Orangeville, ON (My Corner Office) There’s this handy tool that lets you analyze the clarity of your writing or whether it’s impenetrably abstract. An abstract expression refers to the quality of conveying a general idea or hazy notion in a cryptic manner. The opposite is also true, that clear denotes the presence of something you can see, hear, taste, smell, or touch.

The Cohen Cloudiness Count (found in the book Weinberg on Writing) asks you to select a passage of exactly 100 words and count all abstract nouns (often ending in -ance, -ion, -ty and the like), all general-purpose nouns (such as concept, factor, system) and all-purpose verbs that don’t name a specific action (like implement, involve, perform, require). Ignore other parts of speech.

Then score the passage as follows:
0-2: very clear
3-4: fairly clear
5-6: fairly unclear
7-8: very unclear
9-10: approaching double-talk
11 and up: unintelligible

People tend to become mystified or baffled when reading highly abstract texts. Try not to torture your readers with those texts.