Sentence Composition Checklist

This is a short list of considerations to use when seeking to write well. Review the following items in order, after writing the first draft of every sentence.

  • The sentence contains no extra words.
  • The sentence is written in the present tense.
  • The sentence is written in active voice, using the pronoun I if suitable.
  • The order of items in the sentence suits the relevance of those items. (The most important item is either at the beginning or the end.)
  • The sentence contains adverbs (-ly words) only where necessary.
  • The sentence avoids gerunds (-ing words) wherever possible. (“A dog runs” is better than “a dog is running”.)
  • The words within the sentence are strong and descriptive.
  • The imagery of the sentence is concrete and specific.
  • The sentence avoids awkward constructions (such as “there is…” and “would…”).
  • The sentence is clear, and communicates precisely what I wish to say.
  • The sentence hints at larger themes, perhaps universal themes, but is not preachy, pedantic, or pretentious. (Show, don’t tell).
  • When I read the sentence aloud, the rhythm is appealing and poetic. (If I separate the phrases of the sentence into separate lines, the sentence becomes a non-rhyming poem.)

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