Talent-grading machine denies the existence of myelin
I’ve always thought that talent is a sparkling quality of the human spirit that creates exceptional things. An innate ability to render reshaped realities in an extraordinary way.
It seems that I’m embarrassingly old-fashioned, and so are most classic dictionary definitions still in use. The latest trends and standards in content writing pay more and more attention to readability software.
Yes, you’ve heard correctly. Software. The human vibe is no longer enough to spot good writing. There are specialized tools that companies use in order to choose their content writers. Or to check and score the readability of their entire websites.
Click to correct issues
If you ever decide to write articles for a living, be prepared to be evaluated according to a set of parameters, besides spelling and grammar. Information density, passive voice usage, adverb usage, length of words and sentences. It was supposed to be a free realm out there!
Well, it is a free realm – and a free market – but it’s quite difficult to make it as 'you'. I mean you are free to write in no matter style you want, but some clients rely on the machine. Exclusively. And they work only with bidders who score As.
Therefore, you should adjust 'you' accordingly, to please the machine, the supreme authority deciding whether you deserve or not to turn an honest penny by using what everybody else calls a talent. And I mean human elses [sic] this time.
I haven’t bid on any jobs with such requirements. Yet. But I did check some passages from my articles and, much to my disappointment, I got more Bs than As. I even got Cs, occasionally. I’m not a native speaker, but I was an almost straight-A student and still am a professional translator, for crying out loud! Frustrated and confused, I decided to “click to correct issues”, and guess what!
There were highlighted suggestions and 'mistakes' all over the place. I’ll give you some examples: professional was 'a hard word' and knowledgeable was 'a long word'. And the software kept advising me: “Consider using a short word if possible.” Why not being informal, after all, I thought. I’ll stop trying to be 'knowledgeable' and 'professional' and go for a 'smart pro' instead. No, wait, isn’t that a smartphone model? I give up.
Breaking news in neurology
The most shocking red underline was about myelin. I know it’s not a common word, but we can’t think without it. Neither can the programmers who developed the software. I used the word in a paragraph about how nutrition affects this fatty substance that insulates the nerves in our brain. I’m pretty sure it wasn't a 'fluff' word.
As I said, it was shocking. There is no such thing as myelin! According to the talent-grading machine, myelin is nothing but a 'spelling mistake', accompanied by suggestions: Merlin, Melvin, eyelid, Marlin, melon. At this point, it was simply hilarious. Oops, I did it again! Very funny, I mean. Should I go for ‘melon’, hoping that a ‘melon brain’ might sweeten a bit my aching ego?
Okay, I admit I was frustrated. But I did what I usually do when I feel down: embark on something mentally challenging that distracts me from my vulnerable emotional self. Hmm, let’s see how other guys would score. Like … Scott Fitzgerald and William Faulkner. I found some online excerpts from their best-known novels and put some paragraphs under the merciless lens of the mighty software.
Talent ranking should be the privilege of humans
As I expected, Scott Fitzgerald got As, but Faulkner mostly scored Bs, Cs and Ds (!). The 'sound' of 'fury' was buzzing in my head. He was a brilliant writer and his baroque writing style must be amazing (to use a fashionable talent-acknowledging word), since he won a Nobel prize. And now this machine declares him barely readable.
I’m not saying that being in the same scoring area makes me even remotely related to those outstanding writers. I’m saying that talent is to be enjoyed, and not graded. And if, for some reasons, a ranking is needed, this is the privilege of readers and fellow minds. Even so, a hierarchy of value would be highly subjective, depending on the audience and on the context.
But the machine works with patterns preferred by the majority of online readers, and so exceptional and extraordinary no longer fit into the paradigm of value. They are outlaws, because they break the law of averageness. Or shall I say averageability [sic], just to tease the software a little more? I was about to call this whole paradox an oxymoron, but I won't. It's just too risky. What if the machine doesn't pardon my French and logs me out?
Give writing some space
I think writing is a wonderland and it would be a pity to put limits to imagination and diversity. To confine 'high-quality' into patterns and parameters.
I’ll never be a woman of few words. Never ever. I’ll always have arborescent ideas – with many words, as many as the leaves on a healthy branch. See? It’s not even my fault. It’s the way my brain's wiring, possibly my elin [sic], takes control. As minimalistic as I may be in other areas of my life, I’ll always love to talk and think in many words. Long ones, for extra flavor. Maybe it’s a way to compensate and reach balance. I’m a Libra, by the way.
The machine, as I call it, can be a useful tool, up to a point. I just think that it shouldn’t have the last word in content writing. Try to imagine what would happen if similar software set the standards in lifestyle, arts and architecture, for instance.
Then all skirts should have the same length range and a pre-defined set of colors and accessories. Or all buildings should have a limited number of doors and windows. Recesses only on their left sides and not too many balconies. Or paintings should use a limited set of hues, and recipes should combine only certain ingredients.
It’s just not fair to patternize [sic] creativity! Check this for readability.
Did I hear a shush? What? Oh, it’s not good for my brand. You’re right. I’m too cloudy, not azurial enough.
Az ...urish ... maybe ?!