Archive for the ‘FAQs’ Category

Using the Advanced tab

By Helen Sword | Published: May 10th, 2016 | About the test, FAQs, Functionality, The Writer's Diet

So you’ve written a philosophy essay, you’ve referenced Derrida a fair bit, you quote from other scholars, and your topic is post-structuralist feminism. The WritersDiet Test is probably not going to be kind to you.  Your work is loaded with zombie nouns (post-structuralism and feminism, for a start) and other people’s words – which, however flabby they may be, you cannot change.

Luckily, there is help at hand.  By using the Advanced tab, you can exclude specified words or phrases from being counted when you run the test:


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…)

When famous authors write flabby prose

By Helen Sword | Published: May 6th, 2015 | FAQs

From time to time I get emails like this one from an outraged visitor to the Writer’s Diet website:

As a test of the ‘Academic validity’ of this tool, I decided to test the following: 800 words of Nietzsche’s first chapter of Beyond Good and Evil, came back as: Overall: Flabby, Verbs and Adjectives: Need toning, prepositions and is, there, that: Heart attack. Do you see the problem here? You’re advertising this as an editing tool for academic work, my concern is that people may write and then delete excellent work because of this thing.

I developed the WritersDiet Test as a formative feedback tool for people who want to learn some simple, easy-to-remember techniques for writing more clearly and energetically.  Running the work of a famous author through the test is rather like sticking a thermometer into a volcano and then complaining about instrument failure. (more…)