Readability, Easier Editing, and Better Linkage

Yoast SEO and the Readability Checker

Blogging can lead to lazy writing habits. I don’t know of any automated grammar checker that can accurately flag 100% of all errors without also throwing a good number of “false positives.” However, Yoast SEO‘s Readability checker is helpful. I remember the early spell-checkers and awkward attempts at grammar-checkers, so my thought usually involves The Sound of Music scene in which sixteen-year-old Liesl defiantly asserts, “I don’t need a governess.” Realizing that’s as silly as a writer declaring, “I don’t need an editor,” that mental image is quickly followed by the scene in which Liesl climbs through Sister Maria’s window, soaked to the skin and covered in dirt, admitting that maybe she did still need a governess.

I say this after a delightful discussion with Yoast staff members, following my charge that their plug-in wouldn’t know passive voice from a potato. Not only were they very gracious about that, they requested more examples and showed a keen interest in making their plug-in even better than it already is. They have an in-house linguist. Be still, my heart. I even had to concede that one example I sent may, arguably, have been passive. It’s possible. Another grammar expert I’ve known over 20 years suggested it could be considered more idiomatic than passive – the phrase was “I’m tempted” – but by then, I was willing to lay the Red Pen of Death™ at Yoast’s feet and laughingly beg for mercy.

readability-checker

You should definitely check out anything with a red or orange circle next to it. You may conclude, as I did on this post, that “I meant to do that!” and choose not to make changes. Or you can strive for Yoasted perfection. It’s your choice, but now it’s an informed choice. To see which sentences, specifically, contain possible problems, click the eye icon to the left of the colored circle, and Yoast will highlight the sentences in the post. Note that the minute you click anything or begin to make changes, the highlighting will disappear. You can force Yoast to re-analyze the post by clicking the eye icon again.

If you are learning English, or you are a native speaker who is still struggling with the basic rules of grammar, spelling, and punctuation, do use Yoast SEO’s Readability checker as a guide. It’s important to realize, though, that it is not the ultimate prescriptive authority on grammar and good writing. And while it does know passive from a potato, there are some situations in which it flags as “passive voice” sentences that are not passive voice at all. But this is all explained very clearly on their blog, in the post, Passive Voice. In many cases, a rewrite of incorrectly flagged sentences can improve their clarity.

Easier Editing with TinyMCE Advanced

Why did no one tell me about these things?

A couple of days ago, Amazon dropped me from its Associates Program like a hot potato (speaking of passive potatoes). I’ve been an Amazon Associate since the late 1990s, when they first started their program. They dropped me once for failing to get the memo on COPPA compliance self-certification, which was fair. I reapplied – having seen the memo about getting dropped! – and was instantly reinstated, but my referral code had changed and the old one “could not be reactivated.” Fair enough. It’s not like the old links were a valuable revenue stream for either of us.

Let’s get real, I don’t think I’ve earned $100 with Amazon – total – over the past two decades. I haven’t earned back, in book sales and royalties through Amazon, but a tiny fraction of what I’ve spent there as a Prime customer with a serious aversion to crowds. So terminating this mutually unsatisfying partnership does not make either of us cry. But removing all the links buried in my blog – that’s another matter. That nearly drove me to tears. Surely there is some plug-in for WordPress than can do a mass search and replace of text or links found through out pages and posts and not have to get its fingers into your database and risk touching actual code?

I didn’t find one. But I did find two that helped and made a painful process go faster: Search Regex (total overkill) and TinyMCE Advanced. Regex isn’t “simple search.” It’s powerful, pattern-matching search. And it could be downright dangerous to pair it with a blind-faith “replace all” operation. But what Search Regex helped with was finding all instances of Amazon links throughout my blog (using the referral codes to get partial pattern matches within HTML link codes) so that I could quickly go to each post containing the links and edit it. That’s where TinyMCE Advanced came to the rescue, providing a Find and Replace (CTRL+F) function that should’ve been in the WordPress Editor all along. Not only can it Find and Replace, it can Find and Replace All. All within a single post, anyway. There’s also an easy Insert > Anchor menu option and a whole set of Table > Insert and formatting options.

For those of you wondering what Insert > Anchor means, and why anyone would care, I’m tempted to say, “Never you mind.” But… think about Wikipedia. Think about how you can click a link at the top of an article and it jumps to that section on the same page. It has to have an anchor to jump to, but there it is in the same document – so a normal link would just take you right back to the top of the page, not to a specific section later on. Think of it as a “bookmark.” In fact, see the HTML Links – Create a Bookmark section of the HTML Links page on W3Schools.com. You’ll just have to scroll down that page and find it, since they didn’t bookmark it for you at the top! I don’t know why TinyMCE Advanced doesn’t have a nice “Insert Link TO Bookmark” option, though. It’s like handing you a key, but there’s no lock.

About that Inline Link Editor Thingy…

It’s unseemly to complain about free things that are as good as WordPress. But when someone takes a perfectly good feature and turns it into a perfectly unusable mess, it’s hard to suck it up and smile. The sad fact is, when they released the “inline link editor,” they borked it. Complaints in the forums fell mostly on deaf ears; worse, got ignored, criticized, or deleted by rude moderators. I left the forums to them and prayed someone would release – with great fanfare – a fix in a future update. Or maybe a some kindly soul would write a plug-in to fix it sooner. Thank you, Nico Martin.

If, like me, you hate the new-ish inline link editor that was rolled out during the last major WordPress update, rejoice: Your answer is called Advanced WPLink.

Your Turn

What do you think of grammar checking software and readability checkers, in general? Have you tried Yoast SEO – and if so, are you using the Readability tab to help improve your writing?

Do you know of a better Find and Replace plug-in than TinyMCE Advanced? It appears that other than the two options I called out, the built-in editor actually contains all the other features, now. Is this plug-in more overhead than it’s really worth? I don’t want to give up Replace All!

What do you think of the inline link editor? Do you like this new feature, or is Advanced WPLink just the miracle from heaven you were hoping for, too?

I hope you’ll share some of your favorite plug-ins here, too. I’m always excited to find new and useful things.

 

 

 

HollyJahangiri

Holly Jahangiri is the author of Trockle; A Puppy, Not a Guppy; Innocents & Demons; and A New Leaf for Lyle. You can find her books on Amazon at http://amazon.com/author/hollyjahangiri. For more information on her children's books, please visit http://jahangiri.us/books.
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16 thoughts on “Readability, Easier Editing, and Better Linkage”

  1. I love Yoast SEO. I have to admit that because of Yoast, my writing has improved. Some of my posts seem to naturally lend themselves to overuse of the passive voice, while other posts get a green light on this aspect of writing from the get go. I have Yoast premium, which supposedly allows you to choose more than one keyword configuration. But I haven’t figured that one out, yet. I still haven’t finished using this plugin for all of my older posts.

    In regards to Amazon, I had to do the same thing – remove all of my old links. In my case, I hadn’t made a sale – lesson learned the hard way. Build traffic first! Yes, it was painful. But I’m still working with just over fifty posts total, and many of those don’t have affiliate links. Using a plugin for this at the moment would befuddle me. I feel for you; what a super waste of time, when you could be writing, instead! Please keep us updated.

    Just a little tip here – I’m finishing up a post about socially conscious online bookstores. Some of those I found have affiliate programs. If you do a google search using the above terms, socially conscious online bookstores, you’ll find a couple of articles with a list. I’m publishing my post shortly after “Plastic Free July” is over. Once I build up more traffic, I plan to link books that I review to these amazing companies. I think that some of them carry other merchandise, also. But I haven’t looked at the article in a while, so don’t quote me on that one.

    I didn’t like the inline link thingy at first, but now I find it easier to work with than the old way. Maybe I’m missing something 🙂 That’s entirely possible.

    I enjoyed the geeky share time – especially since I’m challenged in this area!
    laura routh recently posted…Independence Day Notes – Posts from “My Wood”My Profile

  2. I’ve just been copy/pasting URLs from a new window into the inline editor – say, from an article. Of course, I also link to other posts from my blog. I like how it brings those up so fast. I do have to go in and change the link terms, sometimes, and I had trouble with this at first. Now, that part seems to be working, too. I may not fully understand, though.
    laura routh recently posted…Independence Day Notes – Posts from “My Wood”My Profile

    1. If you do nothing else – you should have no problems.

      If you want all the links to open in a new window (so as not to drag your readers off the page, maybe never to find their way back), it can be a problem.

      Try it – paste your link, then hit that settings icon, click the “Open in a new window” checkbox, Save, and tell me what happens.

      Now, imagine that this plug-in opens the same (bigger) dialog you get when you hit the settings icon, only… well, spoilers, but it doesn’t do the annoying thing it does (or that it does for SOME of us, at least) when we try to edit and save changes.

      You can still get to those other posts on your blog (and on other blogs you follow!) quickly, by using its search feature (yes, that’s a cool addition, but it’s in the classic dialog, too).

    1. I love your suggestions for the other bookstores, Laura! (Keeping in mind that I can’t use those suggestions for my own books, most likely, unless they’re selling from bn.com or Amazon, themselves…)

      I did suggest that anyone shopping with Amazon START at https://smile.amazon.com, though, so that a portion of the revenues can go to a charity the customer selects.
      HollyJahangiri recently posted…Walk-a-Thons Aren’t What They Used to BeMy Profile

      1. Okay, I took a look at my most recent post and checked the “open in a new window” box for all of the links. I clicked update, and just to be sure, I clicked update for the post itself. This worked, and thank you! I had missed this feature. No one wants to have to keep hitting the back button to get back to your blog. There’s so much to learn – especially the first year of blogging.

        I use Amazonsmile, also, for my personal orders. They sure have made ordering online easy.
        laura routh recently posted…Independence Day Notes – Posts from “My Wood”My Profile

    1. Lord, for all my inline editor hate, even I hadn’t had that one happen, yet! Yikes.

      I’ll have to look – I think your Search & Replace plug-in is one I thought was actually TOO powerful. The dry run is a preview, as I recall, and the only option was “all or nothing.” If it’s going to go deep into the database, I’d want to selectively NOT replace some of the things it finds (or at least have that option). I don’t know – I thought I had one I liked, a long time ago, that let you review and confirm (individually or en masse) all the replacements before committing. I’ll check out your recommendation and see if I just missed it, or if it was that one.
      HollyJahangiri recently posted…Walk-a-Thons Aren’t What They Used to BeMy Profile

  3. Hi! Love this plug-in! It just came to my attention that when editing my pages, (changing the formatting, etc) The page won’t allow me to publish, save or preview. That whole section is “greyed-out”

    Once I disabled the plugin, I was able to change headings and such and then publish. I’m guessing it must be something with the plug-in.

    I’m not sure we absolutely “need” it, but its such a nice tool, if you find an error with the plugin and are able to fix it – please let me know as I would love to reactivate!
    Currently I am using latest version of WordPress on my blog 4.5.3

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