When writing for a broad audience, pay attention to what’s called the “fog index.”
The fog index measures the density of your writing. Never mind how it’s calculated—a complex formula tracks things such as word lengths, sentence lengths and syllables.
Test your writing by plugging a sentence or two into the text box at www.panix.com/~dhf/fog.html. Then find out where you fall on the fog index.
The rule of thumb: If you’re writing for a broad audience, you want a score of 8, which corresponds to an 8th-grade reading level. Scoring a 13 or higher could mean that your text is too bulky or confusing.
We did a little experiment that tested the writing on the front page of The Wall Street Journal online and USAToday.com. The scores for WSJ.com ranged from 8 to 15. Blurbs on USAToday.com scored consistently lower, between 7 and 11.
Lesson: Convey your ideas more clearly by de-fogging your writing.