Thursday, July 15, 2010

Playing with Words on the Web

Remember the hack test?

Well, it was supposed to be a program that assessed the quality of your writing through a series of objective criteria.

But it had a fatal flaw? Reading is, was, will always be a subjective sport. It’s like ice dancing or rhythmic gymnastics. You can hit all the technical elements, but you still need that artistic flair.

So I abandoned the hack test, but someone else had a similar idea and created the textalyser.

The textalyser measures “readability,” not quality, per se. It does this by measuring word and sentence length, repetition and variation. For fun, I textalysed Tricia’s review of What is Left the Daughter and my post about books and booze. No surprise — Tricia’s posts are deemed more readable than mine. The textalyser said her posts were slightly easier than the optimal and mine were more difficult.

Speaking of web sites that assess text, I Write Like tells writers of which authors their text reminds them. I’m not sure what I Write Like’s criteria is (and I couldn’t find any explanation on the site;) but it compared my Harvey Pekar post with Arthur C. Clarke. Then, it said Big Boi’s lyrics to "Shutterbug" were similar to the work of Agatha Christie.

Finally, I listed a bunch of Indians players’ names — nothing else, just names — and the site told me I write like David Foster Wallace.

So I wouldn't take any comparisons too seriously.

While we’re playing games on the net, try the Interactive Proust Questionnaire from Vanity Fair. Apparently, my answers to the questionnaire were very similar to Brian Wilson’s and Hugh Hefner’s. (I want to put that on my business card. Jason Lea — half Beach Boy, half Playboy.)

Unrelated note: On the 50th anniversary of the release of To Kill a Mockingbird, The Rumpus asks if the book is overrated.

One word answer: No.

-Jason Lea,

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