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Are you happy with your Fog Index?

I stumbled across this little gem today:

“43% of web users are “low literacy” users who cannot understand a page written above a Grade 6 level.”

So I found an online tool that checks the readability of web pages, and I plugged into it for an assessment. Here are the results:

Reading Level Results for Front Page
Summary Value
Total sentences 252
Total words 3196
Average words per Sentence 12.68
Words with 1 Syllable 2230
Words with 2 Syllables 593
Words with 3 Syllables 268
Words with 4 or more Syllables 105
Percentage of word with three or more syllables 11.67%
Average Syllables per Word 1.45
Gunning Fog Index 9.74
Flesch Reading Ease 71.14
Flesch-Kincaid Grade 6.49

According to the Gunning Fog Index, a reader would require almost 10 years of schooling to comprehend this blog. How does this compare with the other things we read?

Typical Fog Index Scores
Fog Index Resources
6 TV guides, The Bible, Mark Twain
8 Reader's Digest
8 - 10 Most popular novels
10 Time, Newsweek
11 Wall Street Journal
14 The Times, The Guardian
15 - 20 Academic papers
Over 20 Only government sites can get away with this, because you can't ignore them.
Over 30 The government is covering something up

Actually, I have no idea what to do with this information. Who’s to say what the optimum level of writing is? According to this article, we should be aiming our writing at the Grade 6-8 level.

On the one hand I think the writing shouldn’t get in the way of the reading. It’s one thing for the content to pose challenges of various sorts, but the writing itself shouldn’t. Good writing is highly readable.

On the other hand, if we’re raising a nation of barely literate citizens, that’s a problem that won’t be solved by dumbing everything down. Maybe we should be raising our collective literacy levels, instead of lowering our collective writing levels.

However, as a personal blogger I have the luxury of writing whatever I want for whoever wants to read it. It was Pfizer who came up with that statistic about the reading level of web users. Presumably they need to convey critical information to health consumers of all literacy levels, so they have to tailor their writing to what is – rather than opine about what ought to be – the literacy level of the average person.

I’m curious to know, if you have a blog or website, your Fog Index score. Are you satisfied with that, or would you rather it was higher or lower?

27 comments to Are you happy with your Fog Index?

  • XUP

    You gots more fancier words on yorn blog then I does. Mine is 8.82 for fog and 5.6 for t’other one. (I do check these things when I’m writing for work)

  • My fog index is 8.23 and grade level is 5.12. I’m surprised and pleased. I have to write for work too, and am very concerned about readability. It’s a lot easier to get your grade level down when you’re the only person generating the content.

    I know that about 50% of Canadians have low literacy. Almost a quarter of Canadians have difficulty reading everyday instructions on labels, and another almost-quarter don’t have confidence in their literacy so they avoid reading.

  • I’ll have to check mine when I get home (i.e., on my own computer). I’m curious to know my score, especially given the conversational tone I try to use when blogging. Hmmmm. Food for thought. Thanks!

  • grace

    Tell you what Zoom, I won’t rely on you for any critical health information and you can just keep on talkin’ down to me!

  • Coming out of lurkdom (I think this is the first time I comment, although I almost did on the one about the mom and the kid on the bus) to say that my Fog Index was 10.3 and my grade level was 6.48. And here I thought I was pretty accessible.

  • Mine was 8.28. I’m just happy they didn’t base it on how many times I use (or overuse) the word “seriously.” Seriously!

    I read an article a long time ago — maybe a decade ago — about people who have jobs that don’t require a lot of reading, like hair stylists and firemen and janitors, who also don’t read for pleasure, and who thus can go days and days without reading much more than a shampoo bottle or a cereal box. These people were losing their literacy because they weren’t using it. I wonder if the internet has actually made a difference for these people — since people are surfing more, maybe they are reading more.

    Of course, that just means they all think that “l8r” and “bff” are actual English words.

  • I tested my blog with the web link you gave & got a Flesch-Kincaid of 5.76 and a Fog of 9.37. However, when I pasted the text into Word and tested only the text with Word’s built-in thingy, I got a F-K of 7.0. [Ohhh, no pun intended.] The website looks at every word on the site, including the archive list and stuff like that, so it might be misleading. I have a pretty colloquial style, but now I’m inspired to throw in the occasional polysyllabic just to spice things up.
    I enjoy your blog, by the way!

  • Mine came out with a fog index of 11.30 and a grade level of 7.56. Given that I usually try to write at a newspaper-column-esque level, I’d say that’s about right where I should be.

  • I used to work for an adult literacy centre when I was in university. We gauged the readability of our correspondence using Flesch-Kincaid, and made sure that it was at a grade level of 3. It was very, VERY, difficult sometimes to get it down to that level. Interesting stuff though – I love stats of any kind.

  • Oma

    My everyday blog has a Fog index of 10.31. My travel writing blog is 9.42, and my writing blog which includes a novel is 7.58.

    I am fine with those scores. I notice that Reader’s Digest which used to be lower has now gone up. I doubt if that means they have increased the complexity of their writing. I suspect it means that grade level reading scores have decreased over the years.

  • Well that was fun. I got a Fog score of 8.45, an Ease score of 69, and you’ll need 5 years of school to get through my blog. Seeing as how my daughter’s in Grade 5 now, I’d better start elevating my vocabulary pronto! She doesn’t read it anyhow and being a blogger, of course I don’t mind if she reads it…

  • Mine was higher than I thought it would be, considering I generally write short posts and mostly about knitting, beading or cats… Fog 10.22, F-K Grade was 6.72…
    But I don’t think that’s necessarily a terrible thing…. I don’t use the internet for “reading” I read actual books for that… the net is mostly about getting information quick and dirty… simple language is best…. why complicate things unecessrily… That’s actually what we were taught in college (I went for Journalism) I don’t mean that things should be dumbed down, but why make them unecessarily intellectual.

  • You wrote “however” and “whoever”.
    They can’t both be right cause their can’t be two words that big so close to the same so you goofed.

  • My fog number was 11.47, which I find a little unbelievable. I really thought my blog was more accessible than that. Also, I don’t consider my level of “speech” to be that high.

  • Arden

    My fog score is about the same as yours, Zoom. Same with the ease and grade! I already closed the window, but they were so close in numbers, less than .25 for the numbers! Go figure!

    “Almost a quarter of Canadians have difficulty reading everyday instructions on labels” Have you tried reading instructions on labels? I have a hard enough time making heads or tails of them half the time. They often look like they’ve been fed through babelfish half a dozen times before being translated back to English.

  • Em

    Oh wow, my fog score was only 7.09! With a grade level of 3.8.
    I’ve been writing academic papers (i.e. fog of 15-20, supposedly) for the past 2 years, so that was a bit surprising. I guess I slack off on my blog. Or rather, I’m very accessible.
    Either way, very interesting post!

  • future landfill

    I’ve no idea – didn’t do the test – but I (well me and Peggy) regularly get the Saturday Globe and Mail crossword done in about an hour so I reckon we’re fairly literate and not too lame for over-60’s. Could be an advantage being around this long; youngsters these days don’t know bugger-all. Well, some do of course, but do they know who Fred Neil is? That’s my test for hepitosity – don’t know Fred, you’re lame. Well of course that may not apply if you’re under 40 or so – he was been and gone by then – but no one was more important to music of the era than Fred Neil.

  • Melinda

    Hmmm, I put in both my knitting and my book blog, assuming that my book blog would be “better quality” writing than my knitting blog because I put more effort into it (when I bother to write at all – I’m usually too busy reading). To my surprise, they were about the same. Book blog 9.42/6.08, knitting blog 10.4/6.64. I guess this is what I should be aiming for, but I have to say, I would be ashamed if it were any more “accessible”. My education wasn’t cheap and I want my money’s worth! I look at it like a gym membership, the more you use it, the less it costs you per workout.

    I’m afraid I’m also one of those who feel we should be raising the level of literacy and not dumbing down. 100 years ago we were fighting for everyone’s right to an education regardless of social standing. Now that we have that, we’re telling people it’s OK if they throw that opportunity away by not putting any effort into it – let me qualify that by saying that I know not everyone is a genius, but that’s no reason not to make an effort. I’m pathetic when it comes to numbers, but I still put effort into learning and using it today.

  • My fog index is off the charts. Yay! I win!

  • Well it seems I write for the intelligensia (sp?). Fog index: 12.10; Flesch-Kincaid Grade: 8.25. ‘Cause you know you got to be pretty darn smart to understand posts about oatmeal and puppies. It’s a good thing there isn’t an index for frequency of posts. Here’s what Logan thinks about all THAT.

  • That’s an interesting point SusanJane makes about the tool scanning and rating the entire page (including sidebars) for readability, instead of just the posts. I think that would definitely skew the results.

    Future Landfill, after reading your comment I crept over to google and snuck a peek at Fred Neil. I don’t know how I missed hearing about him until now…he sounds like someone I should have known about.

    Laurie, welcome out of the lurky background! I’ve been to your blog a few times too…Eve Goldberg told me about it, seeing as how you and I are the only two Ottawa bloggers she knows.

    There’s a couple new blogs mentioned here that I’m going to check out though.

  • Julia

    Interesting. My sewing blog had a Fog index of 7.39 and a Grade of 4.57. On the other hand, my other blog had a Fog of 9.49 and Grade of 6.76. So I think it depends on your audience, or rather, what the purpose is of the writing.

  • My Fog index was 10.63 and the grade was 7.34. According to the site that falls somewhere between Time/Newsweek and the Wall Street Journal. I can live with that.

  • Fog – 11.07
    Grade – 6.39

  • A friend called my site an “intellectual” one the other day – though I Fog them with 8.93 and a Fleisch-Kincaid Grade of 6.02.
    It also had a sentence count of 443. What? Been blogging for years!

    Whatever can it all mean?

  • it’s a pretty rough and ready tool. interesting that another blogger who said I write on too high of vocab got a result of a grade 2.5 reading level.

    like you, not sure what to do with the result but post them.

    Gunning Fog Index 7.52
    Flesch Reading Ease 74.83
    Flesch-Kincaid Grade 4.47

    there. done.

  • Zoom, this was fascinating! My Fog index was 10.81 and my FK was 6.68.
    I use a semi-goofy conversational style on my blog, and my results were interesting. While I use bucketfuls of one syllable words, my four syllable words usage was higher than my threes.
    My average words per sentence was fun – 3.15. Apparently I write a lot of short polysyllabic sentences…
    Well. Okay, then.

    Susan-Jane’s comment got me to thinking – are comments also factored in? If so, results could be skewed by our readers…