Revising Sentences Using the Paramedic Method
Read about the Paramedic Method from Richard Lanham's Revising Prose
Basic Steps of the Paramedic Method (slightly modified)
- Circle all the “to be” verbs.
- Circle all the prepositions.
- Focus on sentences one at a time that have circles (particularly to be verbs).
- Ask "Where's the action?" Ask, "Who's Kicking Who? Clarify the real "actor" (subject) and the real "action" (verb).
- Revise the sentence putting these two--the actor and action (subject and verb)--together. Be sure to use an active verb.
Other helpful steps:
--Write out separate sentences you are revising on a blank screen or piece of paper.
--Read your revised versions of sentences aloud (with emphasis and feeling) to see if they make sense and flow well.
Principles of Revising Sentences
(In each case, I have highlighted a clear subject and active verb.)
Use an ACTIVE verb with a clear SUBJECT—put the subject first:
An account was opened by Mrs. Simms.
Mrs. Simms opened an account.
Squeeze long verb phrases into single ACTIVE verbs:
The departure of the fleet is thought to be necessarily conditional on the weather.
The fleet's departure depends on the weather.
Avoid "shun" words—nominalization
My recommendation is for a larger budget.
I recommend a larger budget.
Revise all "expletive" sentences beginning with "there is" or "there are" or "this is."
There is a certain possibility that Joe will visit before Thanksgiving.
Joe may visit before Thanksgiving.
Shift verbs to the positive from the negative:
Do not accept bids that are not signed.
Accept only signed bids.
See Guide on Conciseness for other trimming techniques.
Try these exercises to practice revising sentences using the Paramedic Method and principles of conciseness.