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Subject, audience, purpose

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


  • 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?
  • How many paragraphs did I use to talk about each point?
  • Why did I talk about them in this order? Should the order be changed?
  • How did I get from one point to the next? What signposts did I give the reader?

Paragraphing (ask these questions of every paragraph)

  • What job is this paragraph supposed to do? How does it relate to the paragraph before and after it?
  • What’s the topic idea? Will my reader have trouble finding it?
  • How many sentences did it take to develop the topic idea? Can I substitute better examples, reasons, or details?
  • 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)

  • Which sentences in my paper do I like the most? The least?
  • Can my reader “see” what I’m saying? What words could I substitute for people, things, this/that, aspect, etc.?
  • Is this sentence “fat”?
  • Can I combine this sentence with another one?
  • 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?
  • How does my paper end? Did I keep the promises I made to my reader at the beginning of the paper?
  • When I read the assignment again, did I miss anything?
  • 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