The Writer's Diet
A Guide to Fit Prose
Helen Sword dispenses with excessive explanations and overwrought analysis. Instead, she offers an easy-to-follow set of writing principles: use active verbs whenever possible; favor concrete language over vague abstractions; avoid long strings of prepositional phrases; employ adjectives and adverbs only when they contribute something new to the meaning of a sentence; and reduce your dependence on four pernicious “waste words”: it, this, that, and there.
Sword then shows the rules in action through examples from William Shakespeare, Emily Dickinson, Martin Luther King Jr., John McPhee, A. S. Byatt, Richard Dawkins, Alison Gopnik, and many more. A writing fitness test encourages you to assess your own writing and get immediate advice on addressing problem areas. While The Writer’s Diet is as sleek and concise as the writing ideals contained within, this slim volume packs a powerful punch.
With Sword’s coaching writers of all levels can strengthen and tone their sentences with the stroke of a pen or the click of a mouse. As with any fitness routine, adhering to the rules requires energy and vigilance. The results, however, will speak for themselves.
Introduction: The Writer’s Diet
1. Verbal verve
2. Noun density
3. Prepositional pudge
5. Waste words
Afterword: Healthy writing
Appendix: The WritersDiet Test