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Paramedic Method: A Lesson in Writing Concisely

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Use the Paramedic Method (originally developed by Richard Lanham in Revising Prose) to edit any kind of professional writing. Editing your professional writing using the Paramedic Method will make your prose easier to read. Sentences that are easy to read are more persuasive and more user-centered.

Professional writers understand the need for clear, concise prose. An industry standard for helping workplace writers achieve user-centered, persuasive, and clear prose is the Paramedic Method. When you use the Paramedic Method, you will reduce your word count by eliminating unnecessary words. The Paramedic Method also helps you activate your sentences by eliminating passive voice and redundancies. The Paramedic Method is an easy to learn, systematic way to make your sentences more persuasive and more user-centered.

Follow the seven steps below to improve the readability of your sentences.

The Paramedic Method

  1. Circle the prepositions (of, in, about, for, onto, into)
  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 doer into the subject (Who's kicking whom)
  6. Eliminate any unnecessary slow wind-ups
  7. Eliminate any redundancies.
Original: In this paragraph is a demonstration of the use of good style in the writing of a report.  The action in the original sentence is a noun (demonstration).  Revision: This paragraph demonstrates good style in reports (or)...good style in report writing.   The action in the revised sentence has been shifted to the verb (demonstrates).

Paramedic Method Example

Now You Try

Use the Paramedic Method in the sentences below to practice.

Use the Paramedic Method in the sentences below to practice making your sentences more concise. After you use the Paramedic Method on these sentences, check your results against the sentences at the bottom of this handout.

  1. The point I wish to make is that the employees working at this company are in need of a much better manager of their money.
  2. It is widely known that the engineers at Sandia Labs have become active participants in the Search and Rescue operations in most years.
  3. After reviewing the results of your previous research, and in light of the relevant information found within the context of the study, there is ample evidence for making important, significant changes to our operating procedures.

Example Concise Solutions:

  1. Employees at this company need a better money manager. (Original word count: 25. New word count: 9).
  2. In recent years, engineers at Sandia Labs have participated in the Search and Rescue operations. (Original word count: 23. New word count: 15).
  3. After reviewing the results of your research, and within the context of the study, we find evidence supporting significant changes in our operating procedures. (Original word count: 35. New word count: 24).

This handout adapted from a larger piece by Richard Johnson-Sheehan.