Do your sentences sag? Could your paragraphs use a pick-me-up? If so, The Writer’s Diet is for you! It’s a short, sharp introduction to great writing that will help you energize your prose and boost your verbal fitness.
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.
About the Author
Helen Sword is professor and director of the Centre for Learning and Research in Higher Education at the University of Auckland. She is the author, most recently, of Stylish Academic Writing and manages the website www.writersdiet.com.
“Addressing wielders of words who remain in thrall to the passive verb and the abstract noun, Sword aims to lead us to ‘fit and trim’ prose via an assault course covering horrors such as ‘Prepositional pudge,’ ‘Ad-dictions’ and ‘Waste words.’ The tone is equal parts exasperation and encouragement, and worth every sweaty minute.”
— Times Higher Education
“Who says nutritious material must be bland? This short book is packed with excellent advice on writing, offered with charm and good cheer.”
— Steven Pinker, Johnstone Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century
“Even the leanest and most muscular stylists can end up with jiggly bits in their prose. With Sword as your coach, and The Writer’s Diet as your training manual, you can slim down, tone up, and become a more energetic, engaging, and lively writer.”
— Rachel Toor, columnist for The Chronicle of Higher Education and associate professor of creative writing at Eastern Washington University