language to get to the heart of the story. Awesome.

  3. Thanks Coreen, golly - I hope I can keep up the tips!
    Lindsay, nice to see you again. Thanks for posting.

  4. This is super, I learned something new today. I'll try this for sure. Thanks.

    I’m A-Z Blogging on Langley Writes about Writing and Langley’s Rich and Random Life

  5. As someone who tends to be wordy in my writing, I should pay attention to this. I've been told about the one complete thought to a sentence.

  6. This is excellent advice that I am definitely going to try. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Ahh...that's good to know Langley.
    Hmmm. J.L. be careful though - vary your sentences otherwise you'll sound like a machine-gun
    Thanks Julie - try it. But I warn you, it is fallible.

  8. Oh, cool - I'm going to hang on to this advice! Sometimes I get a bit too "into" my Victorian-era groove and my writing gets a little Dickensian - VERY foggy! :)

  9. Hi! I'm visiting on the A-Z Challenge.

  10. Huh, I had never heard of this at all! I will have to try it.

    Good luck with the rest of the A to Z Challenge!

  11. WOW! Math and writing. Love it!

  12. I adore Dickens and his writing, Charlotte!
    Welcome Bob, hope I see you around here often.
    Shannon, don't let it get your eyes crossed.
    Alison - I hate Math LOL
    Thank you all for commenting


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