Rachel Toor: “My Little Bag of Writing Tricks”

Writers sometimes complain that they cannot proofread their own writing effectively because they have memorized their text. They have reviewed the writing so many times that they can no longer see the mistakes.  Rachel Toor (2013) offers a “little bag of writing tricks” that is perfectly suited for such occasions.  Each of these tricks gives writers a concrete strategy for reviewing their writing in new ways and with fairly refreshed eyes.  Here are some examples:

  • To find and correct nominalizations, scan your writing for “words that end in -tion, -ism, -ty, -ment, -ness, -ance, and -ence.”
  • Shrink your type size and scan the structure of your paper to see if the paragraphs are too long or out of balance.
  • Change the font and type size of your writing so you can proofread with a new perspective.
  • Read your drafts to yourself out loud.
  • Use a dictionary, rather than a thesaurus, to aid your search for just the right word.
  • Create your first draft as a Power Point presentation, and then use that presentation as your outline.

I especially appreciated these wise words:

I love cutting my manuscripts. Life is too short to ask people to read bloated sentences loaded with junk phrases like “in the event that,” “on the grounds of,” or “under circumstances which.” When Strunk and White urge me to “omit needless words,” I appreciate the reminder and use the tools in my little bag of tricks to identify and delete those words, when appropriate.

Toor, R. (2013, September 3).  My little bag of writing tricks. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from http://chronicle.com/article/My-Little-Bag-of-Writing/141309/