The banana test

When we talked about introductions last week, I said not to be too broad.  How do you know if you’re being too broad?

My colleague Karen says: ‘Use the banana test’–if you can substitute your key word for ‘banana’ and it still makes sense, it’s not specific enough.

Throughout history, political processes (bananas) have been significant to human society.

Since the nineteenth century, political processes (bananas) have become increasingly more accessible to ordinary people.

Since 1973, people over 18 have been eligible to vote in Australia, thus expanding their engagement in political processes (bananas).

Banana in parliament

So we can see that last one is actually about right.  Much more specific than you might have thought!


  1. Nice. I do something similar when I have my English as a Second Language student write sentences using specific vocabulary. I tell them if I can substitute another word easily, then the sentence doesn’t really tell me they understand the word they’re supposed to use.

    1. Yes, I got this advice from a colleague trained as an ESL teacher! A lot of the time, ESL advice just makes explicit and clear something that first-language speakers and writers are supposed to ‘know’ (but often don’t, or only intuit which makes editing so hard!).

  2. Reblogged this on RHD and me and commented:
    A very useful idea to help your writing… making sure your introductions and framing sentences are specific to your area of investigation.

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