Rewriting or rewronging? – The perils of avoiding plagiarism

Posted on February 1, 2016

 

With Google and other search engines hating duplicate content, and it being pretty unethical to pinch material from other sites and paste it onto yours without credit anyway, smart content developers are always seeking to deconstruct news and feature articles to put their own angles on them.

Less smart ones, meanwhile, might use ham-fisted techniques like swapping the word order around, often not really noticing how garbled their text has become as a result. Lazier still, some might get an online tool like this one to do it for them.

I have to admit that I struggle to see the value in sites like Article Rewriter. It might sound great if you can get a programme to rewrite a piece for you, but as an example of the sort of thing these facilities usually come up with, let’s run the following two paragraphs of a BBC Sport story from last Thursday through it:

“Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal says that an FA Cup defeat to Derby on Friday could get him the sack.

The Dutchman described speculation he offered to resign after the 1-0 defeat by Southampton, with United fifth in the league, as “awful and horrible”.”

That’s all pretty easy to follow, right? Well, here’s how Article Rewriter mangled it:

“Manchester United boss prizefighter van Gaal says that associate solfa syllable Cup defeat to bowler on Fri might get him the sack.

The European delineated speculation he offered to resign once the 1-0 defeat by Southampton, with United fifth within the league, as “awful and horrible”.”

This is pretty hilarious stuff really, and it’s a challenge to even work out how it’s come to the conclusion of suggesting some of those words. It’s taken the first name ‘Louis’ and assumed we’re talking about legendary boxer Joe Louis, hence ‘prizefighter’. ‘FA’ has been changed to ‘solfa syllable’ as it thinks we’re referring to the musical note ‘fa’.

A bowler hat is referred to as a ‘derby’ in the U.S., but that doesn’t mean you can change the name of the city or its football club, and the terms ‘Dutchman’ and ‘European’ can’t just be swapped about like that either; van Gaal, Guus Hiddink and Ronald Koeman are the only Dutch managers in the Premier League, but 18 of them are European, so the significance of it is lost.

It reminds me a lot of the Friends episode where Joey Tribbiani makes an attempt to impress Chandler and Monica by using a thesaurus to write a letter, but he’s so reliant upon it that he refers to their “full-sized aortic pumps” rather than their “big hearts”, and even signs it off as “Baby Kangaroo Tribbiani”.

Oddly, one of the easier words to replace with a synonym there is ‘defeat’, where any of ‘loss’, ‘reserve’ or ‘setback’ would do the job, but the tool has chosen to ignore this word completely. Similarly with “awful and horrible”, although perhaps it’s been clever enough to recognise that these words appear in quotes so shouldn’t be tinkered with.

I hate to say it, but Article Rewriter seems to be a tool designed to help people with a limited grasp of English to produce spam, even though the site itself advises against this. In its defence, it does allow the user to click any changed word and view alternative suggestions, but you can just as quickly do this in Microsoft Word by right-clicking the word in question and selecting ‘Synonyms’.

In short, don’t use tools like this unless you want a good example of what not to do. Google isn’t stupid, and your readers will certainly notice that you’re talking gibberish. A far better (or should I say “solfa syllable better”) solution is to seek out a content development firm like Engage Web, with specialist writers and trained editors. That way, your writing will be stylish and relevant – not incoherent and flustered like the ramblings of Prizefighter van Gaal often are.

Content Team Leader at Engage Web
John works for Engage Web as a Content Team Leader and regularly contributes to the website and programmes of his beloved Chester F.C.
John Murray
  • […] a number of years there have been different types of article spinning software that produces several versions of the same article, but the results read as if the articles were […]

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