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.

Here are some typical user comments:

  • Computer programs require on numerical principles which are purely objective, as language is subjective, I see this being quite a problem.
  • A magic balance of nouns, verbs, and modifiers will never produce good writing.  Good writing comes from clarity of thought, a good sense of how to use language, and a capacity for imagination.

Exactly!  In an era of quick fixes and limited attention spans, some people want to be able to ask a question, push a button, and receive an immediate, unambiguous answer.  (Indeed, I also get complaints from users who expect this website to do all that for them, and more).  The WritersDiet Test asks you to slow down, think about your writing, analyze, edit, interpret, try again.

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