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5 August 2012, 7:37pm
WritersDiet™ Test Results
Your overall score
Fit and trim
it, this, that, there
Fit and trim
Needs toning
Suggestions for improvement
Your writing sample contains a relatively high proportion of abstract nouns. To pep up stodgy
prose, follow The Writer’s Diet principles below, paying special attention to the items
highlighted in yellow below.
Key principles
Verbal verve
Limit be-verbs (is, was, are, were, be, been) to no more than a few per paragraph. Favor strong,
specific, robust action verbs (scrutinize, dissect, capture) over weak, vague, lazy ones (have, do,
show). Steer clear of passive verb constructions (it has been demonstrated) except when used for
stylistic effect.
Noun density
Anchor abstract ideas in concrete language and illustrate theoretical concepts using real-life
examples. (Show, don’t just tell!) Avoid overdependence on nominalizations: long,
important-sounding nouns formed from verbs or adjectives (overdependence, nominalizations,
Prepositional podge
Avoid long strings of prepositional phrases, especially when they drive nouns and verbs apart
("The principle of keeping nouns and verbs as close to each other as possible for the benefit of
readers has many benefits").
Employ adjectives and adverbs only when they contribute new information to a sentence; get
your nouns and verbs to do most of your descriptive work.
Waste words: it, this, that, there
Employ it and this only when you can state exactly what noun each word refers to; avoid using
that more than once in a single sentence or three times in a paragraph, except in parallel
5 August 2012, 7:37pm
constructions; and beware of sweeping generalizations that begin with There.
Important: The WritersDiet Test offers an automated diagnosis, not a subtle stylistic analysis or
a prescriptive personal judgment. For best results, use the test together with The Writer’s Diet
(Sword 2007), which discusses stylistic nuances and exceptions that the WritersDiet Test cannot
Text excerpted from H. Sword (2007) The Writer’s Diet Pearson Education NZ.
Your sample
Your sample has 201 words.
Except for passive voice, the use of nominalizations (a/k/a buried verbs) is perhaps the best sign
of poor legal writing. Below, I discuss what nominalizations and buried verbs are, and how to
eliminate them from your legal writing. Here are 30 nominalizations taken from Garner’s Legal
Writing in Plain English, Garner on Language and Writing, and Garner’s Advanced Legal
Writing &Editing seminar textbook, and the action verbs you should replace them with: It’s clear
that the bolded words above are preferred to the buried-verb phrases that precede them, yet
frequently I see these buried-verb phrases in opposing briefs and some opinions, especially the
favorite of many judges—in accordance with. So why do legal writers use so many
nominalizations containing -ion words? The Winning Brief says we can blame Jeremy Bentham:
History aside, Garner’s Modern American Usage and Garner on Language and Writing say that
there are four reasons why you should uncover buried verbs. Of course, it’s common for
non-lawyers to use nominalizations and related wordy phrases. For example, at my parking
garage there’s a sign. Striking the nominalization in accordance with, and changing the passive
voice smoking is prohibited to active voice, we get: “The Minnesota Clean Air Act prohibits