of the Fog Index
of the Fog Index
by Greg Knauss
Have you ever wondered why some people's writing has all the order of an 11-car pileup? How can these writers, normally very clear individuals, make such a mess of simmple ideas in a tangle of run-on sentences, misplaced punctuation, and needlessly long words?
Why does it give you a headache to read even the shortest paper by these folks? Simple. People with this problem, and we all run into it at one time or another, don't proofread. They write a sentence, one that may be long and complex, but never take the time to read it. That sentence sits there with all the grace of a tractor, when several shorter sentences would have done the job much more effectively.
A reader may have to read a sentence several times just to understand it. It's an annoying, often inconvenient, problem. And one that shows no sign of going away anytime soon. There is a simple solution, however. To stop writing this type of `foggy' or unclear work, there are several things that you can do: 1. Re-read what you've written, both after you've written it and after you've let it sit for awhile. 2. Re-read the paper like someone who knows nothing about the subject. Did you cover all the bases? Is there anything that the layman wouldn't understand? 3. Get someone else to read the paper.
One of the best things you can do for yourself is to get an honest opinion from someone who knows absolutely nothing about the subject. I let my mom read all my stuff about computers.
And although all of these steps are useful and very helpful to eliminate foggy writing, there is only one real way to mechanically, objectively determine if a piece of writing is clear or not: the Fog Index. Robert Gunning, creator of the Fog Index, coined the phrase foggy writing to describe text with a low readability.
The Index is supposed to be an objective description of writing's clarity: A high number indicates poorly or complexly written work, a low number is simplistic and easily understood writing. The Index number corresponds to the grade level needed to understand the text. To determine the Fog Index of a paper, word, long word, and sentence counts are taken and a simple formula used to determine the result.
One of the best things you can
do for yourself is to get an
honest opinion from someone
who knows absolutely nothing
about the subject.
Long words are words with three syllables or more. Independent phrases, such as what follows a semicolon, are counted as separate sentences. Lost in the Fog is a computerized version of the Fog Index for the 8-bit Atari computers. To use Lost, first type in Program 1, and save it to disk. Be sure to save a copy before using it, because it contains machine language that will crash the computer if typed incorrectly. Now RUN Lost and insert a disk with a text file on it into drive one. Though Lost in the Fog was designed for use with files created by AtariWriter, it should work with any word processor that stores its text as a standard DOS file.
AtariWriter Plus files must be saved with the ASCII Save option to be checked correctly. Lost will request the filename of the text to be fogged. Enter one. To get a directory of drive one, just press RETURN in place of a filename. Once you've entered the file's name, the program will start its fogging. The entire text file will be printed on the bottom half of the screen, so you can reread your writing as it goes by. To interrupt a Fog session, just press the ESC key. The results so far will be immediately displayed.
Researchers, using the Fog Index as a guide, have found that most people like to read below their grade level. Even college professors are uncomfortable above a Fog Index of 12. Most popular magazines, such as ANALOG, publish between the sixth and eighth grade. (For a fogging of some famous people's writing, see Figure 1.) If you find that a paper has gotten a score of
Long words are words with three syllables or more,
ten or higher it would probably henefit from shorter sentences and shorter words; dialogue shouldn't be any higher than six or seven. Although the Fog Index is by no means totally accurate or definitive, it does give you an effective, objective view of a piece of writing's readability. By using Lost in the Fog in conjunction with the other steps mentioned above, your papers can take on a clarity they never had before. It really can help make you a better writer. By the way, this article has a Fog Index of eight. Not bad, eh?
Lost In The Fog
SR 10 DIM A$(1002,B$(180),F$(20):A$=" "
NH 20 GRAPHICS 0:POKE 559,0:POKE 709,4:PO
KE 710,6:POKE 712,6:POKE 82,1
LZ 30 OPEN #1,4,0,"K"
XG 40 DL=(PEEK(106)-4)*256:TOP=(PEEK(106)
XQ 50 FOR I=0 TO 32:READ A:POKE DL+I,A:NE
NN 60 POKE DL+4,TOP-INT(TOP/256)*256:POKE
YI 70 A=SCR+480:POKE DL+17,A-INT(A/256)*2
RL 80 POKE 560,DL-INT(DL/256)*256:POKE 56
NP 90 FOR I=1536 TO 1556:READ A:POKE I,A:
NEXT I:POKE 512,0:POKE 513,6:POKE 5428
HL 100 POKE 88,PEEK(DL+4):POKE 89,PEEK(DL
EC 110 POSITION 3,2:? "lost in the__":PO
SITION 28,2:? "fog "
PD 120 POSITION 7,4:? "Copyright 1988 Mag
num Opus":POSITION 13,6:? "By Greg Kna
IZ 130 POKE 88,SCR-INT(SCR/256)*256:POKE
KT 140 FOR I=1 TO 15:? :NEXT I:POSITION 1
,13:? "Please enter the filename and e
XR 150 ? "of the text to be fogged, place
WA 160 ? "disk containing it in drive one
TB 170 ? "press . For a directory
QJ 180 ? "disk in drive one, press
YA 190 ? "alone.":?
KJ 200 POKE 752,0:? "FILENAME.EXT? D:";:I
QW 210 POKE 559,34
BW 220 GET #1,A
FN 230 IF A=155 THEN 290
QC 240 IF A=126 AND I>0 THEN A$(I)="":? C
HI 250 IF A>128 THEN A=A-128
FQ 260 IF A>96 AND A<123 THEN A=A-32
LY 270 IF NOT (((A>64 AND A<91) OR (A>47
AND A<58) OR A=46) AND I<12) THEN 220
HW 280 I=I+1:A$(I)=CHRS(A):? CHR$(A);:GOT
HR 290 POKE 752,1:IF I>0 THEN F$="D:":FS(
ZC 300 POKE 752,1:? :? :? "Directory...":
NN 310 TRAP 370
QT 320 OPEN #2,6,0,"D:*.*"
EP 330 INPUT #2;A$:A=A+1:POSITION 1,23:IF
INT(A/2)=A/2 THEN POSITION 20,23
JN 340 ? A$;:IF INT(A/2)=A/2 THEN ?
GN 350 IF INT(A/14)=A/14 THEN ? :? :POSIT
ION 8,22:? "Press for More.":
POKE 764,255:GET #1,I:?
NV 360 GOTO 330
SG 370 IF INT(A/2)<>A/2 THEN ?
JO 380 CLOSE #2:? :? " Press to
enter a filename."
PZ 390 POKE 764,255:GET #1,A:GOTO 140
XF 400 TRAP 640:POKE 764,255:L=0:FOR I=1
TO 15:? :NEXT I:POSITION 1,12
SY 410 OPEN #2,4,0,F$:I=0:N=0:L=0:W=0:S=0
MM 420 GET #2,A:IF (A>64 AND A<123) OR A=
16 THEN A$=CHR$(A):N=1:GOTO 440
NP 430 GOTO 420
VQ 440 N1=N:B$=A$:N=1:I=0
WF 450 GET #2,A:A$(N)=CHR$(A):IF A<>32 AN
D A<>155 THEN I=1:N=N+1
DG 460 IF A<>32 AND A<>155 THEN 450
XM 470 IF I=0 THEN 450
CE 480 IF N1>9 THEN LW=LW+1
PI 490 IF LEN(A$)>1 THEN I=ASC(A$(LEN(A$)
-1)):IF I=46 OR I=33 OR I=63 OR I=58 O
R I=59 THEN S=S+1
ZE 500 IF I=34 OR I=39 OR I=41 OR I=93 TH
EN I=ASC(A$(LEN(A$)-2)):IF I=46 OR I=3
3 OR I=63 OR I=58 OR I=59 THEN S=S+1
BE 510 W=W+1:? B$;:L=L+N1:IF L+N>38 THEN
BY 520 IF B=155 THEN L=0
NE 530 B=A:POKE 77,0:IF PEEK(764<>28 THE
BZ 540 ? B$:IF N1>9 THEN LW=LW+1
PY 550 ? :? :? "Analysis of ";F$(3,LEN(F$
JY 560 ?~"Number of words: ";W
TN 570 ? "Number of sentences: ";S
TE 580 ? "Number Of long wards: ";LW
IQ 590 IF S=0 THEN ? :? "Need at least o
ne sentence for":? "analysis!":GOTO 63
MQ 600 ? "Number of words/sentence: ";INT
NF 610 ? "Number of long words/sentence:
NL 620 ? "Fog Index rating: ";INT((0.4*(W
PV 630 GOTO 380
DS 640 A=PEEK(195):IF A=136 THEN 540
XW 650 ? :? :? " Number ";A;"."
? :? "Press to restart."
AW 660 FOR I=1 TO 7:? :NEXT I:POKE 764,25
5:GET #1,A:CLOSE #2:GOTO 140
LE 670 DATA 112,112,112,66,0,0,2,6,112,7,
ZL 680 DATA 72,169,0,141,10,212,141,26,20