editing workshop: looking AT/wordle

  1. My emphasis on looking AT prose and not simply looking Through it (the traditional model) is informed, as I have mentioned, by a teacher, writer, critic named Richard Lanham. In his book Revising Prose, 5th edition, he offers this summary of how to swiftly assess and fix some typical problems. He calls it the ‘paramedic method’:
  2. Circle the prepositions
  3. Circle the ‘is’ forms.
  4. Find the action.
  5. Put this action in a simple (not compound) active verb. [for example: change “Birkerts is writing” to “Birkerts writes”
  6. Start fast–no slow windups. [he calls them “blah blah is that” openings; for example: “The fact of the matter is that Birkerts…”
  7. Read the passage aloud with emphasis and feeling; I suggest you do this at least once with the entire essay–or perhaps have it read and listen to it.
  8. Write out each sentence on a blank screen and mark off its basic rhythmic units with a ‘/.’
  9. Mark off sentence length with a ‘/.’ [can also do this by hitting return at end of each sentence, noticing sentence variety (or its absence).

Another way to use digital technology to look AT–really look at–our writing, the shape and vision of our writing: try Wordle. Copy your essay into the box: look for keywords that are important; look for words that are being used too much.


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