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.
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.
— 🤷 nico.dev (@nic_o_martin) May 25, 2016
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.