Tuesday, March 08, 2011

A tip for writers

My blog gets the occasional visit from young or aspiring writers who think I might know a thing or two about the craft, having spent my whole adult life in and around newspapers.

One of the best insights I ever got came from a writing coach from the Poynter Institute when I was a young reporter at The Indianapolis News. He opined I was over-writing, using big words when short synonyms would do.

And he introduced me to the Gunning Fog Index, which measures the readability of text and estimates the level of formal education needed to understand it the first time through. For instance, an index of 10.0 is at the reading level of a high school sophomore.

The light bulb came on and ever since, when I re-read my stuff, I declare war on big words whenever a short word will carry the same freight. (I also declare war on “that.” It’s often just a useless stumbling block in a sentence.)

You can copy and paste some of your writing here and get a Gunning Fog Index number for it.

This blog post has a fog index of 10.58.

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