Thursday, December 15, 2016

Seventh Grade Reading Level

Today File 770 introduced me to the concept of the LexileScore.

I was slightly intrigued, but I was also leery of the text submission method. You see, I write science fiction, which means my characters tend to have weird names like Risha and Chexin, and they live in bizarre places like Virginialina and Scose, where they use products such as cleanbeams and teacherbots and foodfabbers and Compostique Organic Fertilizer. Spellcheck is opposed to all these things, and I thought maybe Lexile might have issues with them as well.

I do have a grade-level checker in Word, which I rarely use, but because I love my readers I ran Chapter Six through it, and came up with a Flesch Reading Ease score of 71.1, and a Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level 6.7, which translates to a Lexile Range of 830L to 1090L. 

Other books in this range include several of the Discworld series, some Heinlein juveniles, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Harry Potter. It looks like I’m hitting the sweet spot, whew. Here’s my scorecard for your perusal.

And now a brief rant about automated spelling and grammar checkers – although possibly this is praise, since I seem to have stumbled onto an activity where I’m not likely to be replaced by an AI.  It took me a very long time to run Chapter 6 through the spelling and grammar checker. My writing tends to go from “unhinged blurting” to “slightly more refined story” to “plot continuity edit” to “final spelling and grammar check.”  Chapter 6 wasn’t quite ready but I was curious about my grade level, so I endured.

Spellcheck found a couple of legit typos: “historial” for “historical” and “influsing” for “infusing.”  Thank you, spellcheck.

It also made false accusations against several words, such as cioppino (an Italian seafood stew)


and haluhalo (a Filipino dessert) (aka halohalo, halo-halo and halo halo).

It didn’t like edgy newcomer words like “realtime” and “bioenhancements.”  It glanced askance at “potbellied Stegosaurus” but now that you’ve heard of them you definitely want one, don’t lie to me.  It also hated “opaqued” but that’s what you do to windows that have remote-controlled opacity levels rather than curtains. Or you will, anyway, and likely soon.

My most pressing issues have to do with the grammar checker. For instance, here’s a rare instance where Sonny cusses:
“You asshole,” Sonny said quietly.

Believe me, it’s justified, and at least he did it politely without making a lot of noise, and spellcheck didn’t even have any problem with the Forbidden Adverb, which would set many professional editors’ teeths on edge even more than that deliberate typo I just made. No, it suggested that Sonny instead say “Your asshole.” 

No. He would never do that. Similarly, grammar check suggested I throw a comma smack into the middle of “Are they all right?” No, I would never do that.

Grammar check also disliked this sentence, and thought I should lose one of the words starting with T: “more beautiful then than she was now.”  Oh really? Which one? 

This is the one that got on my nerves like a stray sunflower seed caught in my sock: “The newer ones cost money but the old ones were free.”  Grammar check suggested I amend both occurrences to “one’s.” No, grammar check, you are wrong, and your programmer is wrong, and your programmer’s mom was wrong at one time too. The horse your programmer's mom rode in on? Equally wrong.  

Moral of the story: robots may write novels someday, but it is doubtful they'll be good ones. Even humans have a hard time writing good novels, especially me. I guess I'll go back to writing the kind I write instead, now that I've assured myself that I'm not filling them with convoluted language.

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