Test Your Writing With a Few Handy Rules

So I’ve been checking out the test over at writer’s diet, plugging in a few bits of my prose, and you’ll all be happy to know that I am certified as “lean and fit”.  Sadly, the same cannot be said for Neil Gaiman and Ernest Hemingway, who “need toning”.  H.P. Lovecraft occupies the lofty “lean and trim” zone with me, but a glance at the test results indicate that it is missing at least half of his adjectives, presumably because they are a bit baroque by today’s standards (although I might be tempted to use “rotten” and “wooded” and “cursed” myself, which the test didn’t think were adjectives – and hell, it caught “orgiastic” and “amigerous”).  So I suspect his true score really ought to be more along the lines of “flabby”

This is the problem with prescriptivism, of course – these days it is just too easy to test the iron-clad rules, what with the internet and all, and they invariably seem to return comical results.  And when you up and actually place the very means for testing your rules on your own website, you’re just asking for trouble.

I suspect that Dr. Sword has never actually checked her own prose with her test, because she “knows” it is fine (and heck, it probably is), just like E.B. White never checked to see that he used more adjectives than most authors before telling the rest of us not to use them.  But if she did, she might get a nasty surprise.  An article of her’s in the New York Times already got the Language Log treatment, demonstrating that she is a bit shaky on exactly which nouns are derived from verbs and which aren’t, after all.


~ by smwilliams on August 2, 2012.

4 Responses to “Test Your Writing With a Few Handy Rules”

  1. Ooooooh, I love those kind of tests. I hate them, too. My results:
    LEAN – in all categories. Is that good or bad?

    • It means you write like Dashiell Hammet. I have no idea whether that is considered good or bad, but I like Hammet, myself. You should probably check for highlighted words (and ones that aren’t highlighted) – the test pegs things like “family” as an adverb, while missing all sorts of adjectives and failing to call out 90% of verbs derived from nouns, which is supposed to be a horrible sin.

  2. […] joy! SM William of the Blue Candle Society blog has alerted me to yet another procrastination tool that is just fun fun […]

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