The Writer’s Diet test

I found this wonderful tool recently and just had to share it with you. There are several tests to evaluate how readable texts are, but the results of this one are such fun!

Helen Sword, who offers the free online tool, is a scholar, award-winning teacher, and poet who has published books and articles on modernist literature, higher education pedagogy, digital poetics, and academic writing. She received her PhD in Comparative Literature from Princeton University and now teaches in the Centre for Academic Development at the University of Auckland.

To try it out, I entered a sample of text that was used by the press a few months ago as an example of impenetrable legalese (see this post for more details). You can see the results in the screenshot below.

By the way, you can click on the two screenshots in this post to enlarge and make them easier to read.


Then I tried out a part of Lord Denning’s famous Miller v Jackson judgment (see this guest post for an entertaining and detailed analysis of Denning’s writing style).


The WritersDiet test can be found here. In addition to the summary information shown above, the tool also gives more advice if you click on the “See full diagnosis” button. Enjoy yourselves!

hand gesture body languageYou might also be interested in this post about a Gunning Fog tool and readability in general, and this post about “Business-ese”.


Credit: Hat tip to Clare for bringing the tool to my attention.

6 thoughts on “The Writer’s Diet test

  1. Thanks Juliette, I did the test with interesting results. Happy New Year and keep up the fascinating and very helpful blog! Mary Lynn

    • Interesting indeed Marcelo.

      Though I felt that the comments on that page took the tool rather too seriously. I don’t think it is intended to be a mathematical measure for all types of texts and would certainly be fallible – as are many readibility scores. For me it is just an amusing and interesting “other” way of looking at a text.

      • By the way, this seems to be the reply posted by Sword herself:
        I developed the test to help stodgy academic writers write more clearly and energetically. Many fabulous pieces of prose will receive scores of “flabby” or even “heart attack” on the test, because stylish writers have the confidence and skill to play around with language in ways that the WritersDiet Test is not designed to evaluate.”

      • Interesting reply from Sword. I guess, then, we could say she abides by the idea that in order to break the rules, one must first know the rules. I had not thought of it from that angle. Perhaps we could try with texts written under the Plain English Movement to see what we get!

  2. Pingback: Google’s T&Cs harder to read than Beowulf | From Words to Deeds: translation & the law

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