Upon completing the most spectacularly lucid section of prose that my fingers have ever battered into a keyboard, I look across to the Yoast SEO box and see “Readability: Needs improvement’.
My heart drifts south into my belly as these words cut through my soul. A few amendments upgrade the rating to ‘OK’.
BUT I PUT EVERY FIBRE OF MY LITERARY SELF INTO THIS!!!
This phenomenon is all too common unless I pretend to write for a five year old, which seems to be the intellectual level of the internet these days.
To prove my point, I’ve taken excerpts from five titans of literature to see what they can achieve in Yoast readability scores. The utterly hilarious results are below.
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
The epic poem by Mr Coleridge tells of a ship cursed by an albatross in a mighty six hundred and twenty six lines. Who would have known that nearly two hundred years after writing, the albatross of Yoast readability would be branding the work as needing improvement?
I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud by William Wordsworth
Perhaps Yoast readability isn’t looking for rhyming couplets and iambic pentameter, but Wordsworth’s classic poem is about as readable as poetry gets, telling of a lonely man whose world is enraptured by the dancing daffodils.
As far as Yoast readability goes, it knocks Coleridge into a cocked hat by scoring a mighty ‘OK’.
Hamlet’s First Soliloquy by William Shakespeare
This list couldn’t be complete with an entry from Big Willy, the grandaddy of literature. Granted, his writing style isn’t the easiest to read, so the Yoast readability score of ‘Needs improvement’ has a point, but only if I wanted to dumb down the entire modern literary history of the world.
Which I don’t.
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
Possibly one of the most famous opening lines of any book in the history of mankind. Surely Dicky can beat Shakey in the Yoast readability stakes? His prose even appears modern in comparison to Shakespeare’s.
Nope. Needs improvement. Again.
Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James
Yes, I know I said titans of literature but I had to slip this one in there simply for the giggles. In a perverse way, I expected Ms James to score more highly due to the contemporary writing style, however, Yoast readability’s wisdom seems in fine fettle as it states her work ‘Needs improvement’.
I don’t think that was ever in any doubt.
There you have it, regardless of whether you’re one of the most revered authors of all time, or a recent global best seller, as far as Yoast readability scores go, you’ve got a long way to go, baby.
The upshot is that paying attention to Yoast readability scores is pointless, unless you’re trying to dumb your work down to appeal to the lowest common denominator simply in the hope of garnering a few more clicks.
You wouldn’t do that, would you? Would you?