Revising Prose

by Richard A. Lanham

Amazon Hard Cover

ISBN: 0321441699

My rating: 7/10


It's only 176 pages and I think it's a required read for all office workers. This is about cutting the fats and writing your idea clearly.

Highlights

Nobody feels comfortable writing simply "Boy meets Girl."

Our education system required us to write "A romantic relationship is ongoing between Boy and Girl."

The Paramedic Method

  1. Circle the prepositions.
  2. Circle the "is" forms.
  3. Ask, "Where's the action?" "Who's kicking who?"
  4. Put this "kicking" action in a simple (not compound) active verb.
  5. Start fast - no slow windups.
  6. Write out each sentence on a blank sheet of paper and mark off its basic rhythmic units with a "/" .
  7. Read the passage aloud with emphasis and feeling.
  8. Mark off sentence lengths in the passage with a "/".

Where's the action? Who's kicking who?

The bad sentences below have no life. They are diluted by the 'is'.

Bad: This sentence is in need of an active verb.

Good: This sentence needs an active verb.

Lard factor = (words in original sentence - words in new sentence) / words in original sentence

Bad: Physical satisfaction is the most obvious of the consequences of premarital sex

Good: Premarital sex satisfies! Obviously!

Another example:

Bad: One of the most important results of the presentation of the data is the alteration of the status of the elements of the discourse.

Good: The status of the discourse elements depends on how you present the data

Slow-mo Openings

The point I wish to make is that...

The fact of the matter is that...

What surprised me the most is that...

Easy fix: CTRL + F to find for the phrase "is that" and delete those openings.

Examples

Bad: The most important thing to remember is the fact that interest in the arts has not declined in popularity.

Good: Interest in the arts has not declined.

Bad: The generation of television is a feeble one, it is a generation lacking in many areas, especially that of artistic background and interest.

Good: The TV generation has shown little interest in art - or in anything else either.

Bad: Twelve-year-old boys like to fight. Consequently, on several occasions I explained to them the negative aspects of fighting. Other responsibilities included keeping them dry (when near the creek or at times of rain), seeing that they bathed, attending to any minor wounds they acquired, and controlling their mischievous behavior. Another responsibility was remaining patient with the children.

Good: Twelve-year-old boys like to fight. Often, I had to stop them. And I had to keep them out of the rain, and the creek, and mischief generally. I had to give out Band-Aids and keep my temper.

"Other responsibilities" sounds like a job description.

In life, you keep them out of the rain. You don't keep them dry.

Read aloud with emphasis and coloration. Vary the sentence length.

Take responsibility and drop phrases like "I think..."

Avoid vague nouns like fixation, function, flexibility, capability, concept and so on.


Get the latest blog posts into your email.
Subscribe now.