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 work like crazy and mostly pour money into their music, and almost always see very little reward in the end (very harsh biz now).
Well to my surprise, there is a very similar digital anti-culture beast for writing now stalking the interweeb — specifically the wide world of 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” (eschew indulgence in technique which distracts from story) 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, vex that pesky algorythm.
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.