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This is a free online writing analysis tool that I just came across I think might be of some use to us.

It estimates the years of formal schooling (8=8th grade) a person would need to understand your text.

I would submit that home inspection reports should be scoring in the 8-10 range, but never higher than 12.

It's imperfect, but it's free. Cut a few hundred words from your last report, paste them in the box and see how you score.

Jim

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This is a free online writing analysis tool that I just came across I think might be of some use to us.

It estimates the years of formal schooling (8=8th grade) a person would need to understand your text.

I would submit that home inspection reports should be scoring in the 8-10 range, but never higher than 12.

It's imperfect, but it's free. Cut a few hundred words from your last report, paste them in the box and see how you score.

Jim

And your score was? Had to be high.

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I got a 12.02 for this:

The starting collars on the plenum are not sealed. Conditioned air escapes into the attic at these locations.

There are numerous air leaks within the air conditioning closet where attic air is drawn into the house. This degrades the performance of the HVAC system, reduces the available tonnage and elevates the energy costs of conditioning the home.

I don't know how to make it any simpler than that without sounding like Forrest G.

Marc

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This is a free online writing analysis tool that I just came across think might be of some use to us.

It estimates the years of formal schooling (8=8th grade) a person would need to understand your text.

I would submit that home inspection reports should be scoring in the 8-10 range, but never higher than 12.

It's imperfect, but it's free. Cut a few hundred words from your last report, paste them in the box and see how you score.

Jim

And your score was? Had to be high.

How kind.

I popped in a random chunk of text from my last inspection at scored a 10.43.

@Marc- What about telling a client something along the lines of "The return ducts are leaking air which will raise your electric bill. Get the duct joints sealed now."

I think the Gunning-Fox index is a fairly useful (and did I mention free?) diagnostic tool for HI's looking to become better (that means clearer) report writers. It's certainly worth the cost of admission.

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That is way cool.

I'm disappointed though.....my lime mortar explanation scored a 13.43.

I think I'm going to punch in a lot of my standard comments, see where I get, and I expect to rethink quite a bit.

The lowest score I got is a 10.5 so far. I would discount my scores somewhat because I use a lot of pictures with red arrows pointing at the subject.

Any way you cut it, this is a nice critiquing tool.

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I scored a 16.00 for this - "Service and inspection by a qualified heating professional is advised."

That's three 3-syllable words and one major punctuation mark.

I guess I could dumb that sentence down to -"Get buddy to check the furnace." That scores 2.4. Thanks, Jim. [:)]

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It's a crappy sentence anyway, John.

Thanks Jim. Another tool for self improvement.

Crappy? That's a little harsh, isn't it?

I assume that what Erby is trying to say is that passive voice should be avoided. Without knowing the actual condition, I would recommend saying something like "I recommend having a competent heating contractor make repairs as needed." Or if ya wanna get more wordy "...make repairs as needed to the system so that all components function properly."

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I realize that this stance may not be popular with everybody on the site, but I am damn tired of being expected to dumb down what I do to pander to the lowest common denominator found in the American public. So I'm expected to keep my report at an eighth grade reading equivalent as a rule. Or even a 12th grade level? Really???

The clients I run across are buying a home that's decidedly nicer than an eighth grader could afford and they deserve to be treated as such. An eighth grade education would have been peachy keen a century (or more) ago when the standards were far higher, but today's eighth graders don't know squat. Nor do most high school grads, to be truthful. And I, as a presumed "expert" on some level, should cater to that? Not gonna happen. I think you should vary your language based on the particular client involved in that specific report. If you are dealing with a six-figure income CEO don't you think he's going to be a little more discerning than a blue collar guy?

Do I purposely throw in esoteric words my clients shouldn't reasonably be expected to know? Of course not. But at the same time I won't avoid using terms that I believe to be necessary to properly communicate the condition I'm describing. After all, sometimes it's the "pro" doing the repair who needs to understand our reports, not just the buyer. For the buyers there are photos.

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This is a free online writing analysis tool that I just came across I think might be of some use to us.

It estimates the years of formal schooling (8=8th grade) a person would need to understand your text.

I would submit that home inspection reports should be scoring in the 8-10 range, but never higher than 12.

It's imperfect, but it's free. Cut a few hundred words from your last report, paste them in the box and see how you score.

Jim

And your score was? Had to be high.

How kind.

I popped in a random chunk of text from my last inspection at scored a 10.43.

@Marc- What about telling a client something along the lines of "The return ducts are leaking air which will raise your electric bill. Get the duct joints sealed now."

I think the Gunning-Fox index is a fairly useful (and did I mention free?) diagnostic tool for HI's looking to become better (that means clearer) report writers. It's certainly worth the cost of admission.

Sheesh. I'm thinking of running my whole dang boilerplate library through it. Good exercise in report writing.

Great find Jim!

Marc

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I realize that this stance may not be popular with everybody on the site, but I am damn tired of being expected to dumb down what I do to pander to the lowest common denominator found in the American public. So I'm expected to keep my report at an eighth grade reading equivalent as a rule. Or even a 12th grade level? Really???

I agree with what you're saying completely, but I still think it's a good idea to see one's writing from as many angles as possible.

Dumbing it down isn't so much what I found interesting. It was more about understanding.

And, I've got plenty of clients that are Phd smart, but still don't get technical explanations. Most of my customers really don't want to think about this stuff; it's not that they're dumb, they just don't think about technical things enough to understand much of anything that isn't dumbed down.

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Imperfect? Frankly, I think the tool sucks! It places way too much emphasis weight on the number of 3+ syllable words.

"You should seek information from the homeowners association on future plans and reserves for inspection and maintenance of all common areas." scored a whopping 17.92 while "You should seek info from the home owners club on future plans and reserves to inspect and maintain all common areas." came in at 8.4.

If you think that including words like "information" and "maintenance" in a sentence makes a report unintelligible, then maybe you're just too dumb to be trusted with a house!

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I realize that this stance may not be popular with everybody on the site, but I am damn tired of being expected to dumb down what I do to pander to the lowest common denominator found in the American public. So I'm expected to keep my report at an eighth grade reading equivalent as a rule. Or even a 12th grade level? Really???

The clients I run across are buying a home that's decidedly nicer than an eighth grader could afford and they deserve to be treated as such. An eighth grade education would have been peachy keen a century (or more) ago when the standards were far higher, but today's eighth graders don't know squat. Nor do most high school grads, to be truthful. And I, as a presumed "expert" on some level, should cater to that? Not gonna happen. I think you should vary your language based on the particular client involved in that specific report. If you are dealing with a six-figure income CEO don't you think he's going to be a little more discerning than a blue collar guy?

Do I purposely throw in esoteric words my clients shouldn't reasonably be expected to know? Of course not. But at the same time I won't avoid using terms that I believe to be necessary to properly communicate the condition I'm describing. After all, sometimes it's the "pro" doing the repair who needs to understand our reports, not just the buyer. For the buyers there are photos.

Kevin,

I think our goal should be clear writing that is easy to understand. That's not quite the same thing as dumbing things down. Mark Twain's writing would probably score consistently low. He's very popular and very accessible. Don't dumb it down. Clear it up.

Also, it's been said on this forum a thousand times, but it's worth repeating, the active voice is much clearer than the passive voice.

Jimmy

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I'm with Kevin, the whole thing is dumb. But, some people will buy anything.

A little research shows that the Gunning Fog index was developed in 1952. Richard Gunning developed the formula and it was known as the 'Fog' index. There is no co-developer named Fog.

A little more research shows that a 'Smog' index was developed in 1969 ostensibly to remedy Gunning Fog deficiencies. No joke! Link here:

http://www.wordscount.info/wc/jsp/clear ... e_smog.jsp

It should be noted that the same sentence consistently ranks lower on the smog index.

If you can't read this post or have difficulty with the big words, thank a teacher.

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It's a cool toy. I was really amazed that passages I thought were very similar scored very differently. I was disappointed that simple words were given so much weight, 'safety' and 'emergency' pushed a sentence above 11. That's third and fourth grade vocabulary.

My copyright statement scores a 10.0.

"? 2011 Clear Creek Home Inspection Services. All rights reserved. DO NOT DUPLICATE WITHOUT PERMISSION."

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I'm with Kevin, the whole thing is dumb. But, some people will buy anything.

Umm......it's free.

The overreaction to the test belies the intent of review.

Anyone in here ever taken a painting class? There is the process of critique at the end of each session where everyone takes everyone else's painting apart. It's the greatest learning tool if one imagines they might capture the spirit of the great Gaugin.

HI's and trades folk, otoh, work in vacuums, and tend toward imagining themselves and their work as untouchable.

Rapprochement between individuals in creative endeavor is a good thing. The tool is a way for individuals working in a vacuum to take another look at themselves.

Those disinclined to look at themselves critically and creatively will likely hate most stuff that contradicts their self perception.

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I'm with Kevin, the whole thing is dumb. But, some people will buy anything.

Umm......it's free.

It is safe to say you are very literal, aren't you?

Which poses a whole different problem for evaluating this 'tool.'

So, which will you use? The fog index or the next generation smog index with drastically different conclusions. Which is more accurate? ...reliable?

"A confusing confluence of contradictory conclusions." How's that for alliteration.

Scores 19.94 on the Gunning Fog Index.

Scores 14.55 on the Smog Index.

A change of 27%

If you didn't have to look 'up' one of the first four multisyllabic words, most people would have to look up alliteration.

Right away, I have a problem with assigning a numerical value to two decimal places to something this subjective. Try measuring engine clearances with a yardstick. Or a wall with a micrometer.

A little more investigation shows that the original guidelines for the application of the Gunning Fog index used paragraphs of 100 words.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gunning_fog_index

What degree of error ensues if you go beyond or below that mark?

Slight drift here, but maybe we have a new marketing tool. Include a personalized dictionary with each inspection.

An old IT adage applies here: "Garbage in, garbage out."

If you can't communicate with other people, it doesn't matter what words you use. My clients are all assured that they can call me for further explanation, and on occasion they do.

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It's a crappy sentence anyway, John.

Thanks Jim. Another tool for self improvement.

Crappy? That's a little harsh, isn't it?

I assume that what Erby is trying to say is that passive voice should be avoided.

Ok thanks. The correction is noted (by me). [:)]

Just funnin wit y'all.

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For those who use MS Word, you've got access to readability statistics for any document you're working on. Just enable "readability statistics" under your Proofing options.

Every time we get into a discussion like this, a few people always declare that they don't want to "dumb down" their writing by giving up their cherished passive voice and big words. They believe that using passive voice and big words make them sound smart. This is not the case.

Clear writing is simple writing. We should strive for clear, declarative sentences and avoid big words when small ones will do. Writing analysis tools like this can help to bump us in the right direction.

So I pasted my last 10 whole reports into the Fog test - the lowest score was 8.09 and the highest was 9.02. This post was 8.168.

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For the record, I never advocated using the passive voice. Just the opposite, in fact. But I think we are doing our clients a disservice if we deliberately use a small word which imprecisely describes something when a better one exists. Even if it has another syllable. Maybe it's just me, but being clear (as it applies to an entire report) entails more than simply using simple words. It means adequately describing a problem so that it can be understood by ALL those who need to, and dealt with properly. Sometimes the person who needs to understand exactly what the problem is isn't the buyer; it's the contractor there to give an estimate or perform the repair. In those cases the buyer needs only to understand that there is a problem with whatever system or component. Sometimes doing that accurately requires using words that the average client doesn't know.

Do you want your doctor to simply tell you that you have cooties and thrust a prescription at you, or would you prefer an accurate diagnosis even if it means that you have to ask what an unfamiliar word means?

I'll admit that I didn't run any of my report writing through the magic website earlier. But I just did, and it came back as 10.84. I'm not sure that means anything relevant since I think the methodology is decidedly goofy.

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