Monday, January 10, 2022

Writer's diet

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What is the conceptual basis for the Writer’s Diet?

The Writer’s Diet is based on 15 key principles organized according to the 5 word categories described above, each of which is represented by a different color. You are encouraged to follow these principles thoughtfully and consistently rather than rigidly and without exception.


  • Favor strong, specific, robust action verbs (scrutinize, dissect, recount, capture) over weak, vague, predictable ones (have, do, show).
  • Limit your use of be-verbs (is, am, are, was, were, be, being, been) to no more than a few per paragraph.
  • Avoid passive verb constructions (the research was performed; mistakes were made) unless you have a specific reason for using them.


  • Anchor abstract ideas in concrete language and images.
  • Illustrate abstract concepts using real-life examples. (“Show, don’t tell.”’)
  • Limit your use of abstract nouns, especially nominalizations (a.k.a. “zombie nouns”) that have been formed from verbs or adjectives, such as conceptuality or intellectualization.


  • Avoid using more than around three prepositional phrases in a row (e.g. “in a letter to the author of a book about birds’) unless you do so to achieve a specific rhetorical effect.
  • Vary your prepositions.
  • As a general rule, do not allow a noun and its accompanying verb to become separated by more than about twelve intervening words.

Adjectives & adverbs

  • Let concrete nouns and active verbs do most of your descriptive work.
  • Employ adjectives and adverbs only when they contribute new information to a sentence.
  • Avoid overuse of “academic ad-words” with suffixes such as able, ac, al, ant, ary, ent, ful, ible, ic, ive, less, ous.

It, this, that, there

  • Use it and this only when you can state exactly which noun each of these words refers to.
  • Avoid using that more than once in a single sentence or three times in a paragraph, except to achieve a specific stylistic effect.
  • Beware of sweeping generalisations that begin with “there.”

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