A Daily Practice To Drastically Improve Sentences

For today’s writer, there’s a huge emphasis placed on avoiding the use of passive voice and adverbs.  While well-meaning it can often become a red herring for the editing process and outright distraction for the creative process.  

Line by line writers find themselves mentally punished for allowing words to pour onto the page.  Writing and critique groups are inundated with feedback emphasizing these points and feel like they are helping, when in fact focus on these points do very little to improve a story or the writing. 

The net result of so much focus on these perceived threats is an endless production time to get books drafted, edited, and published. 

If you want to improve your sentence execution there’s a lost literary art that can help you make huge strides in minutes a day!

How to Use the Reed-Kellog System

  • Find the Main Subject of a sentence
  • Find the Main Verb of a sentence
  • Breakdown all other words around these Main Subjects

So the writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads.

Dr. Suess

Reed-Kellogg in Action

One of the most successful openings of a book reminds of the universal truth of childhood and sets us up for the adventure ahead. It does this with just six words. Incredible!

You’ll note the relative noun, and verb emphasized in the diagram on either side of the vertical line, and you can see immediately how the elements of the sentence relate to one another.

For basics on Sentence Diagramming check out this video. It’s one of our favorites from MrGrammarMan123

Reed-Kellogg Basics

Putting Reed-Kellog into Practice

We don’t want you to overdo it. Your writing should remain fluid and organic to the natural way you put words on paper.

Rather than keep this in your mind and try to adhere to structure the entire time you are writing. We suggest taking just a few minutes out of your day to diagram at least one sentence from your favorite media- whether it’s books, movies, shows, video games, marketing campaigns, or whatever else you can think of!

Sentence diagramming is like solving a puzzle. It’s a crossword that for most sentences will take minutes to solve. It’s a fun way to distract yourself and take a break while building your craft at the same time!

With even moderate consistency your brain will adapt the way it compiles sentences. So that you’ll automatically find yourself crafting more concise, simple, powerful, and elegant sentences.

For Groups and Critique Partners

Have each person select a sentence to dissect and as a group diagram the sentence. Be flexible and allow the group to make suggestions on how to improve the sentence, manifesting a new diagram.

To keep it fair, do this with each person. The opportunities for each person to grow through this quick exercise you can do before every session will be worth its weight in writer’s gold!

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