February 13, 2020

Grammar and style, automated: Qordoba review

Grammar and style, automated: Qordoba review

This post originally appeared in the February 13, 2020 issue of The Content Technologist with the email subject line "Can AI write as well as a human?" and an essay that examines the proficiency of computer-generated content.

Not everyone is a writer, but everyone needs to write at least once in a while. Text-based communication anchors business, and any public-facing communication is under some sort of scrutiny. Any company invested in maintaining a consistent public image invests in some sort of style guide, but style rules are difficult to enforce on the daily, across marketing, customer service, presentations, social posts, and all the myriad mundane microcommunications spewing from our fingers.

Some people care deeply about rules and are more cautious about proper grammar than others. Others create style rules — capitalize this, not that — but have a hard time consistently following them. If you have written for multiple publications or brands, you know that style can vary wildly. Best practices regarding inclusivity, plain language, and user experience are rapidly evolving.

Style and grammar errors and inconsistencies are distracting at best. At worst, they can damage trust in your business. And hiring an in-house content strategist is incredibly important to ensure content consistency — but I assure you: your content strategist or in-house editor doesn’t want to constantly correct your commas and fix capital letters. (If they do, they’re probably not a very good editor! Editors shape ideas and stories, not correct minor grammar errors.) And no one wants to tell their coworkers (especially superiors) that their grammar is bad, or that execs are no longer following the house style of the company they founded.

Grammarly has an excellent free option to edit text in your browser, but doesn’t apply custom brand style rules — which almost all brands have and need. Enter Qordoba, a content governance tool that enables custom style and branding guidelines across an organization.

(Note: I discovered Qordoba because they create excellent in-house content breaking down concepts like content intelligence and smart SEO.

Qordoba empowers style- and brand-conscious companies to implement custom style and grammar rules across all written communications. It’s content governance that works for small and medium-sized organizations. The custom style algorithm scores writing and enables companies to prioritize certain rules over others: so, if you’re more concerned about inclusivity than sentence length, you can customize the algorithm to weight inclusive language more heavily.

Qordoba screenshot depicting how writing is scored on the dimensions of plain language, writing style, spelling, banned words and common mistakes

Other systems like Qordoba are on the market, but they usually incorporated with a much broader service for website health (SiteImprove) or designed for massive enterprise organizations (Acrolinx). The enterprise level of Qordoba can define multiple sets of rules, which will help agencies whose content guidelines vary from one client to another.

A content strategist or editor should be responsible for defining, implementing and managing the rules in Qordoba. As with any content tech, using a system like Qordoba will probably take a few months to properly onboard and use. Aside from a Chrome extension, a Google Docs and a Word plugin, there aren’t many products integrated with Qordoba at this point, but they do offer a custom API for enterprise customers.

I recommend Qordoba for:

  • Companies with an overworked content strategist… or no content strategist at all
  • Marketing teams that want to introduce a content strategist — an automated tool like Qordoba is a great first step
  • Teams that struggle with writing or consistency
  • Teams that are rebranding and want to enforce a new set of style guidelines
  • Teams with a lot of custom style rules and product terms that take a while to learn
  • Correcting common mistakes, like misspelling the name “Qordoba” as “Quordoba” 12 times in the same review before realizing you’re spelling it wrong.

For content governance and style enforcement, if a well-trained content strategist is a premium Mexican restaurant with moles to die for, Qordoba would be the low-cost quick-service burrito restaurant. But sometimes that burrito and queso hits the spot and helps align your teams in content creation.


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