Measuring the performance of natural language processing models is challenging. Traditionally used metrics, such as BLEU and ROUGE, originally devised for machine translation and summarization, have been shown to suffer from low correlation with human judgment and a lack of transferability to other tasks and languages. In the past 15 years, a wide range of alternative metrics have been proposed. However, it is unclear to what extent this has had an impact on NLP benchmarking efforts. Here we provide the first large-scale cross-sectional analysis of metrics used for measuring performance in natural language processing. We curated, mapped and systematized more than 3500 machine learning model performance results from the open repository ‘Papers with Code’ to enable a global and comprehensive analysis. Our results suggest that the large majority of natural language processing metrics currently used have properties that may result in an inadequate reflection of a models’ performance. Furthermore, we found that ambiguities and inconsistencies in the reporting of metrics may lead to difficulties in interpreting and comparing model performances, impairing transparency and reproducibility in NLP research.