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MEMRISTORS - Sentence-wise writing and editing

"You want to write a sentence as clean as a bone. That is the goal."

James Baldwin in a 1984 interview with The Paris Review


Over the years, my academic writing process has become increasingly sentence-focused. I begin by writing each sentence on a separate line. I leave a blank line wherever I think a paragraph break will be. I then audit each sentence independently, using the checklist questions below. The mnemonic "MEMRISTORS" aids recall of the nine questions.

Checklist questions

  1. What is the‚Äč precise Meaning of this written sentence?
  2. Can I just Erase this entire sentence?
  3. How will readers Misinterpret this sentence?
  4. Does this sentence need References to support what it's claiming? Probably.
  5. Is this sentence Irrefutable? Does it state as a fact something that isn't definitely true?
  6. Will it be clearer if I Split this sentence into shorter sentences?
  7. Can I Trim Out any words from this sentence? Usually, yes.
  8. Recite the sentence out loud to identify grammatical errors. Reading it to yourself silently is ineffective - you must speak the words. You don't have to read it loudly, but you have to speak the words. Also, editing introduces grammatical errors, so you need to do this as a final check after editing.
  9. Are there Spelling errors in this sentence?

Sometimes, I end up turning my list of sentences into bullet points rather than a paragraph. In markdown, each group of lines will be automatically joined to form a paragraph and each blank line will become a paragraph break.

In summary...