Archive for September, 2009

Gunning in the Fog

I’m winding down to my long overdue vacation. Lately, I feel like I’ve been shooting into the fog, hoping to hit something. The final round of agent submissions felt like that. The attempts to heal my sciatica have felt like that. No targets hit so far, and worse … I can no longer see where the targets are, or what they are. Weariness from a year of constant pain has fogged it all over.

So I’m off for two weeks, to relax, recharge, and re-focus.

To keep myself going until that break, I decided to play around with the Gunning-Fog Index and the Flesch-Kincaid Test this week. You could be forgiven for mistaking them for obscure titles of gripping thrillers, but actually, they are metrics for grading the readability of text. It’s based around sentence and word length. I applied it to some chapters of my novel. The readability was quite good, but by adopting some of the change suggestions from Edit Central, I found I could improve every chapter by almost a further point, which brings it comfortably into my target audience range.

Readability Test Results

I might apply it to the whole novel when I return. Tighten it up even more. I wouldn’t recommend applying it blindly as an editing technique. It’s just interesting, that’s all. It makes me more aware of my style, and where it could trip up a reader. It made me think of even simpler, clearer ways to compose some sentences.

The most interesting thing of all, for me, is that readability was hardest in chapters where certain people were talking. This is mainly because those people would be having some technical conversations (with lots of multiple syllable words like ‘forensics’ or ‘genetics’). I could almost tell which chapter it is by the readability index alone. (I’m too damned close to this thing!) Is editing ever truly finished? Or am I just gilding the lily at this stage? Time to let go.

Ah well – holiday time too. Back in a couple of weeks.

Add comment September 4th, 2009


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