I’ve always thought, “If you can write, you can do anything.” When I edit for clients, it seems I always make the same corrections, edits and suggestions. Wordy passive sentences are strung together, riddled with prepositional phrases.
A college sophomore summer class taught me one of the best editing techniques I continue to use. It’s called the Paramedic Method. It was originally developed by Richard Lanham in Revising Prose. The Paramedic Method will help improve your writing’s conciseness, reduce wordiness and will help you activate your sentences by eliminating passive voice and redundancies.
Here’s how it works:
1. Circle the prepositions (of, in, about, for, onto, into).
Too many prepositions eliminate the action in a sentence. Get rid of the prepositions and use strong active verbs to make the sentence direct.
2. Draw a box around the “is” verb forms.
Using “is” makes the sentence weak. Replace as many “to be” verbs with action verbs and change all passive voice. For example, change: “The car was repaired by Sam.” to “Sam repaired the car.“
3. Ask, “Where’s the action?”
Always ask the question: “Who does what to whom?” If you do, you will always write active sentences.
4. Change the “action” into a simple verb.
5. Move the doer into the subject (Who’s kicking whom).
6. Eliminate unnecessary slow wind-ups.
7. Eliminate redundancies.
Following these simple solutions will produce concise and powerful prose.