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The Writer’s Diet reads mock student sentences

When we tested The Writer’s Diet on some mock student sentences with various mistakes, we got a predictable result that matched our earlier observations as teachers.

The Writer’s Diet often diagnoses student writing as “flabby,” but this is not because they have mastered the skill of academic gibberish. In fact, students rarely overuse abstract jargon, including nominalisations. Instead, the inability to express themselves clearly and concisely and to write with rhetorical certainty manifests in student writing through a reliance on weak verbs (forms of “to be”) and in so-called “waste words” (“it,” “this,” “that”…).



We suspect that most “bad,” convoluted academic writing, is picked up gradually, like a bad habit, by novice writers who unconsciously absorb incorrect assumptions about how one should write from more senior academics.


The Writer’s Diet version available in 2019 was used in this experiment.

Text used in the experiment: A set of sentences with mistakes that we devised as part of classroom activities (see Exercises for some suggestions). To download the sentences in .docx format, click here.