Archive for October, 2007

One Hundred Years Of Hind Swaraj

October 15, 2007

By Nirmaldasan



India gears itself for a year-long celebration of Mahatma Gandhi’s Hind Swaraj from

8 November 2007 across the country. 2008 is the centenary year of Hind Swaraj, a booklet written in Gujarati during Gandhi’s return voyage from London to South Africa in November 1908. In 1910, when the Bombay Government prevented the booklet’s circulation, Gandhi translated it into English to demystify the Gujarati version for the British.


In a word of explanation about the booklet, he writes in Young India, January 1921: “In my opinion it is a book which can be put into the hands of a child. It teaches the gospel of love in place of that of hate. It replaces violence with self-sacrifice. It pits soul force against brute force. It has gone through several editions and I commend it to those who would care to read it. I withdraw nothing except one word of it, and that in deference to a lady friend.”


In a message for the ‘Aryan Path — Special Hind Swaraj Number’, published in September 1928, he writes: “I might change the language here and there, if I had to rewrite the booklet. But after the stormy thirty years through which I have since passed, I have seen nothing to make me alter the views expounded in it. Let the reader bear in mind that it is a faithful record of conversations I had with workers, one of whom was an avowed anarchist. He should also know that it stopped the rot that was about to set in among some Indians in South Africa. The reader may balance against this the opinion of a dear friend, who alas! is no more, that it was the production of a fool.”


Hind Swaraj or Indian Home Rule contains only words of wisdom such as ‘the non-beginning of a thing is supreme wisdom’. Political India has marched far away from the land of his dreams that it can only pay lip service to him and his noble testament to the world. Be that as it may, this article is only concerned about the readability of Hind Swaraj. Initially, Gandhi said that he would ‘withdraw nothing except one word of it, and that in deference to a lady friend’. Later he says that he ‘might change the language here and there, if I had to rewrite the booklet’. He is also confident that the booklet can be placed in the hands of a child. If so, what is the readability grade of Hind Swaraj?  I applied the Strain Index (S3/10; where S3 is the number of syllables in three sentences) and got the following scores for all the 20 chapters:


Chapter I (The Congress And Its Officials) — 5.1

Chapter II (The Partition Of Bengal) — 6.4

Chapter III (Discontent And Unrest) — 4.8

Chapter IV (What Is Swaraj?) — 6.9

Chapter V (The Condition Of England) — 5.3

Chapter VI (Civilization) — 5.0

Chapter VII (Why Was India Lost?) — 9.5

Chapter VIII (The Condition Of India) — 3.6

Chapter IX (The Condition Of India (Continued): Railways) — 10.1

Chapter X (The Condition Of India (Continued): The Hindus And The

            Mahomedans) — 6.7

Chapter XI (The Condition Of India (Continued): Lawyers) — 3.8

Chapter XII (The Condition Of India (Continued): Doctors) — 4.5

Chapter XIII (What Is True Civilization?) — 3.2

Chapter XIV (How Can India Become Free) — 3.1

Chapter XV (Italy And India) — 6.1

Chapter XVI (Brute Force) — 3.4

Chapter XVII (Passive Resistance) — 7.0

Chapter XVIII (Education) — 7.4

Chapter XIX (Machinery) — 7.6

Chapter XX (Conclusion) — 3.2


A child in the fifth grade can easily read the Hind Swaraj as the average Strain Index is 5.635. Only two chapters have a Strain Index of 9 and above. Many of the chapters are graded 3. From a readability perspective, Gandhi is indeed right: Hind Swaraj can be placed in the hands of a child.



Character-count Formula For Readable Writing

October 9, 2007

By Nirmaldasan

A short sentence is a readable sentence. But how short is short? Even a long sentence is short if what it communicates cannot be expressed in fewer words. A standard sentence, however, is usually assumed to have 17 words.

Readability formulae indicate the suitability of texts for grades 1 to 17. William H. DuBay’s Principles Of Readability, available online at , records the long history of readability. The character-count formula (CCF), which I have evolved, is an outcome of the e-mail discussions I had with DuBay. I am indebted to his suggestions. He sent me 62 graded passages on which I tested this formula and got a Pearson’s correlation coefficient of 0.7106.

Though the CCF, with its lower correlation coefficient, is not as reliable as the Dale-Chall formula or Flesch Reading Ease or Gunning’s Fog Index, it is very easy to use. If C1 is the number of characters (no spaces) in a sentence, then CCF = C1/10. For example, take the opening sentence of this article. It has 34 characters. Therefore, CCF = 34/10 = 3.4. For a better estimate, CCF = C10/100, where C10 is the number of characters (no spaces) in 10 sentences. There are 734 characters in the first 10 sentences. Therefore, CCF = 734/100 = 7.34. The greater the score, the greater the text difficulty. A standard score is 10.

The CCF can be easily applied to technical texts, which consist of special characters. Copy and paste the complete document in Microsoft Word. On the tools menu, click ‘word count’. A statistics box will show you, among other data, characters (no spaces). Now CCF = Cn/10n, where Cn is the number of characters (no spaces) in ‘n’ sentences. In case of high score, here are some suggestions for reducing the score:

* Break a long sentence into two
* Delete superfluous words
* Use numerals and symbols, wherever possible
* Replace long words with short synonyms

Now test the edited passage and find that there is nothing better than plain English.

The CCF for this whole article is 6.2.

— This article appeared in the July 2005 issue of the Journalism Online newsletter —