I usually don’t assume I’m being judged. This is an excellent quality to have in terms of one’s own emotional well-being, although it is not always the best thing for society.
So imagine my surprise to discover I am being judged, remotely and in great detail, and it’s for my own good. Well, poo!
It’s this thingy that shows up in my new blog dashboard. The dashboard is the place where I pull new blog posts out of my…let’s say glove box, and monitor my fuel levels, and hope the check-engine light doesn’t flash on. Things have been going along fine until I noticed a red warning flag. My Readability needs work.
I had to look into this. I assumed, naturally, this had something to do with font size, or contrast, or something. Although I had been thinking the new site was a sight more readable than the old one. But no. It turned out my writing was not up to snuff. It was a few notches below snuff. In fact, I had, on a recent post about the Supreme Court, a readability score that would not do at all, according to the Flesch Reading Ease Test. Flesch is, it says here, a “readability framework.” You know what I find unreadable? Sentences with “readability framework” in them.
The idea is you should write, ideally, at an eighth-grade comprehension level to ensure that 80% of adults will understand you. Among the things that can help you in this regard is using words that don’t have too many syllables. Syllables are detected (roughly) by number of vowels in the words. One-syllable words are the best. To illustrate, a good eighth-grade comprehension-level sentence would be “Miss Gulch Sucks Horse Dicks.” I think if you can manage to misspell some of the words you’re even more relatable.
Well, there’s something to it. We’ve already learned that at least half the adult population of the United States does not know what “socialism” means.
So evidently my literary offerings are automatically sent through a vocabulary Cuisinart and pressed into a formula to produce a score. There are many formulas. The formula for the one being inflicted on my content—Flesch—is:
206.835 minus 1.015 times the total number of words divided by the total number of sentences minus 84.6 times the total syllables divided by the total words. I am not kidding. It’s right there in Mr. Flesch’s own oeuvre, “How to Write Plain English.” I’m still not kidding.
My Readability score offered helpful examples of where I went wrong.
You do not use enough subheadings, although your text is rather long. Try and add some subheadings.
“Try and?” All right, I’ve never once used a subheading. And my text is not rather long. In fact, I have labored to keep all my posts somewhere between 500 and 800 words, and if they threaten to overwhelm my audience’s willingness to plow through, I whack them into two separate posts. I needed to do this, for instance, when I found I had too much to say about whale poop. I don’t even use semicolons much, because I don’t want my readers to have to pause a little as they roar through. If they do need a rest, they can look at the pictures on the way down. That’s what they’re there for.
Only 19.2% of your sentences contain transition words, which is not enough. Use more of them.
No, those are conjunctions. Transition words are words that tell you what’s coming up next. Like “More importantly,” or “For that reason.”
Oh. Like, for instance, “sarcasm alert?” Thank you, that is ever so helpful. Without transition words, people might lurch into the next sentence with no warning whatsoever.
The text contains 3 consecutive sentences starting with the same word. Try to mix things up!
Yes. In fact there are three that start out “The fetus.” In your spare time look up repetition as a rhetorical device. Sorry! Did I lose you on those two four-syllable wordwads?
15.1% of the sentences contain passive voice, which is more than the recommended maximum of 10%. Try to use their active counterparts.
15.2% of the time advice like this is fraught with suckiness. I’m writing about the current Supreme Court. I’m using passive voice to be polite. If I used active counterparts, things could get out of hand in a hurry.
Okay. I understand this all has to do with Search Engine Optimization. And that if I want to get more readers and make more money I should straighten out my act. But I want to attract readers a different way. A slower, more satisfying, less efficient way. And…wait, what was that about money?