Thursday, 7 September 2017

Google hates metaphors.

Today, I go to a meeting with a brilliant internet expert. I have on my special technology hat and I’ve got my special organised notebook and I brandish my special writing everything down pen, so that I may take notes.

I take notes.

The Internet Expert, who is very nice and vastly knowledgeable and extremely patient about the fact that I still secretly live in the age of the pigeon post, looks at me directly and says, ‘Google does not like metaphors.’

My hat nearly falls off.

I open and shut my mouth like a bemused goldfish. I live by metaphors. Virtually everything I write is a metaphor. I’m not really sure what writing without metaphors even looks like.

The Internet Expert, who is kind and forgiving, sees my dismay. ‘I’m not talking now,’ she says, ‘as a human being, but as an algorithm.’

The bemused goldfish is now so baffled that it has lost control of its motor functions.

‘You have to write,’ says the Internet Expert, ‘for a fifteen-year-old. Your problem is that you write for PhDs.’

This, I think, sounds like compliment. It would be a compliment from a human; from an algorithm, it is a deadly indictment. I suddenly feel rather protective of the fifteen-year-olds. I believe in the young people.

‘Fifteen-year-olds are very clever,’ I say, driven to the last ditch. ‘When I was fifteen, I was reading Camus.’

The Internet Expert regards me with a little bafflement of her own. Camus of course sounds very grand, but it was only that L’Etranger was on the O Level syllabus. I did love the old existentialists, though, even if I did not always entirely understand what they were getting at. ‘Hell is other people’ sounds awfully good when you are fifteen, and goes very well with your adored collection of Leonard Cohen records.

‘All right,’ I say eventually. ‘I see that I am going to have to de-poncify myself. I am far, far too poncy.’

There is an interesting silence in the room. Nobody disagrees. People look at their hands. The special hat wilts a little.

‘It will go against muscle memory,’ I say, laughing at myself. ‘I suppose the fucking Google would just like me to be fucking Hemingway.’

Another fairly fascinating silence.

‘Sorry,’ I say. ‘I’m a bit sweary today.’

All this is not for me. It’s not for the red mare or any of my social media nonsense. It’s for the work I do at HorseBack UK. My job there is changing a bit now we have the Internet Expert, and she needs me to please the algorithms, and my idea of a charming Facebook post or an enchanting picture does not get the right demographics, or quite hit the right spot. Not everyone, I start to realise, sees the world through my own idiosyncratic lens. I’m very grateful to the kind expert, because she’s given me a good structure which I did not have before. I feel a little bit stupid, because all this is so, so far from the things I know. I love the things I know. I love knowing things. I love not feeling stupid. But this is 2017 and I am not wearing the hat of technology for nothing.

As I get home, I ponder all this. Some of the rules about being good at social media are a little dispiriting, like keywords and such, but some of them are in fact very fine writing advice. Hemingway would indeed have been very good at it. You need to get straight to the point. (I think dolefully of my terrible throat-clearing tendency.) Your title needs to tell your readers something. A short sentence and a short paragraph are better than a hundred sub-clauses. Clear, plain prose makes the Google happy, and in some ways, that damn Google is right. And, you know, I do love the fifteen-year-olds, so writing for them shall be a pleasure, not a chore. Bugger the PhDs. At last, I shall stop poncing about and write The Sun Also Rises. I am fifty years old, and I spy a whole new horizon. 


  1. I understand both sides of this dilemma. On the one hand, good writing is being clear and concise so a broad audience can understand. On the other hand, good writing is beautiful and lyrical and makes people (me, for instance...) read it without regard for the subject matter. You do the second extremely well. I believe you will do the first just as well!

  2. Lyrical is the first word that comes to mind when I think about your writing style. (I started composing my comment before I read the previous comment. Funny that we came up with the same descriptive word. Or maybe not.) It (your writing) basically surrounds me with the feeling that I have everything that I like/love most within arm's reach when I read any one of your posts. You feel like a best friend that I've never met. While I'm sure that you can successfully adjust your writing style for Horseback UK, I fear change when I can't see how you can get any better for my taste. I trust you, however. Do what you must for the good of Horseback UK. Was that too effusive? I never know.

  3. Seems like so much of the writing world now is short paragraphs and short sentences for short attention spans, and grudgingly I will admit that that has its place. But please -- your writing (I will add delightfully eccentric, mad, and musical to lyrical, along with whatever word would express 'makes me smile or cry, depending on the topic') has its place too. So, please, as the old children's song goes, Make new friends but keep the old.

    1. I so agree with your first sentence.
      And had a moment of alarm thinking of Tania changing her writing style.
      Too bad that, these days, life in all its variety often requires adjusting to some kind of common denominator.

    2. And I should have added: Tania can change her writing for social media, if necessary -- if that's what it takes to promote Horseback UK, great. But The Small Things is a different matter entirely. :)

  4. Oh please be as poncy as you like here. It can be your refuge (as it is mine). And no Hemingway, please.

  5. شركة امست للتنظيف افضل شركة لتنظيف المنازل والشقق والفللوالبيوت والمجالس والكنب والمفروشات والخزانات بالقطيف والمنطقة الشرقية لديها عمالة مدربة وخصومات هائلة طما توفر خدمات مكافحة الحشرات ورش المبيدات بالقطيف باسعار رخيصة ومناسبة وخصومات هائلة

    شركة امست للتنظيف
    امست للنظافة القطيف
    شركة امست لمكافحة الحشرات
    شركة امست لرش المبيدات

  6. افضل شركة تنظيف بالقطيف تقدم خدمات نظافة متكاملة علي اعلي مستوي بدقة وجودة ومواصفات قياسية واسعار تنافسية فتعد الشركة الاولي بالقطيف لتقديم خدماتالتنظيف بجودة وسعر مثالييينفهي خير مثال لراغبي الحصول علي نظافة شاملة مع التعقيم وباسعار مناسبة

    شركة تنظيف بالقطيف
    شركة تنظيف منازل بالقطيف


    شركة كشف تسربات المياه بالقطيف
    شركة تنظيف مجالس بالقطيف
    شركة تنظيف خزانات بالقطيف
    شركة شفط بيارات بالقطيف

  7. هل تعانون من الحشرات وكثرتها واضرارها البالغة نقدم لكم افضل شركة لابادة جميع انواع الحشرات بالضمان وهي شركة المثالية لمكافحة الحشرات حيث تقدم اليوم افضل العروض والخدمات بارخص الاسعار بخصم 50% لفترة محدودة

    شركة المثالية لمكافحة الحشرات
    شركة المثالية لمكافحة الحشرات بالدمام
    شركة المثالية لمكافحة الحشرات بالخبر
    شركة المثالية لمكافحة الحشرات بالقطيف
    شركة المثالية لمكافحة الحشرات بالاحساء
    شركة المثالية لمكافحة الحشرات بالجبيل
    شركة المثالية لمكافحة الحشرات بجدة

  8. شركة المثالية للتنظيف افضل شركة تنظيف بالمنطقة الشرقية تخصصت في تقديم كافة الاعمال المنزية من نظافة ومكافحة حشرات بالمنطقة فلديها افضل الخدماتبافضل جودة واوبارخص الاسعار التي لا تتوفر الا معها كافضل وارخص شركة تنظيف بالاضافة الي خدمتا مكافحة الحشرات ورش المبيدات الامنة والفعالة علي الحشرات بجميع انواعها .. تقدم لكم اليوم افضل العروض والخدمات بخصومات هائلة يمكنكم الحصول عليها من خلال الروابط التالية

    شركة المثالية للتنظيف
    شركة المثالية للنظافة
    شركة المثالية للتنظيف بالدمام
    شركة المثالية للتنظيف بالخبر
    شركة المثالية للتنظيف بالقطيف

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