I doomed mankind with a free text editor
Morten Just
1.98K218

The Fog of Writing

My wife took an effective writing class at work. They taught a manual tool called the Fog Index. It graded sentences by number of words and number of syllables per word. Lower scores are better. It was a helpful tool.

I used a text editor (Word 6, I think, but maybe Word Pro) that had grammar grading tools. It gave your doc a readability score similar to the Fog Index. Every time I worked to lower this score, my document got clearer. One wonderful thing the editor did was detect sentences written in the passive voice. Writers often use passive voice when they don’t understand who the actors are. Readers see this often in technical writing.

My thesis advisor loved simple, clear writing. He ruthlessly edited my windy prose. It was a formative experience in my writing career.

Rather than limiting the writer to 1,000 words, an editor could give them a better score when their words and sentences were shorter.

I love long words. But they don’t help me communicate. I love communication more.

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