How the WritersDiet Test works

By Helen Sword | Published: April 15th, 2015 | About the test

It’s pretty simple, actually – so simple, in fact, that you can perform the test manually if you prefer to go low-tech.  Just gather together five colored highlighters (preferably orange, blue, green, yellow, and pink) and use the scoring charts at the back of the book to calculate your scores.

In a nutshell, the online test identifies words in each of five grammatical categories: nouns, verbs, prepositions, adjectives/adverbs, and a grab-bag category unscientifically dubbed “waste words” (it, this, that, there).  The higher the percentage of highlighted words in each category, the “flabbier” your diagnosis.

Screen shot of the WritersDiet Test

To find out more about each of the five word categories, simply run the test and then click on any colored word or bar on the results page, as in the above screenshot.  For example, when you click on any word highlighted in blue, you’ll see the following message: “The noun test counts nominalizations (abstract nouns) that end with the suffixes ion, ism, ty, ment, ness, ance, ence.

The scoring percentages vary across categories.  For instance, if 5% of the words in your writing sample are nominalizations, you will receive a diagnosis of Needs Toning, which means that you might want to think about cutting back on the abstract nouns in your passage and/or adding more concrete language.  Prepositions become Flabby only at 18% or more, whereas “waste words” hit Heart Attack territory at just 6%

The WritersDiet Test prompts you to think about howwhy, and how often you use the highlighted words; however, it is not expected that you will delete them all or to banish them completely from your prose.  Moderation, not extremism, is the key to verbal fitness.   (This paragraph, by the way, contains highlighted words in all five WritersDiet Test categories, yet the post scores as Lean overall.)

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