OK, I know the image above is not visually clear and here is the paragraph again:
“I love mine. It allows me to wake up refreshed every evening thereby enabling me to me be bright eyed and bushy tailed for the night shift. The metallic retro design really goes with my cottage and I really like the squeaky springs and the new mattress just complements the whole package.”
Not much clearer, is it?
- What is she talking about? The answer is – Her bed.
- What was she trying to say? The answer is – She really likes her bed
Fortunately there are two simple things that can help you ensure that statements that you make, written or verbal, are easily to understand. Let’s take a look at the following two areas:
- the number of points communicated (Focus)
- how many sentences or words are used to convey the message (Fog Factor)
Let’s go back to the foggy statement above and see how many points were communicated?
“I love mine”, “night shift”, “wake up refreshed”, “metallic design”, “matches cottage design”, “squeaky springs”, and finally we can work out that the collection of these statements are talking about a bed – all of these totals up to 7 different points mentioned. Which of these 7 points are the ones that really need to be communicated?
The statement should be clear and concise. A clear version of the statement above could be: “I really like my bed”.
A good rule of thumb is to have no more than 3 points.
There is much research on determining the understandability of a sentence or paragraph. For the technically savy or those writing, I covered how to use Microsoft Word in this post on Document Readability.
For the times when we do not want to use technology here is another way to determine the Fog Factor.
Determine the average number of words per sentence, add the number of words with 3-or-more syllables and multiply by 0.4.
For the mathematically inclined or the detailed orientated folks, the formula is as follows:
- a = the average number of words per sentence (total number of words divided by the number of sentences)
- b = the number of words that contain more than 3 or more syllables excluding proper nouns
- c = a + b
- Fog Factor = c * 0.4