Back to Back Issues Page
Writing clarity by the numbers: Editor's Notes #340
May 26, 2021

There is a great power in words, if you don’t hitch too many of them together.
—Josh Billings

In this issue:

1. Writing clarity by the numbers
2. Tickled my funny bone
3. Interesting Web site
4. Writing prompt
5. My Covid-19 offer to you

1.Writing clarity by the numbers
By Marcia Yudkin
Recently I discovered a cool tool for assessing whether your writing is clear or impenetrably abstract. Here, abstract means expressing a general quality or hazy idea. Its opposite, concrete, indicates 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

When I applied this measuring stick to a passage from Wikipedia on investment optimization, I came up with a score of 15. No wonder I found it hard to understand! Scoring a random promotional page on my website, I came up with a 3. Highly abstract writing mystifies or baffles people. Don't inflict it on readers.

2.Tickled my funny bone
Which country’s capital has the fastest-growing population?
Every day it’s Dublin.

3. Interesting Web site
Marcia Yudkin, the guest author of the article above, sends out her free newsletter, Marketing Minute, every Wednesday. You can sign up through the link here.

For my own take on readability see

4. Writing prompt
Some people think that numbers and words are at odds. Write a piece that shows your attitude to numbers and words. I’d love to see your result.

5. My Covid-19 offer to you
My intent is to close this Covid-19 offer in September. The actual date will be posted here as soon as I have made a final decision. In the mean time, if you have writing ready for editing, I encourage you to take up this offer while you can.

What follows is a copy and paste from issue number 309. The offer is still in force for you and anyone you choose to tell about it.

Along with the health threat hanging over the world, we are facing a huge financial hit. I’ve decided one thing I can do is to make quality editing less expensive during this trying time.

For subscribers to Editor’s Notes and their friends, I am suspending the fee for the sample edit to anyone using the code EN19 until I cancel this offer. I intend to keep this offer open as long as the world is in crisis with Covid-19 and its aftermath, so watch this space. I will give a warning here before I pull this offer. You can submit your writing sample at Be sure to click the link below the heading "Promotion Code" to get to the special form for a free sample edit. If you find yourself at a form before clicking the special link, scroll slowly back up the page, and you should see the link for the code (EN19).

But it gets better…

When I return an edited writing sample, I include quotes for the full range of my editing services. Until further notice, I will give a true quote, but I will not charge writers the full amount. I am discounting my services 50% for subscribers to Editor’s Notes and their friends. I will give a warning here before I pull this offer.

Feel free to pass this offer along to any writing friends you think may be interested. As long as anyone uses the code, I’ll honour the offer.

This is what I can offer you in this time of crisis. I hope it encourages you as you face possible illness and financial uncertainty.

Join Writer's Helper Facebook page at
Follow me on Twitter @AudreytheEditor

Link on LinkedIn (Email me first so I know how you know me.)

If you know a writer who would appreciate receiving Editor's Notes, forward this issue.

If someone has passed this on to you, you can get your own free subscription by signing up at

Back to Back Issues Page