After reading this article you will learn about Fog Index: 1. Principles of Fog Index 2. Fog Index or Clarity Index 3. Example Passage 4. Further Improvement 5. Infogineering Clarity Rating 6. Other Readability Indices 7. Checking Grammar, Spelling and Voice 8. Clarity of Verbal Communication.
- Principles of Fog Index
- Fog Index or Clarity Index
- Example Passage to Show Calculation of Fog Index
- Further Improvement in the Fog Index
- Infogineering Clarity Rating
- Other Readability Indices
- Checking Grammar, Spelling and Voice
- Clarity of Verbal Communication
1. Principles of Fog Index:
High clarity text communication is a soft skill that instantly indicates a sharp personality. The fifteen principles serve as a handy reference to improve the clarity of any text. Once a sentence is written, a quick mental recap of the principles may suggest the need for some edits to increase clarity.
The same can also be done after a paragraph or the entire content is completed. However, just a mental ‘gut’ is not sufficient to aid or improve clarity.
Fortunately, this entire process (of assessing the clarity of any text) can be done scientifically. Several readability indices have been proposed over time that gives immediate feedback as one writes the text. This produces improved and more readable text.
Further, several of these calculations have been automated. Thus, at the stroke of a single key, one can determine how readable one’s text is. If the index shows poor clarity, it gives one an opportunity to edit the text as many times as needed till it reaches the desired readability level.
One of the early indices that have been used for years to assess readability of any text is fog index or clarity index. It is an indicator of the clarity of any text. Using a formula, it determines how difficult or foggy the passage is.
However, fog index is not an index of how good the writing is. It is a proven method of analysing any written material to judge its crispness and readability. There are also several other models popularly used to assess the readability of any text. The Flesch Kincaid model is increasingly becoming popular due to its instant calculation of several metrics.
This serves as an immediate feedback on the fly. When one uses Microsoft Word as a text editor, it is easy to get multiple readability metrics using this model at the stroke of a key. Other indices are Infogineering clarity rating, SMOG index, Coleman Liau index and automated readability index (ARI).
Each of these is a refinement and improvement over prior systems. However, the common theme of each is the same—giving feedback on the clarity of text.
2. Fog Index or Clarity Index:
Fog index, originally developed by Robert Gunning, along with subsequent modifications, is considered the most reliable method for determining how difficult or easy a passage is to read and understand. The ideal fog index of a passage is between 8 and 9. A passage with a fog index higher than 15 requires a rewrite to bring the index down and improve the clarity.
The method to calculate fog index or clarity index, also referred to as Gunning fog score index is mechanical and objective, and works step by step. When using these steps, one must choose a sample that contains at least one hundred words to be statistically relevant. These steps are outlined here.
Formula of Fog Index or Clarity Index:
Count the total number of words in the passage.
Count the number of sentences in the passage.
Count the average number of words in each sentence (by dividing the number of words by the number of sentences). For example, a 100-word passage comprising 10 sentences would have an average sentence length of 100/10 or 10 words).
Count the number of words having three syllables or more in the passage.
While calculating, do not add the following:
a. Words that are capitalized (such as proper nouns, e.g.. Bangalore, Minneapolis, Jawaharlal, etc.)
b. Words that are a combination of short easy words such as undertake, bookkeeping, anyone and multinational.
c. Verb forms whose number of syllables have increased by the addition of -ed, -es or -ing) such as credited.
Add the last two numbers (derived in steps 3 and 4 above).
Take four-tenths of this total.
The final result determines the fog index or clarity index. Here, like golf, low scores are desirable and imply high clarity (or less foggy) English.
3. Example Passage to Show Calculation of Fog Index:
Here is an example to show how fog index is calculated:
One would have expected that after Amir Khan’s insightful and moving film Taare Zameen Par, at least teachers of elite schools would have imbibed the basic lesson that regimenting children is not the best way to educate them.
Each child is unique and should not be expected to become a flawless assembly line product or behave like a saint. Real education lies in enabling each child to discover his own genius within. The present-day school system revolves around penalizing you for your weaknesses and the inability to tread the beaten path in learning the determined skills. The film held up a mirror to all adults.
Let us now calculate the fog index of this passage.
The fog index formula is as follows:
0.4 ((words/sentence) + 100 (complex words/words))
In this passage:
Number of words: 105
Number of sentences: 5
Number of complex words (italicized): 6
(These are words of three syllables or more. Note that several words of three syllables or more have not been counted here because these are verb forms ending with -ed, -es and -ing).
Hence fog index is calculated as follows:
0.4[(105/5) + 6] = 10.8
Thus, the Fog index of this passage is 10.8.
Here is an example of a passage with a very high (poor) fog index (and some spelling/grammatical errors).
I have often been faced with the question – what is the right time to go for an IVIBA? Is it after finishing graduation or after several years of work experience? Perspectives may differ—here I am giving mine. I will discuss the pros and cons of both—and suggest you decide what is best for you considering the circumstances you are under.
Doing an MBA right after finishing your graduation has the advantage of continuity of education since it is impossible to predict what situations can come up after many years of work, personal or professional, that may inhibit one from taking a 2-year break from a job.
Doing all education without a break, and then concentrating on the job helps both. On the other hand, doing an MBA after putting up several years of work has the unmistakable advantage of truly appreciating what is taught in the MBA course.
For example, it is impossible for a fresh graduate to fathom what Mergers and Acquisitions mean or Earnings per Share growth mean or its importance in the corporate context. They will go through the motions as a theoretical exercise with no bearing to appreciating the real application requirement.
But a person who has spent 5 years in the corporate world will have complete understanding of that. Hence considering all aspects, I would recommend that one does an MBA after at least a few years of experience. The 2-years that you will spend during the MBA will be a much better and valuable learning experience for you if you are armed with the experience behind you.
Calculating the fog index of the above passage:
The fog index of this passage is determined as follows:
This is a passage of 266 words. The number of sentences in the passage is 12. Hence the average number of words in a sentence is 266/12 = 22.17.
Number of words with more than three syllables in this passage is 28
(These are italicized in the text.)
Adding steps 1 and 2, we get 50.17.
Four-tenths of this total is 20.07.
Therefore, the fog index of this passage is 20.47, which is too high. However, it is possible to convey the ideas expressed in this same passage by using the ten principles stated earlier. This will make the passage much simpler, and will automatically bring down the Fog index.
It is important to ensure, however, that when simplified, no important point is omitted. In addition to simplifying the text, spelling and grammatical errors have also been corrected.
I have often faced the question—what is the right time for an MBA? Is it after graduation or after getting work experience? Opinions differ; but here is mine. I will discuss the pros and cons of each—and you decide what is best for you considering your circumstances.
Doing an MBA right after finishing your graduation has the advantage of continuity of education. It is Impossible to predict what situations may come up after many years of work, personal or professional.
That may inhibit one from taking a 2-year break from a job later. Doing all education without a break, and then concentrating on the job helps both. On the other hand, doing an MBA after years of work has the advantage of truly appreciating the course.
For example, it is impossible for a fresh graduate to understand the importance and context of ‘Mergers and Acquisitions’ or ‘Earnings per Share growth’. They will go through the theory without the application. But a person who has spent five years in the Corporate world will understand that.
Hence, I would recommend that one does an MBA after gaining a few years of experience. The years that you will spend during MBA will be a much better and valuable learning experience for you if you are armed with the experience behind you.
To find the fog index, we follow the same sequence of steps:
Number of words in the paragraph is 220. Number of sentences in the paragraph is 14. Hence the average number of words per sentence is 15.7.
Number of words with three syllables is 18.
Adding the last two numbers we get 33.7.
Four-tenths of this total is 13.48.
Hence the fog index is 12.68, down from 20.47 for the same passage.
4. Further Improvement in the Fog Index:
Further improvement in the fog index is possible by rewriting the text completely. The essence of the subject is however retained.
The original text is now rewritten as follows. Please note the simple sentences. The paragraphs are also short and crisp.
Opinions differ on the right time to get an MBA.
The work experience will help one appreciate the true value of the MBA. It will help one understand the context from the past, and apply it effectively in the future.
Getting an MBA right after graduation has the advantage of continuity of education. It avoids the risk of being unable to pursue an MBA after work experience, due to personal or professional situations.
I suggest getting an MBA after work experience. Getting an MBA soon after graduation will make it a theoretical exercise. Many high impact topics such as ‘Mergers and Acquisitions’ or ‘Earnings per Share growth’ mean little to fresh graduates. However, such topics arm students having work experience with new learning that can be applied effectively in the future.
Calculating the fog index:
1. Number of words: 131
2. Number of sentences: 9
3. Hence, the number of words/sentence: 14.6
4. Number of three-syllable words: 7
5. Adding the above: 14.6 + 7 = 21.6
6. Four-tenth of this total: 8.64
7. Hence the fog index of the text is 8.64.
Step-by-step editing to improve (lower number) Fog index of the same passage
Here is another passage (Example 9.3.2a) which has been edited to increase clarity (Example 9.3.2b) using the 15 guiding principles.
A studied consideration of heat-induced expansion of aqueous substances necessarily entails significant complications on account of the following reasons:
A definite linear or surface dimension is not demonstrated by them as they align themselves exactly according to the vessel containing them.
A container is essential to hold fluid materials. Accordingly, when heat is ape- to the container, there is a veritable difference between the heat-generated expert: of the container and that of the fluid. For this reason, it is possible to record i document the expansion of the fluid material as compared to the expansion of – container holding it.
The study of thermal expansion of liquids involves special problems due to the following reasons:
They do not have fixed linear or surface dimensions, as they take the shape of the container. Liquids require a container to hold them. Hence, when the container is heated, expansion of the liquid does not correspond with that of the container. Thus, we car record thermal expansion of liquids relative to its container.
A quick look brings out the reasons for this sharp contrast in clarity as the table below clearly shows.
These examples bring out some important insights. The easiest way to keep the fog index down is to write short sentences. It is desirable to keep the average length of sentences limited to 15-20 words. But it is not necessary to make every sentence short and of the same length.
In fact, this might cause monotony. Sentence length can definitely be varied according to the requirement. Thus, the fog index can even be raised, if required, by joining sentences. If the fog index is above 40, the sentences are too long or the words used are too complicated.
If the fog index is less than 20, the readability may be affected due to abrupt and choppy sentences. A fog index of around 30 is ideal. This will not only smooth out the choppiness or jerkiness, but will also show a better relationship between ideas. This is an essential feature of effective communication (Gunning 1952).
5. Infogineering Clarity Rating:
The infogineering clarity rating builds on top of the clarity index or fog index. It is based on adding another factor to the clarity index, which can make the text more readable. This is the number of sentences in a paragraph. This is important because a text that has long paragraphs considerably affects the readability.
There is another important difference between the clarity index and the infogineering clarity rating. The clarity index counts the number of words with over three syllables. However, infogineering clarity rating defines and counts long words as ones that have over eight characters.
The number of characters in a word is easier to count rather than counting syllables (which requires one to pronounce it correctly). It also makes it easier to edit a text for readability by substituting shorter words for more complex ones.
i. Calculating the infogineering Index:
The index is calculated as follows:
As can be seen, the first two terms of the numerator are the same as in the fog index. To this we add 5 times the average sentences per paragraph. The addition of the three terms is finally divided by 2. A text with good readability should have an infogineering index of 15-25. To know more about this rating, readers may visit www.infogineering.net.
ii. Flesch Kincaid Reading Ease Index:
The Flesch Kincaid (1975) reading ease formula has seen increased popularity over the years. Similar to the fog index, it looks at the number of syllables per word and the number of words per sentence. However, the index calculation is different from Fog index. It also presents a readability summary including the grade level required to understand the text.
Several computer systems such as Microsoft Word and Google Docs can calculate the readability index of any text at the stroke of a key. This is immensely useful when one edits the text to improve readability, and checks the readability score.
a. The Flesch Reading Ease Readability Formula:
This is calculated as shown below.
206.835 – 1.015 x (words/sentences) – 84.6 x (syllables/words).
On a scale of 0-100, a high score is good (easy to read) and a low score i bad (difficult to read).
The scores are graded as follows for readability:
A text with a readability score between 60 and 80 is easy for a 12-15 year old, according to studies. ‘To put that into perspective. Reader’s Digest has a readability index of about 65, Time scores about 52, and the Harvard Law Review scores in the low 30s.’
b. Flesch Kincaid Grade Level:
In addition to the readability index, the measure also includes grade level This refers to the readability of text according to the US school grades.
This is calculated as follows:
0.39 X (words/sentences) + 11.8 x (syllables/words) -15.59
c. Using Microsoft Word to Calculate the Flesch Reading Ease Index:
Microsoft Word makes calculating the Flesch reading ease index easy. The following simple steps will help one write any text and get this index at the press of a key.
Easy steps to automate calculating the Flesch reading ease formula:
1. Go to the Tools menu.
2. Select Options.
3. Click on the ‘Spelling & Grammar’ tab
4. Click on the check-box for ‘Check grammar’.
5. Click on the check-box for ‘Show readability statistics’.
6. Click OK.
If we have done this setting on our computer, every time we need to check the readability index, we need to go to the ‘Tools’ menu in the Standard toolbar and click on ‘Spelling & Grammar’.
A shortcut key for this is F7. Microsoft Word finishes checking the spelling and grammar, and then display’s the readability information. If we need to do this for a specified portion of a text, we can do the same after selecting the desired text with the mouse.
Here is an example of a passage with a poor Flesch reading ease index, followed by a higher clarity version of the same.
I wanted to let you know that my company and all of us here are extremely distressed at the quality of products delivered by your company. It was intimated through a teleconference with all concerned on Wednesday last week that one out of every 10 products is failing to perform in the field.
No evidence of any actions at your front since that teleconference are visible to us. A cumulative loss of extraordinary proportions has resulted from this quality issue. This needs to be resolved with the highest sense of exigency.
It is also important that we get from you a report on a daily basis by end of the day on the actions you and your team are taking to ensure this problem is fixed and there is absolutely no recurrence of this fallout under any conceivable circumstances.
Further it may be noted that in the event this happens yet again, we will expect your company to disburse all damages resulting from such circumstances. We need to be also absolve by you from any damages that may be incurred due to this quality issue and you should give us a written undertaking of the same.
The revised version of Example 9.5.1a with increased clarity is given in Example 9.5.1b. Note the sharpness of the new passage. It is clearly indicative of a more direct and mature personality compared to the original example.
We need your immediate attention! During our last Wednesday call, we informed you about 10% field failures. This has caused major loss to our company. However, we have not seen any actions since then.
Please resolve this issue urgently. Please also send us a daily report of your actions to ensure this does not recur. We also need a note from you to indemnify us from any potential damages.
The readability statistics (given below) of the two examples clearly bring out the contrast.
6. Other Readability Indices:
In addition to the fog index and Flesch Kincaid reading ease, there are several other popular readability indices in use today.
Some of these are:
a. SMOG index
b. Coleman Liau index
c. Automated readability index
The formula used for each of these is as follows:
a. SMOG Index:
1.0430 X sqrt (30 x complex Words/sentences) + 3.1291
b. Coleman Liau Index:
5.89 X (characters/words) – 0.3 x (sentences/words) – 15.8
c. Automated Readability Index (ARI):
4.71 X (characters/words) + 0.5 x (words/sentences) – 21.43
As we can see above, Coleman Liau and ARI count characters, words and sentences. However the other indices count the number of syllables and complex words. In general, counting syllables is more complex than counting characters, words, sentences and paragraphs.
7. Checking Grammar, Spelling and Voice:
Text editors such as Microsoft Word and others give instant information on the following:
a. Spelling errors
b. Synonyms and on line thesaurus access
c. Grammatical errors
d. Passive voice
The Flesch reading ease index also includes the percentage of sentences written in passive voice as part of the readability index.
It is extremely important to be vigilant about the above aspects while writing any text. Lack of attention to these can lead to an immediate reflection of one’s poor soft skills and sloppy personality.
8. Clarity of Verbal Communication:
While the principles stated here are to increase clarity of written text, the same holds true for verbal communication too. Clarity of verbal communication is a direct reflection of one’s personality and soft skills.
Let us now consider the following two cases to illustrate this point.
You have achieved a lot in your life so far. What has been the proudest moment so far and why?
Well, not sure! There are so many interesting events that it is hard to pinpoint which one stands out from so many achievements. It is possibly the time when our soccer team won the top gold medal in the inter-collegiate competition when no one expected our team to successfully win.
In fact we finished last and absolutely rock-bottom the prior time the last year so you know we were really the underdogs as they say. I scored a really good goal for our team that helped us get to a superlative win and everyone applauded at that time and later as well.
The other time I think I felt very unbounded pride was when I cracked a very difficult problem that was given to the whole class. That was when I think I was in the 9th or 10th standard in my school. The teacher very deliberately gave us an arduous problem which was really a standard syllabus question—and no one had any idea how to crack it.
Not many people even tried to attempt it. I thought and suddenly got a brain wave of a stupendous idea. I always believe difficult and grueling problems can be done if enough effort is put on. There is no substitute to hard work.
There are several such examples in college. These made me very popular in my college. My friends really admired me.
You have achieved a lot in your life so far. What has been the proudest moment so far and why?
I scored the winning goal to help us win gold at an intercollegiate soccer competition. That was my proudest moment. We had finished last the previous year. No one had expected us to win. But we did! I felt proud because I made a difference to our team.
With your permission Sir, I will narrate another instance of a different kind. It was a technical challenge. I was in the 9th standard. Our teacher had given us a challenge to solve a 12th standard problem. Very few students even attempted it. I felt proud because I was the only one to solve it. I realized the importance of not giving up in the face of adversity.
Analysis of the Two Cases:
Let us now analyze these two cases. The context of the two candidates has been kept the same for ease of comparison. What is the first impression the manager has formed of the two candidates?
He has formed a favourable first impression of Candidate 2.
Candidate 1 has poor communication skills. He lacks clarity of expression. His statements are long-winded.
He uses redundant phrases such as the following:
a. top gold medal
b. successfully win
c. last and absolutely rock-bottom
d. prior time the last year
He is tentative in his communication.
His communication brings out his lack of confidence through phrases such as the following:
a. Well, not sure!
b. It is possibly the time
c. I think I felt
He uses several multi-syllable complex words. This impacts communication clarity.
The following words bring out this trait:
Finally, he brings in unrelated thoughts that are not linked to the subject. This can be very distracting and can confuse all.
For example, the following sentences are unrelated to the context:
a. Everyone applauded at that time and later as well.
b. These made me very popular in my college. My friends really admired me.
Candidate 2 created an immediate favourable impression by his strong communication. He is crisp and direct. There is high clarity in his response. He communicated exactly what was asked. He politely asked for permission to state two instances. He took the opportunity to drive home some of his key values, such as team before self, and not giving up in face of adversity.
It is thus imperative that the 15 principles stated about clarity of text should be followed for verbal communication as well. Instead of editing the text till it reaches the right clarity, one need to rehearse the content mentally, and prior to communicating verbally.