A Checklist for Writing

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?

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  1. Hi from a long lost college student of yours (used to be Maddie Bamer) but now after MARRIAGE, Maddie Weaver. 🙂

    We are currently working on descriptive writing in our classroom, or as we call it, writing with flair. 🙂 I still have and use your book that I purchased for English 202B and try to adapt some of it for the little guys!

    I hope you are doing well and that your girls are good too!



  2. My current writing project consists of correcting my previous project, writing my resignation from writing, writing a new resume and a living will. I'm also updating my title from author, to part time poet and photo caption writer.

  3. This checklist significantly improved my writing when I took your writing in the humanities class Heather!! Now I love to share this, as well as other “Writing with Flair” techniques with my students and friends. Even Armenians and people around the world benefit from your creative writing tips!! Thank you thank you thank you!!!