Are Your Readers Having Trouble Understanding what You are Writing?

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.

1 Comment

  1. It takes skill, practice, and dedication to be a good writer. Furthermore, they know how to use specific strategies to make their writing better.

    The best writers empathize with their audience’s hopes, fears, dreams, and frustrations. They figure out what their audience wants to know or do. Or they figure out how their audience likes to be entertained.

    You’ll be a better writer if you think about your audience before you start writing. The way you write, how you communicate, even what you write about will be more effective.


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