Now that youíve developed a systematic approach to writing based
on the checklist you read about in my previous column, youíre
feeling the power. I can tell. You look more confident. Youíre
less reluctant to tackle that next challenging assignment, more
eager to stake out your position in writing.
So here you are. Youíve made your way, point by point, through my
eight-point checklist. Youíve (1) identified your purpose, (2)
organized your thoughts into coherent, logical order, (3) gathered
supporting information, (4) thought about your reader, (5)
developed a persuasive strategy, (6) written your first draft, (7)
revised your text, and (8) proofread your document. Nice going.
By taking this systematic approach to writing, youíve completed a
particularly complex assignment without your normal anxiety
attacks, meltdowns, and endless procrastination. Well done. Pat
yourself on the back. Savor the empowerment that comes from having
developed a reliable method. Itís a good feeling, isnít it? Your
neurotransmitters are on overdrive. Enjoy the dopamine rush.
Youíve earned it.
So now the moment has arrived. Youíre ready to send. Or are you?
By taking a systematic approach to planning, drafting, revising,
and proofreading your writing, youíve increased your odds for
success, but how do you know if what youíre about to send is truly
What you need Ė you guessed it Ė is another checklist, this one
not for creating text but for evaluating it. Based on my
experience in reading 25 million writing samples and student
papers over my 42 years of teaching (I exaggerate Ė Iíve only been
teaching 41 years), this four-step method may also be applied to
evaluating other peopleís writing.
1. Begin by looking, not reading.
Check for consistency in format, headings, style, and punctuation.
Are your pages numbered sequentially? If youíre working on hard
copy, did the printer skip any pages? Are headings within the same
category consistent in font and style? Are items in vertical lists
numbered correctly and punctuated consistently? Are they parallel
(for example, are they all sentences or all fragments, and not a
mix)? Have you forgotten your attachment?
2. Check for clarity.
Begin by reading your headings. Do they convey your main
conclusions and principal points? Are they arranged in logical
order? Next read the first sentence of each paragraph. Do your
topic sentences indicate where youíre going next? When needed, do
your transitions such as for these reasons and despite
these concerns link the thought of one paragraph to another?
Have you offered sufficient detail and examples to illustrate your
points? Given your readerís knowledge and sophistication, have you
offered the right detail, in the right language?
3. Check for accuracy and errors.
Double-check your facts. Confirm the spelling of all names and
titles, especially those of your recipient. Although you proofread
your document earlier, check once more for errors in word choice,
grammar, and spelling.
4. Take one last look.
Have you accomplished your purpose? Go back to the first question
you asked yourself when you began writing. What do you want your
reader to do or think as a result of reading your message? Is your
persuasive strategy right for your goal?
Now take a deep breath and send. Itís too late to change anything
See related column: Writing checklist