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…)