How Long After Formula Expires Is It Good For William Shakespeare, Mark Twain and The Gunning Fog Index

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William Shakespeare, Mark Twain and The Gunning Fog Index

In this article I would like to introduce you to the Fog of Gunning index, which you may find useful in your speech writing.

What do William Shakespeare and Mark Twain have in common in writing prose?

The answer is that they write in a language that people on the street understand.

Many times, people write speeches that promote their knowledge of the English language or their chosen topic rather than thinking about their audience. And the simple truth is that most of the audience is not filled to the seams with English literature graduates or people who know your chosen field to the depth you do.

The purpose of public speaking (and writing) is to inform and (although not always) persuade your audience to take some action. Whether this is a speech, a church sermon, an advertisement, an inspirational or motivational speech or a political manifesto.

If that is your goal then you need to communicate with your audience in a language they understand. That means no jargon, no abbreviations, and plain language.

Gunning Fog Index It was developed by Robert Gunning in 1952.

• Gives the number of years of reading your reader needs to assume to understand a paragraph or passage.

The Gunning Fog Index formula means that short sentences written in simple English score better than long sentences written in complex language.

Calculating Your Fog Index

For example

“WITH John Snow, a railroad executive, this week nominated to replace Paul O’Neill as US Treasury secretary, the economic and financial discourse has been about the impact of his appointment on economic policymaking. The Federal Reserve, however, continues to be the talk of when – and if – they themselves will get a new boss. The current chairman of the central bank, Alan Greenspan, has been on the job since 1987; his current term ends in 2004 So, along with many Fed watchers, insiders want to know whether Mr. Greenspan will, if he wants, be reappointed.

Counting

• Number of words = 102

• Number of sentences = 4

• Average sentence length = 102/4 = 25 words

• Number of “big names” = 9/102 = 9%

• Fog Index = (25 + 9) * 0.4 = 13.6

• An ideal Fog index readability score is 7 or 8.

• Anything above 12 is too difficult for most people to read.

• For example, The Bible, Shakespeare and Mark Twain have Fog Indexes of about 6.

• Major magazines, such as Time, Newsweek, and the Wall Street Journal about 11.

The basic message of Gunning’s Fog Index formula is that short sentences written in plain English score better than long sentences written in complex language.

Remember that speech writing, business communication and report writing are all about delivering information and getting action. If you use clear English your audience will understand who you are and your message can get the results you want.

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