Monday, 6 August 2007

Oh Dearie Me moment* of the day

Now that we have established the importance of the syllable in readability, we can move on to describe the Strain Index, which is based on the following assumptions:
1. The longer the sentence, the greater the strain.
2. The standard sentence has 17 words.
3. All syllables are equal ('ash', 'lash', 'slash' and 'splash').

The Strain Index can be calculated in three easy steps:
One: Choose the first three sentences.
Two: Count the number of syllables in the three sentences (S3).
Three: Divide S3 by 10.

Since we have assumed that a standard sentence has 17 words, it follows that in three standard sentences there are 51 words. Now if all the words are monosyllabic, then there will be just 51 syllables. The Strain Index = 51/10 = 5.1. If all are disyllabic or trisyllabic, then there will be either 102 or 153 syllables. The Strain Index will respectively be 10.2 and 15.3. Hence we can say that a text that scores 5.1 and less is very easy to read; and a text that scores 15.3 and more, is very difficult to read.
Clear? Right. Now let's look at the first three sentences in the article (in the latest issue of The Hoot's newsletter) that introduces this index.
In my M.Phil dissertation 'A Quantitative Analysis Of Media Language' (December 2006), submitted to the Madurai Kamaraj University, I have established the following hypothesis: Considering the fact that clarity and brevity are the main criteria of media language, it is possible to develop a readability tool that will be an alternative to the most popular Fog Index of Robert Gunning. This article is written to popularise the use of my alternative formula which I like to call the Strain Index.

Most readability formulae, such as Rudolph Flesch Reading Ease and Robert Gunning's Fog Index, are based on the length of the sentence measured in words and the length of words measured in syllables.
I make that 203 syllabubs. Let's call it 200 to make it easy. So, that's a Strain Index of 20.

What a salesperson you are, Nirmaldasan!

(And just by the way, on the Fog Index** , those three sentences give you a score over 34.)

* We're being all genteel like from now on this month this week today for the duration of this post.
** The Fog Index: [(number of words / number of sentences) + words three syllables and above, not counting proper nouns or words made trisyllabic with simple "-ing" type suffixes] x 0.4 = the number of years of formal education that a person requires in order to easily understand the text on the first reading.
Here'a a link to a description of the Flesch-Kincaid Readability Test for those who would like to raise the petard higher.

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