Stylish Academic Writing 2: WritersDiet Test

Is my writing flabby or fit? Am I a lean, mean writing machine, or have I invaded heart attack territory? I went to Helen Sword’s WritersDiet Test to find out. And find out I did.

Sword offers readers of her Stylish Academic Writing a test to diagnose what problems their writing may have. I, of course, am a skilled professional, a published author who is world-famous in Downers Grove for my scintillating prose, my


provocative profundity and my haute couture humor. What fear had I?

So I analyzed two of my recent blog posts (from here and here). Not surprisingly the results showed my nouns were concrete, my prepositions spare and my adjectives/adverbs pruned to a minimum. Only to be expected.

Yet, the rest of the diagnosis assaulted my senses, if not my sensibilities. My verbs were flabby. Flabby! Too many be-verbs (is, are, were, was, be, been), complained the machine. Not enough robust action verbs (scrutinize, dissect, capture), lectured the website. Makes me want to dissolve, dismember and obliterate a certain URL!

Still more lurked in the shadows for me. I used too many “waste words”! It, this, that, there apparently can lead to unclear antecedents and sweeping generalizations, like the complete uselessness of Writer’s Diet! (Anyone notice I haven’t used any of those “waste words” in this post except to list them! I’m sure Helen Sword wouldn’t!)

Writer’s Diet does offer a disclaimer. “Please note that the WritersDiet Test is an automated feedback tool, not an assessment tool. The test identifies some of the sentence-level grammatical features that most frequently weigh down academic prose. It is not designed to judge the overall quality of your writing — or anyone else’s.” Certainly the test doesn’t judge my overall writing quality. I’m just glad WritersDiet is good for everyone else.

Author: Andy Le Peau

I've been an editor and writer for over forty years. I am passionate about ideas and how we can express them clearly, beautifully, and persuasively. I love reading good books, talking about them, and recommending them. I thoroughly enjoy my family who help me continue on the path of a lifelong learner.