Gunning fog what?

Gunning Fog Index

Today I did a Short course on Tender and Proposal writing. One of the main things we learned, was to keep our writing simple. Why? Because 50% of the Australian community didn’t go to school past the age of 12. I am told that in the USA it is 8. Therefore, keeping our writing material pitched at this age group is very important.

This got me thinking about how we write and present material for our adult students. I think this principle is very relevant to us as teachers. Probably more relevant than in Tender writing!

To test your own writing, you can use the Gunning Fog Index. Believe me, it could be life changing!

The Gunning Fox index was developed by Robert Gunning and is one of the simplest and most effective manual tools for analyzing readability. Gunning defines hard words as those with more than two syllables.

The simple steps are as follows:

Keep sentences under 20 words. No more than five sentences to a paragraph and use simple and uncomplicated words with few words containing 3 syllables or more.

To analyze a writing using the Fog Index:

  1. Select a sample of at least 100 words. Count the number of sentences. Divide the total number of words in the sample by the number of sentences to get the average sentence length (ASL).
  2. Count the number of words with three or more syllables in the sample. Don’t count: 1) proper nouns; 2) hyphenated words; or 3) two-syllable verbs made into three with -es and -ed endings.
  3. Divide this number by the number or words in your sample. For example, 15 long words divided by 100 words gives you 15 percent hard words (PHW).
  4. To get the fog index, add the average sentence length and the percent hard words and multiply this by .4. The formula looks like this: (ASL + PHW) .4 = Grade Level. This is the number of years of schooling the reader would have to have to understand the writing sample.

If you are like me, and ‘mathmatically challenged’, there is a great tool on this link which does it all for you:

Test and improve your writing

You can also check your readability in a Word 2007 document.

Word includes a function that allows you to obtain information readability statistics about your document. When the readability statistics feature is enabled, Word will analyze your document using the Flesch-Kincaid model and identify the grade level (0-12) and the reading ease (0-100%) of your document.

To turn on the readability function:

              1. Open Word.
              2. Click the Microsoft Office Button and click Word Options.
              3. Click Proofing.
              4. Place a check beside the Show readability statistics option.
              5. Click OK.

Now you can click the Spelling and Grammar button on the Standard toolbar, the results will include information about the reading level of your document.

My only question is this:
If the aim of the ‘Gunning Fog Index’ is to keep writing clear and simple, why is the name ‘Gunning Fog Index’ so complex sounding?


Filed under Teaching and learning tips

4 responses to “Gunning fog what?

  1. Cathy Wills

    I wish the academics who write the articles I have to read as part of my Uni studies would submit their writing to the Gunning Fog index. A recent article had one sentence that covered 15 lines and was indecipherable!

  2. swineblogger

    It would be interesting to copy some of the data into that link and see what age it is pitched at wouldn’t it? I guess it is pitched at Academic level so is more appropriate than our TAFE material.

  3. Pingback: Spring cleaning the blog | Swineblogger

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