Subject, Audience, Purpose

  1. What’s the most important thing I want to say about my subject?
  2. Who am I writing this paper for? What would my reader want to know about the subject? What does my reader already know about it?
  3. Why do I think the subject is worth writing about? Will my reader think the paper was worth reading?
  4. What verb explains what I’m trying to do in this paper (tell a story, compare X and Y, describe Z)?
  5. Does my first paragraph answer questions 1-4? If not, why not?


  1. How many specific points do I make about my subject? Did I overlap or repeat any points? Did I leave my points out or add some that aren’t relevant to the main idea?
  2. How many paragraphs did I use to talk about each point?
  3. Why did I talk about them in this order? Should the order be changed?
  4. How did I get from one point to the next? What signposts did I give the reader?

Paragraphing (Ask these questions of every paragraph)

  1. What job is this paragraph supposed to do? How does it relate to the paragraph before and after it?
  2. What’s the topic idea? Will my reader have trouble finding it?
  3. How many sentences did it take to develop the topic idea? Can I substitute better examples, reasons, or details?
  4. How well does the paragraph hold together? How many levels of generality does it have? Are the sentences different lengths and types? Do I need transitions? When I read the paragraph out loud, did it flow smoothly?

Sentences (Ask these questions of every sentence)

  1. Which sentences in my paper do I like the most? The least?
  2. Can my reader “see” what I’m saying? What words could I substitute for people, things, this/that, aspect, etc.?
  3. Is this sentence “fat”?
  4. Can I combine this sentence with another one?
  5. Can I add adjectives and adverbs or find a more lively verb?

Things to Check Last

    Did I check spelling and punctuation? What kinds of grammar or punctuation problems did I have in my last paper?

  1. How does my paper end? Did I keep the promises I made to my reader at the beginning of the paper?
  2. When I read the assignment again, did I miss anything?
  3. What do I like best about his paper? What do I need to work on in the next paper?

— from A Rhetoric for Writing Teachers by Erika Lindemann

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