If you’re into music, you’re probably aware that the reason commercial radio suddenly began to suck a few years ago and has never recovered, has to do with Clear Channel and their approach of programming music based upon a mathematical analysis, rather than a human’s taste and insight.
That formula has gone on to do untold damage to young and starting acts, by guiding them to sell-out their own original approaches early, before they’ve even had a chance to effectively construct their style — and still they mostly pour money in, and see little of it out again in the end (very harsh biz now).
Well to my surprise, there is a very similar beast for writing now stalking the interweeb — specifically WordPress, with which I have finally decided to engage (I know, again, woefully late to the party, do forgive my entrenched and shameless fogitude).
The Flesch score — OMG! This thing will scan your writing and tell you that it’s bad — because it is too smart. VERY POOR — MUST CORRECT! (Tried Conrad, Pound and Pynchon for kicks). Which reminds me: all rules have exceptions — and while “Murder your darlings” is brilliant writing advice, you might always pull a Pynchon and write your prose in pure wall-to-wall darling — hah! (one book per decade, mind you, but wow what an amazing book!)
Okay, to my point today, I hereby resolve to pin that freakin’ meter, every time. If the Flesch-demons tell me I am approaching acceptability, I will grow suspicious and add a few polysyllabic digressions, run-on sub-clauses and obscure referents from long out-of-fashion scholarship, just to spice it up.
There is, I should say, quite enough out there already which Flesch consistently rates as “EXCELLENT” Like soda-advertising slogans and stock-tanking presidential tweets (Oh god, are we really here? — pinch me again, maybe it’ll finally work this time).
Should you think me elitist in my principled resistance (my piecemeal-d’) please note that this pernicious formula was developed by the US Navy. Anyone who wants to volunteer their work to them for artistic criticism is welcome. Personally, I can sit-out that crit, with no fear of loss.