Welcome to austinagrodolce … My family and I garden with more intention and enthusiasm than allocated budget or overall design plan. It shows. Wildlife populations don't seem to notice our lack of cohesive design, they just like the native plants here. It seems by growing local we've thrown out a welcome mat. Occasionally, we're surprised at who (and what) shows up.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


Turns out I am a huge fan of online tests.  They are so SO much better than the old, take a quiz in the back of your magazine type tests.  Less math for one thing.  Immediate results for the other.

The tests measure different things, but they all work the same way.  You answer a batch of questions, press a button, and whammo!  You get your test result.

That result might reveal all sorts of fascinating, at times vaguely nonsensical factoids about you such as "What's Your Spirit Flower?", "What Hogwart's House are you" or provide insights on meatier topics such as "Where Am I on a global fat scale?".

Lately I'd been thinking about blogging, about writing, about why people do it and who they are doing it for.  It seemed fortuitous when I ran across an opinion piece in the NYT about "Zombie Nouns" by University of Auckland professor, Helen Sword.

Sword writes, "Nouns formed from other parts of speech are called nominalizations. Academics love them; so do lawyers, bureaucrats and business writers. I call them “zombie nouns” because they cannibalize active verbs, suck the lifeblood from adjectives and substitute abstract entities for human beings:

The proliferation of nominalizations in a discursive formation may be an indication of a tendency toward pomposity and abstraction.

The sentence above contains no fewer than seven nominalizations, each formed from a verb or an adjective. Yet it fails to tell us who is doing what. When we eliminate or reanimate most of the zombie nouns (tendency becomes tend, abstraction becomes abstract) and add a human subject and some active verbs, the sentence springs back to life:

Writers who overload their sentences with nominalizations tend to sound pompous and abstract. "

That brought me up short.  Does my writing sound pompous and abstract?  Could that be behind what I perceive is a dearth of commenting readers regularly visiting this blog?

A bit of a postscript at the end of the piece caught my eye.  It read in part: "To diagnose your own zombie habits, try pasting a few samples of your prose into the Writer's Diet test.  A score of "flabby" or "heart attack" in the noun category indicates that 5 percent or more of your words are nominalizations."

A test!  Oh joy!  I could take an online test! Based upon my test results I had no doubt I'd be able to turn around whatever flabby writing must be behind the disappointing lack of lively community building going on in my comments section.

Fast as I could I cut and pasted a chunk from a recent blog post and plugged it into the Writer's Diet.

Hey! Ta daaa!  Lean!  You guys! My writing came back lean.  Furthermore, when I downloaded the pdf rendering the "full diagnosis" I was treated to two pages of color coded "Key principles".  Sweet!

Now I've got both lean writing and key principles.  What?  You wouldn't have bothered with the download?  Pish tosh.  I am dead certain you would be similarly frantic to learn SPECIFICALLY how wonderful that writing sample you provided is.  Was.  Anyway, back to writing leanly about how lean my writing here is.  Was.

If I heed the advice provided under the heart warming caption "No improvements needed"(hold it, I'm going to just sit here with that for a moment, you keep reading...),  I will continue to produce "energetic prose".  And won't you be grateful?  Of course you will.  The lean writing you are going to keep finding here will....I don't know.....guarantee your eyes don't get fat?  Something.  But something leanly.


Tina said...

I LOVE this post!! Too good to be true. I have the same issue about the lack of comments on my blog. In fact, it's been over a month since I last posted (until tonight) partly because I'd just about given up. In your case, it's definitely not poor writing--you have one of the more interesting, funny and lively blogs around (at least, of the Austin bloggers--I don't read much else as I have other things to do). I think there's something else going on, but I'm not quite sure what it is. Quite frankly, I've seen some crappy local blogs and some of them get loads of comments. So, I think there are other forces at work. Ideas??

Cat said...

You never fail to have me ROFL! Thank god I'm not gonna get fat reading your lean prose! This whole middle age, sitting around reading blogs thing is already wrecking havoc on my once trim waistline! Oh, that might be a fatty statement. Wrecking, right? Ha!

Seriously, your writing is fantastic. Doesn't surprise me a bit your sample came back lean. :)

TexasDeb said...

Tina- I'm stumped about the comments thing. Totally stumped. I did note the gap in posts on your blog by the way and wondered if you were busy or on break. So your absence was noted and your return is welcomed. Always.

Cat- You are a wonderful person of impeccable tastes. So say I. We won't speak of waistlines at the moment. That's a post for another day, yeah?

Seriously, I didn't think I was fishing for compliments with this - I was completely distracted by and caught up having fun with the test. I'm all gosh-i-fied by your kind words.

My commenters may not be legion, but y'all are the Few! the Proud! and some of the nicest ladies I've never actually met. I appreciate each and every one of you.

Tina said...

I took that test--I'm flabby, btw. Sigh. Even so, considering some of the blogs I've seen where where I've read "less fit" writing than my own and yet the blogger appears to have a following, I'm not quite sure what to make of it. I always enjoy your posts and one of the things I really like about them (besides readability) is that you write about different topics. You always have an interesting take on the subject you're focused on and that makes reading such a pleasure. I told myself I'd blog for a year and that time is almost up--I'll have to decide if it's worth the time/effort. But always, thanks for reading.