Readability: The Critical Ingredient to Clear Writing

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Topic 1 Why are some texts seen as more challenging than others? Readability is the critical ingredient to clear writing and therefore effective communication. One way to measure readability is the Fog Index. In 1944, a 36-year-old Ohio editor named Robert Gunning, quit his job and started a consulting business. The specialty of the business was counseling in clear writing and showing businesses how they could improve their readability. Gunning was very successful and had large corporations as clients like General Motors, United Press International, and newspapers such as Washington Star and Wall Street Journal. The entire idea of readability was based on a few important points: average sentence length, the proportion of simple sentences, strong verb forms, familiar words, abstract words, long words and personal references all playing strong supporting roles. All of this was simplified to just average number of words in the sentence and the percentage of "hard" words that would be difficult for some readers to understand. The importance of the Fog Index is obvious for any student of communications as it an important way to measure one's ability to share information clearly and for a target audience. Source: Bond, S. 2012. Gunning Fog Index. Accessed 24 Jan 2012. URL: Gunning, R. (1952). The technique of clear writing. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill International. Topic 2 The act of proofreading to check for errors varies writer to writer.

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