Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Writers Diet Test

Schoolyards buzzed with activity. Boys gathered in camps and plotted raids onto courts and fields. They ran and burst across the concrete, and wreaked havoc everywhere. Girls formed tight circles of conspiracy. They laughed and shrieked, danced over jump ropes and hop scotch. Boys and girls formed separate armies. Traitors crossed battle lines to flirt, pull hair, and blow kisses, but the hardcore troops forgot them, like the names of soldiers dead in battles.

Handball courts possessed speed, danger and power. The game was not for people with weak arms or hearts. One warrior could challenge another, and the two gladiators entered the arena with one goal: crush the opponent. When teams formed, the contest evolved into a fast dance of four bodies, one ball, and one wall.


I wrote the above passage after reading two NY Times blogs on grammar and writing style and then clicking onto this website that had a "writers diet test." First, I entered two passages from my forthcoming book, and the test told me that my writing needed to go on life support. The prose was bloated, the verbs vague and clunky. This is a paragraph from my book that I entered into the test, one I thought was a great piece of writing:

On February 3, 1964, one of the largest civil rights demonstrations in United States history occurred. Nearly half a million students boycotted a racially segregated municipal public school system as parents and activists demanded a plan for comprehensive desegregation. Ten years after the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision had declared racially segregated public schools unconstitutional, this city’s government had failed to desegregate the school system. The integration movement rallied behind a Christian minister, a man known for his eloquent, trenchant sermons against racial discrimination and poverty. He transformed his church into a movement headquarters, which organized racially integrated “freedom schools” throughout the city. The man and the movement made history.

The diagnostic test said the passage was about to die from overuse of vague subjects and weak nouns.

It just goes to show - never trust writers or parents to be objective about what they create.  

Was my writing really horrible? 


Addicts must admit their problems before they recover.

Hello. my name is Brian, and I am addicted to academic verbiage. 

I pecked across the keyboard and wrote that memory about mornings in the St. Mark's schoolyard. Thankfully, that short passage passed the test. The computer considered the prose and verbs and adjectives "lean." When I wrote that passage I concentrated on clear nouns and active verbs. 

What a great devise, and habit!

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