I love checklists. I even love them for my writing. Here’s a nice one I’m giving my students tomorrow. I want every sentence to shimmer.
1. Did I eliminate “to be” (am, is, are, was, were, has, have, seems, appears, exists, etc.) verbs and spice my writing with vivid verbs that create a mood?
2. Did I transform verbs to their strongest form (chop off “ed” or “ing”) to keep in present tense and avoid passive voice?
3. Did I juggle secret ingredients (semicolons, dashes, commas, parentheses, colons) to generate rhythm, build ethos, and create a written voice?
4. Can I find long, convoluted sentences and break them apart? Did I add in sentences of varying length? Have I mixed long, short, and medium length sentences within the paragraph, and did I begin each sentence with a different pattern?
5. Did I match the word choice and tone to my audience by selecting words they might use or hear often?
6. Did I build rapport by asking a question, sharing my feelings, imagining the reader’s feelings, using analogies, referencing shared experiences, and attaching the writing to the reader’s concerns or interests?
7. Can I locate every conjunction (and, but, for, or, nor, so, yet) and determine if punctuation is correct (commas, semi-colons, or nothing needed)?
8. Will I cut out any fat from sentences (meaningless phrases or redundant expressions) by placing the noun right next to the verb to help keep sentences concise?
9. Did I utilize the rhetorical appeals? Did I generate emotion (pathos), engage reasoning (logos) and build my trustworthiness (ethos).
10. Did I keep sentences on topic? If a new topic emerges, did I begin a new paragraph with a clear transition sentence for my reader?
What’s your current writing project?