Enterprise Reporting and Basic Editorial Skills Need Upgrades
Many editors talk a good game when describing the value of enterprise reporting. But all bets are off for sites reviewed during my annual e-news study as far as positive performance is concerned.
As of this week, I’ve scored 35 B2B e-news sites (out of a target 50). The results to date suggest that many sites also fall short of delivering readable content. Long sentences and endless paragraphs still make life tough for our newsletter audiences. Let’s review key findings, including some compelling statistics.
- Last year Editorial Solutions, Inc., introduced its Enterprise Reporting Prominence (ERP) calculation. The threshold for acceptable levels of ERP for e-news sites is 60 percent of total content in the study sample. From 35 sites studied so far, not one managed to reach goal. Only three posted scores higher than 40 percent.
- Better scores could be attained by consistently gathering exclusive comment from end-user sources. Typical results are seen in data from the 35 sites, where the total number of end-user quotes was 78, compared with 230 quotes from vendors.
- Data for the study was also scored for basic editing skills. That target, based on an eight- factor assessment, was 60 out of a possible 100. Only eight sites struck gold. The highest score was 62, the lowest, 48. Of all the management topics worthy of blogging attention, editing basics often remain the most neglected. Periodically, it seems, staffs must be reminded to return their attention to the basics.
- The basic editorial practice that most requires review is brevity. There are several remedies that will guarantee improvement. Foremost, of course, is the Fog Index. By this time, its key factors of average sentence length and hard-word percentage should be known to all. Average sentence length (ASL) is the more troublesome of these two factors. To simplify the calculation, I began using a target ASL score of 25 words. That target ought to be a cinch to achieve, but long sentences of 30 to 50 words and beyond remain endemic.
- More recently, I have suggested that editors do sentence flow analysis (SFA). For an SFA post-mortem, divide the sentences under review into specific word length categories. I use under 20 words, then 20 to 25, 26 to 29, 30 to 39, 40 to 50, and 51 or more words. In one extreme case where SFA clearly was needed, an article under review had an ASL of 24.5, which is technically acceptable. However, the total article length of 2200 words included 84 sentences. Half that number ran 26 words or higher; 15 sentences were in the 30 to 39 category; another eight were over 40 words. One could conclude that additional defogging was required.
Much more interesting was the source of several longer sentences. All of them consisted of verbose direct quotes. Some of these quoted sentences exceeded 50 words. Clearly, some judicious editing was needed.
Aside from the basic SFA measurement, useful details can be obtained by categorizing article length for specific content sections. I use news, features, articles, product item descriptions.
If you apply SFA technique in the future, please let me know what you discovered in the process.