Archive for the ‘Stylish writing’ Category

What’s wrong with the Writer’s Diet?

By Helen Sword | Published: June 11th, 2015 | FAQs, Stylish writing

People sometimes write to tell me what’s wrong with the WritersDiet Test. Good writing cannot possibly be reduced to a numerical formula, they protest. Nor can an electronic tool be trusted to make judgments about a matter as complex and subjective as style.

I couldn’t agree more.

That’s why WritersDiet Test makes no attempt to measure for vividness of expression, clarity of thought, fluidity of style, or any of the other factors that matter most in engaging writing. The purpose of the test is modest: to alert writers to some of the sentence-level grammatical features that most frequently weigh down academic prose. (more…)

The power of metaphor

By Helen Sword | Published: May 20th, 2015 | Stylish writing

The Writer’s Diet evolved from a one-page handout that I used to distribute to the students in my undergraduate English classes.  The title was “Writing and Editing Tips” or something equally bland, and my students paid about as much attention to it as they did to any of the other well-meaning writing advice that I routinely doled out to them in class: in other words, not much.

Then one day I decided to zing up the handout with a catchy metaphor.  I relabelled it “The Writer’s Diet,” added some references to “fit and flabby” prose, and stuck on a new byline: “By Dr. Helen Sword, registered verbal nutritionist.”  Within days after distributing the updated version, I knew that my changes had struck a chord.  Although the writing and editing tips offered in the “new” handout were almost identical to those in the old one, my students started using them, talking about them, internalizing them, remembering them.  That’s the power of metaphor. (more…)