Blog Grammar Rules Does Your Writing Need a Paramedic?

Does Your Writing Need a Paramedic?

Way back in 1979, Dr. Richard Lanham felt he had to do something about the deadly prose most business people were writing. He knew he could pump verbal oxygen into the near-dead corpse of corporate language. So, he set out to revitalize writing by creating the Paramedic Method to breathe life back into dead sentences. This method aims to help writers learn to write more concisely, persuasively and actively.

  1. The Paramedic Method
  2. Challenge one: liberate your verbs
  3. Challenge two: use fewer words
  4. Challenge three: replace your weak verbs

The Paramedic Method

The Paramedic Method includes the following seven steps:

  1. Circle the prepositions (of, in, about, for, onto, into, etc.)
  2. Draw a box around the "is" verb forms
  3. Ask, "Where's the action?"
  4. Change the action into a simple verb
  5. Move the do-er into the subject (Dan likes cheese, Amy won, etc.)
  6. Eliminate unnecessarily slow wind-ups
  7. Eliminate any redundancies

Today, of course, an editing tool like ProWritingAid can do a lot of the hard work for us. Still, it's important to gain a strong understanding of the reasons behind the rules and exercise our writing muscles.

Consider this:

  • It is the opinion of this writer that the implementation of the plan is essential to the organization.

Phew—18 words!

How refreshing is this revision:

  • We must implement the plan.

Just five words!

You can do this, too. Below are three challenges that will immediately strengthen your writing. Grab a sheet of paper and get ready!

Challenge one: liberate your verbs

Verbs are the most powerful words in your writing. Inexperienced writers often turn their verbs into nouns, which takes away their power. Look at the sentences in the following example. One contains a noun with the action buried in it; the other, with the verb liberated from that noun.

Example. Write a sentence with this noun: modification

  • Modification of the contract was done by the publisher.

Now re-write it again with the liberated verb.

  • The publisher modified the contract.

Notice how the sentence length drops drastically, from nine words to five, and yet clarity increases?

Now, you give it a try with the three exercises below.

1. Write a sentence with this noun: compensation

Now re-write it again with the liberated verb.

2. Write a sentence with this noun: conceptualization

Now re-write it again with the liberated verb.

3. Write a sentence with this noun: compilation

Now re-write it again with the liberated verb.

Challenge two: use fewer words

Put what you've learned so far to good use. Reduce the following sentence by at least 75%. (It currently has 31 words. Can you get it down to just seven words?)

  • There is a great deal of hatred on the part of the fans of the Lakers of Los Angeles towards the fans of the Pistons of Detroit at the present time.

Challenge three: replace your weak verbs

Weak verbs lead to excess words. Replace weak verbs with strong action verbs, reduce the number of prepositions, and simplify to achieve vibrant expression. Have a go at the following to see if you can strengthen the verbs whilst lowering the word count:

  1. A vote was taken by the committee. (7 words)

  2. Reliability of a system is determined by the design of that system. (12 words)

  3. It is the opinion of my manager that the culture of an organization is reflected in the morale of the employees who work in that organization. (26 words)

  4. It has been the policy of this firm to make a determination in favor of the employee when there is a dispute between the manager and an employee that is weighted equally in terms of the facts that have been presented. (41 words)

  5. The errors might be attributed to the fact that if a person is a poor listener, he or she is less likely to pay attention to details than will someone who is a good listener. (35 words)

  6. There has been a number of proposals that have been accepted by the committee on the basis of their wide inclusion of both facts that have been established and the opinions of those who are regarded as experts. (38 words)

  7. If there is poetic realism that seems to be somber or grotesque, it may be attributed to the fact that the poet is probably someone who has been living a life that is filled with experiences that can be described as somber or grotesque in nature. (46 words)

  8. Productivity is often the result of relationships between co-workers that have been nurtured in order for cooperation to be fostered. (20 words)

  9. A great deal of time was expended by the police in the search for the person who has been dubbed the thief of time clocks. (25 words)

  10. The grass in the courtyard that was designed at the center of the business complex by a landscape architect was cut by a gardener with no appreciation of such art. (30 words)

Today’s readers have more to read than at any other time in history. So, whether you’re writing novels or news stories, you will want to practice verbal economy.

These fixes will make an enormous difference in helping your readers glean the most important information. They will also prevent your readers from getting lost in the syntactical weeds.

Share your thoughts on the Paramedic Method in the comments below. Did you come up with a great rewrite for any of our examples?

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Dr. Marlene Caroselli is an author, keynoter, and corporate trainer whose clients include Lockheed Martin, Allied Signal, Department of the Interior, and Navy SEALS. She writes extensively about education, business, self-improvement, and careers and has adjuncted at UCLA and National University. Her first book, The Language of Leadership, was named a main selection by the Executive Book Club. Principled Persuasion, a more recent title, was designated a Director's Choice by the Doubleday Book Club. Applying Mr. Albert: 365+ Einstein-Inspired Brain Boosts, her 62nd book, will be released by HRD Press in 2018.

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