Fog index

23Mar10

by Szczurek

The front cover of the EIS report.

(Click on the image to download the report as a pdf file.)

A couple of days ago, an e-mail from Polish Market Online landed in my mailbox. I clicked on a link and was taken to a page which carried the following:

Poland’s achievements in innovativeness are below the EU average, but they are higher than the average pace of making up backlogs in this field, an annual report published by the European Commission states.

Aaargh! My head hurts. The quotient of English language innovativeness in this paragraph definitely too high is. The  Gunning Index is an estimate of the number of years of full-time education an average reader should have completed in order to understand a particular text. The sentence above has a Gunning Index of of 20.47.

Presumably the purpose of The Polish Market is to promote Poland overseas? Perhaps someone should point out to whoever is paying its invoices that publishing such convoluted English is actually counter-productive?

Now, I know that some of my readers will say that I am being picky and that it is not the fault of TPM. They receive Euro-bumph from Brussels and have to do their best with what they receive. So I took the trouble to look up the original press release. It included the sentence:

Poland is among the group of Moderate innovators, with an innovation performance considerably below the EU27 average but an above average rate of improvement.

The English here is better, but the Euro-jargon pushes the Gunning Index even higher to 22.9. So how would I phrase the sentence?

A study published by the European Commission reports that innovation in Poland lags behind the EU average, but that the country is catching up fast.

(Gunning Index 16.4)

This is not the first time that The Polish Market has been caught polluting the clear waters from which Shakespeare drew his inspiration. We give you fair warning. You have a month to clean up your act and then our language controllers may strike at a month’s notice. This is your first and last warning!

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2 Responses to “Fog index”

  1. ‚innovativeness’ is my new favourite word🙂

  2. You may also try the Clarity Index (CI) used by the National Council for Training of Journalists.

    Take a random 200-word extract from a piece. Divide 200 by the number of sentences within those 200 words, and save that result. Next, count up all words of three or more syllables, and halve that number. Add the two numbers together.

    So: 200 words with 5 long sentences and 40 long words gives 200/5=40 plus 40/2 =20, add both together, you get a CI of 60. Result – fog.

    200 words with 20 shorter sentences and 20 long words gives 200/20=10 plus 20/2 =10, add both together, you get a CI of 20. Result – clear.

    A CI of 15-25 is what you’d find in a UK tabloid. 25-35 would be Guardian, Telegraph, FT etc. 35-45 would be stretching it; what you’d find in high-brow publications about investment strategies. Anything over 45 would be incomprehensible to anyone other than a tax lawyer.


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