write better

Added on by Matthew Sutton.


  1. Does it move the piece forward?
  2. Stand back from the paper and look objectively at the major chunks. Do they all belong?
  3. Move in a little closer. Are there paragraphs or sentences the paper could live without?
  4. Lean over the pages still closer. Are there idle, cluttering phrases or words?
  5. Get out the magnifying glass. Could shorter words express the thought as clearly? Could some words be shortened?



  1. Is there a unity of subject and scope?
  2. Is there a unified tone and style?
  3. Are verb tenses consistent?
  4. Are paragraphs and sentences to the point and unified?


  1. Are all references unambiguous?
  2. Are all words together that belong together?
  3. Are the relationships between sentences and ideas clear?
  4. Are transitions smooth?


  1. Are all the parts in the right proportion?
  2. Are the important things anywhere but in the middle?
  3. Have I used effective repetition, variable length, and careful positioning?


  1. Have I always select the best word, best phrasing, and most effective diction?
  2. Do my sentences vary in length and form?
  3. Have I scrutinized my verbs? Is the use any of these [am, is, are, was, were, be being, been, will, shall, should, have, having, has had, may, might, must, can, could] a passive verb construction? Could I make any of these active or substitute a noun/preposition in a gerund? Have I used the verb that comes as close as possible to giving the reader an image of the action—without requiring an adverb to make it work?
  4. Have I limited modifiers instead of choosing the right noun? Have I used nouns that come as close as possible to describing the subject (or object) without requiring one or more adjectives? Do the nouns paint images, or are they merely vague abstractions? Have I limited parenthetical explanations, modifiers, and clauses? Have I used to concrete details? Have I made my writing live by stimulating the reader’s several senses? Do I have mixed, confused, or dead metaphors?
  5. Have I avoided distracters like obscenities, sexisms, dialects, clichés, jargons, misspellings, and misuses?
  6. Am I enjoying my writing? Will others enjoy my writing?

adapted from Theodore Cheney's Getting the Words Right