Saturday, 27 February 2016

plain words

a slight adjustment....
In my school days, I was conscious that the essays I wrote were always very short, and wondered if perhaps I should fluff them out a bit to increase the word count and add some heft to the pages.

 Then I read Sir Ernest Gowers' Complete Plain Words and, for good measure, George Orwell's Politics and the English Language. Both texts were hugely influential on my attitude to language; I have always aspired to write in a way that both these chaps would approve of; simply, and clearly.

So it was a bit of a rude shock to find that this blog has been subject to a Manual Action by Google (bear with me, please, these are terms that I am fresh to, as well). It has been rendered invisible to search results using Google, because
pages on this site appear to use aggressive spam techniques such as automatically generated gibberish, cloaking, scraping content from other websites, and/or repeated or egregious violations of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
Most worrying. Had I been hacked? I changed my passwords, and hunted through the blog. No obvious messing around had been going on.

I joined the Google webmaster forum, explaining what had happened, and asking for advice. A respected member of the forum replied

Your content doesn't seem to make sense, almost gibberish or poorly auto-translated. Here's an example:

Such a long, still autumn was bound to come to blows eventually, but I was grateful for it while it lasted; the mild, still days succeeding each other, as the woodlands’ colours insensibly varied and deepened; olives, russets and deep scarlets that slowly turned to ochre and umber. In the thinning woods that overlook the cut, the stars can be seen at night; the fox barks, the tawny owls call to each other in the half light, and a single cronk announces start of the heron’s day shift. 

Why should it be indexed?

maybe the problem's in here?


It's a bit dispiriting when your carefully-chosen words are read as gibberish, obviously. With some further discussion and input from other contributors, the commentator (not a native english speaker) accepted that what I'd written was at least not nonsense...

I've requested a review of the blog from Google, though as there's nothing that I can see that is wrong, I am worried that they will confirm their previous judgement.

Interesting times. As a canal dweller, I do use some words that are specific to my environment, such as cratch, or... actually nothing else comes to mind at the mo. But you get the picture. Lots of subcultures have specialised language, and it's a lingo that may be incomprehensible to an outsider.

And I sometimes write and even publish poetry; a sort of writing that is perhaps (or can be) different from everyday patterns of language, but one where every word has (or ought to have) an important job to do. As with my prose description of autumn, cited by the commentator above; the language may be dense, but it is hopefully coherent.

I have also written instruction books. The one I was most pleased with was a guide to the engine room systems of the ferry Havelet, written with the aim of saving time explaining things to new crew members. That was used as part of the company's ISO 9000 quality management certification... a good manual should have something in common with anything else well-written; it should be luminously clear in its meaning.

I started blogging eight years ago, because I wanted my own little soapbox, after having had lots of other people write about me, both personally (as a result of my prosecuting a successful employment tribunal against P&O Ferries) and more widely, because of my identity as a trans woman. It is very frustrating having other people say silly things about you without having any means of reply, let me tell you.

Since then, I've written and done some things that I believe have been useful, in LGBT politics, press freedom in the context of Leveson, local politics (ah, the Tesco riots!); I've even shown you how to fix a toilet. Oh, and poetry! And publishing it! And more widely, hopefully, I show that trans people have got more to them than simply being trans. And we have and deserve a voice in the world. Nothing about us without us, and so on.

It's a salutary thought that there should be such a gulf between what I intended to convey, and how it was received by someone appointed as the arbiter of that which is deemed valuable and worthwhile.