Wasteline (yes, wasteline)

6 June 2010

India Drummond points to a useful little tool called The Wasteline Test that measures your wtiting for five common things most of us need to edit out: overuse of ‘be’, abstract nouns, prepositions, adjectives/adverbs and ‘it’, ‘this’, ‘that’ and ‘there’. (Those do begin to look like Monty Python levels of ‘five’.)

Happily, I pasted in a few paragraphs from one of the stories I have out on the market at the moment, and it rated it ‘lean’ in all five categories. On the other hand, it did colour most of a paragraph about railways in central Europe blue because it thought ‘stations’ and ‘compartments’ were abstract nouns.

The copy-editor in me is glad I can’t be replaced by a robot just quite yet.


11 Responses to “Wasteline (yes, wasteline)”

  1. AlexJ Says:

    I’m mentioning it tomorrow – thought it was a cool test.

  2. That sounds cool. I’m going to try it. Oh no! I just used two of the overused!

  3. kate m Says:

    I’ve just tested the first 1200 words of each story from the anthology I edited. They all get “lean” ratings.

    However (yes I am very sad) I also tested the stories featured in last years Guardian Short Story Summer Special, and with the exception of William Boyd and David Mitchell, they were all rated either “flabby” or “heart attack”.

    Then I checked a not-terribly-representative sample of novel extracts I could find on the internet: Zora Neale Hurston, Muriel Spark and Sam Selvon get top notch results. Dickens, Lewis Carrol, Colleen McCullough, John Wyndham and Janet Frame need to get editing. Draw what you will from that really.

    One thing did come through clearly – most of the writers got poor “be-verbs” ratings, chiefly because they wrote in the past tense. Writers using the present tense fared much better.

  4. Old Kitty Says:

    I was rated fit and trim which tickled my funny bone but it also flagged up not my use of “Been” but just BE(en). Which I thought was weird.

    Nevermind. I can live with fit and trim. I think I like my chocolate too much to be lean.

    I like what kate m did by the way – testing random extracts from established authors! LOL!!

    Take care

  5. David Mitchell *didn’t* set it off?! (Well, I suppose there wasn’t an algorithm for ‘narrative suddenly goes loopdeloop’.)

  6. SF Says:

    I also got a ‘fit and trim’, though it picked up ‘rusty’ as an abstract noun, so no, not afraid of robots taking editors’ jobs just yet.

  7. Bernita Says:

    Don’t think I dare try D&D. It is what it is.First person is like that…

  8. Bernita Says:

    I did try a short sample. I’m fine–lean and trim, though my prepositional use could do with a workout– but when did “stink” and “teeth” become adjectives?

  9. Ann Says:

    I must give this a try, though I dread it.

  10. Ann Says:

    Big smiles, I am fit and trim. Made my day.

  11. ‘Stink’ and ‘teeth’ are odd, aren’t they? But well done to all the fit and trim!

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