Master Revision Checklist

When critiquing the works of others (and myself) at workshops and such, I’ve found that many early drafts rely heavily on telling rather than showing, weak descriptors, wordy-bogged down sentences, and weak nouns/verbs. After my first draft, I go through my entire work using FIND. I look for certain words that indicate sloppy writing and then I fix the sentence.

I have a Master Revision Checklist I use for this. Some of it came from other workshops and authors, some of it myself. I don’t claim ownership of this entire list, so feel free to use and share as you will.


* Check title capitalizations

* When you can, eliminate passive voice (search for “There was” and “There were” and “was being” and “were being” and other TO BE verbs)

* Tune Dialogue Attributions or tags– use SAID and ASKED only. Or things dealing with volume (shouted, whispered, etc.)

* Fix superfluous “that” usage. If the sentences makes sense without the that, take it out.

* Removing confusing -ing constructions


* She smelled

* She looked

* She saw

* She felt

* She heard

* She knew

* Began to / Started to

* Whether or not / Whether (if superfluous, kill it)

* The fact that (always remove)

* Thing (be more descriptive)

* Nearly

* Almost

* Not (try to speak affirmatively. “He forgot” vs. “He didn’t remember”)

* Once more / again / once again (if they don’t add something or clarify, ditch)

* Around (redundant. How else will you spin?)

QUALIFIERS (Weak Adjective/Noun)–Search for:

a bit, a good deal, a great deal, enough, even, fairly,  indeed, instead, just, kind of, sort of, least, less, a little, a whole lot, a lot, more, most,  pretty, quite, rather, really, somewhat, still, too, very


Not always necessary. Ask yourself if it can be reworded better.


* Among (more than 2 things/people involved) vs. Between (exactly 2)

* Compared with (point out differences) vs. compared to (similarities)

* Due to (don’t use if trying to say because of)

* Each and every (used in dialogue only)

* Enormity (shouldn’t be used for size.)

* However (however, large it is vs. however large it is,)

* Inside of (if location, drop of. Inside of = in less than, as in “inside of one hour”)

* Nauseous = sickening to contemplate vs. Nauseated = sick to the stomach

* Nice = boring

* Nor, should come near a neither

* One of the most = weak. eliminate

* Possess (pretentious. can use some)

* shall (implies belief in future event) vs. will (determination / consent)

* That (restrictive clause, e.g. necessary) vs. which (unrestrictive clause, e.g. unnecessary”


If the point of the passage is to describe the process of sensing, then I filter. If, however, what is being sensed is more important than the process of sensing it, then I eliminate the filters.

* See, sees, saw, seeing, seen;

* hear, hears, heard, hearing;

* feel, feels, felt, feeling;

* look, looks, looked, looking

* know, knows, knew, knowing

* think, thinks, thought, thinking

* wonder, wonders, wondered, wondering

* realize, realizes, realized, realizing

* watch, watches, watched, watching

* notice, notices, noticed, noticing

* seem, seems, seemed, seeming

* decide, decides, decided, deciding

* sound, sounds, sounded, sounding


Something of something— search for “…of the….”  (Change door of the car to car door and neck of the beast to beast’s neck)


They aren’t always bad but double check that there isn’t a better way to say it. Search for:

* turned, reached, looked, turned to face (can just be faced).

This should make your draft much cleaner.

Write on!