Tuesday, November 20, 2012

My new mortal enemy

A few weeks ago I started a new writing job that I love but that is giving me no end of nervous breakdowns. This past weekend I worked through an entire bag of candy corns. The writing is incredibly challenging and I'm learning a lot. And I signed a non-disclosure agreement, so I'm not even sure I'm actually allowed to talk about it. My editor probably also cringes every time she sees an e-mail from me.


One of the things I have to do with this writing job is make sure my content hits a specific Lexile level. I'm sure any readers in the education field will know all too well about Lexile levels.

For those who are lucky enough not to be in the know, a Lexile level is a mystical, magical number that measures the readability of a text. It's strictly computer algorithms based on the length of sentences, the number of words in a sentence, and the frequency of certain quarter words.

The free Lexile analyzer available online will only analyze manuscripts that are saved as a .txt file and that contain fewer than 1,000 words. Everything I've written for this new job has come in between 1,100 and 1,200 words. This means I have to break each manuscript into two pieces and save them individually as .txt files and then submit each one separately. It is a pain in the ass.

Adding to the fun is the fact that I just don't have the hang of writing to specific Lexile levels yet. People keep assuring me that I'll figure it out quickly, but I don't believe them. I spend a lot of time tweaking the passages I've written, shortening and lengthening sentences, putting in or taking out longer words. Most of the time I miss spectacularly.

This Sunday I spent way too much time trying to get  my passages just right. I had to hit a Lexile level of 1100-1180. My day went like this.

Passage 1= 950
Passage 2=1200
Tinker, tinker, tinker
Passage 1=1300
Passage 2= 800
Tinker, tinker, tinker
Passage 1= 1150
Passage 2= 900
Passage 2= 1000
Tinker, tinker, tinker
Passage 2= 1200

I tinkered with that particular piece so much that it was unreadable, and I had to scrap it and start all over again. Sadly, it took me a few more tries to get to the right level.

I think I'd be better at hitting Lexile levels if I understood the logic behind them. But there doesn't seem to be any. It doesn't look at the content or meaning of what you submit, just the numbers, and as we all know, numbers are not my friend.

For the next few weeks, if you need me, I'll either be in my closet eating candy or cursing at my computer.


donna said...

Oh that did make me laugh. I am familiar with lexile from homeschooling my kids and trying to pick out suitable reading materials for them and I have always wondered about the logic behind it ...glad to know it bamboozles even you.

Unknown said...

I have never been required to use that system, and i think i would quit if I was. What a PITA!!!