Grading The Narrative Text: The RANT Index

By Nirmaldasan

(nirmaldasan@hotmail.com)

The narrative text has a story to tell. And the story may be real or imaginary. Children’s Literature is a storehouse of narrative texts. In this article, I present a new listenability formula called Read-Aloud Narrative Text (RANT) Index. The higher the ranting, the greater the listening difficulty. To confess, I wasn’t really thinking of the narrative text when I created this formula. I realized that the formula wouldn’t work well with other types of text such as the persuasive and the technical texts. Suddenly it struck me that RANT would work quite well for grading the narrative text.

Let us look at three features of a narrative text that increase listenability: 1. Short sentences, 2. Direct speeches and 3. Proper nouns and proper adjectives. There may be plenty of other features such as rhythm and short words, but I have chosen only three features because I found that they could be measured simply by counting one variable: the number of capitalized words (C).

It is a convention that every sentence and every direct speech should begin with a capital letter. Needless to say, proper nouns and proper adjectives are always capitalized. So C is a single variable that combines the strength of at least three variables. The pronoun I is always capitalized. Also capitalized are personifications.

RANT Index = 50 / C%

The scoring system is a scale of 1 to 8+ years of schooling needed for readers to comprehend a text when it is read aloud to them. Any text that scores more than 8 will be assigned a grade of 8+.

Let us apply the formula on two samples. The capitalized words are set in bold for easy counting.

Sample 1: From Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn

You don’t know about me without you have read a book by the name of ‘The Adventures of Tom Sawyer’; but that ain’t no matter. That book was made by Mr. Mark Twain, and he told the truth, mainly. There was things which he stretched, but mainly he told the truth. That is nothing. I never seen anybody but lied one time or another, without it was Aunt Polly, or the widow, or maybe Mary. Aunt Polly — Tom’s Aunt Polly, she is — and Mary, and the Widow Douglas is all told about in that book, which is mostly a true book, with some stretchers, as I said before.

Words = 110; C = 24; C% = 21.81. Therefore, RANT Index = 50 / 21.81 = 2.29 years of schooling

Sample 2: From Dr. Spencer Johnson’s Who Moved My Cheese?

Later that same day, Hem and Haw arrived at Cheese Station C. They had not been paying attention to the small changes that had been taking place each day, so they took it for granted their Cheese would be there.

They were unprepared for what they found.

What! No Cheese?” Hem yelled. He continued yelling, “No Cheese? No Cheese?” as though if he had shouted loud enough someone would put it back.

Who moved my Cheese?” he hollered.

Finally, he put his hands on his hips, his face turned red, and he screamed at the top of his voice, “It’s not fair!”

Words = 102; C = 22; C% = 21.56. Therefore, RANT Index = 50 / 21.56 = 2.31 years of schooling.

The general form of RANT Index = W / (2C), where W is the number of words and C is the number of capitalized words in any sample. This form avoids the calculation of percentage. Another way to avoid it would be to choose a sample of 100 words and just count C.

I think there is a clear case (pun intended) for capitalized words. Robert Gunning, creator of the Fog Index, excluded capitalized words from the count of hard words (polysyllables). So capitalized words have to be included in a count of easy words.

Let me not rant anymore.

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