Friday, 3 November 2017

Fog Factor

As I have previously mentioned, I recently completed an edX Academic and Business Writing course with Berkeley (here, here, here, here, here, and here).

Part of the course required us to comment on other's posts, so we could get some interaction going. Another student invited me to comment on their introductory post. However, when I looked at it, it seemed like the writer was using a thesaurus to find very flowery words. I found giving constructive feedback hard. I didn't want to rain on their parade... but I did want to help.

Part of what they wrote was:
...on professional grounds I’m typically referred to as chef or would it be appropriative to say that I was referred as chef, as quite recently I quit the job to lay basis for my Masters in Business Studies & Administration which I supposed suited my aptitude a lot better and currently I’m undergoing the process. Now, the reason if to be admeasured, for me joining this particular course, would definitely be the imperative nature of my future career prospects but a more veridical approach to answering this question has a great deal of individualised inclination towards writing in general. Be it a business endeavour proposal writing, academically demanding letter or be it directed towards summarizing a report either for myself or my colleagues, I’ve been deep into indefinite and varied writing ventures of such nature but none appealed to me at par the level I envisage it to be. Thus, I’m here to explore the long concealed dimensions of my writing prospects alongside the quest for a spirited writing facet to ultimately foray onto feature and fantasy writing.
When I read this, I recalled Winston Churchill's approach to writing: pretty much keep it simple, smarty. His writing is used as a yardstick for direct, simple and clear messages. US publisher, Robert Gunning, came up with a measure for this, called the Gunning Fog Index in 1952. There is a site here which has a great tool for scoring our own work. We just enter our writing, click "calculate" and it will give us a total.

It's epic.

The blue paragraph above gets a score of 24.5. Winston's famous speech (4 June 1940), "We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France. We shall fight in the seas and oceans. We shall fight on the beaches, in the fields, in the streets, and in the hills. We shall never surrender" gets a score of 3.5. We should aim to be at 10 or below.

However, it is much harder in academic writing to keep a low fog factor. We can only do our best, and hope our editors don't try to immoderately obfuscate our transparently pellucid missive ;-D.



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