Simple Proofreading Process with a Big Name: Ratiocination

29 Jan 2010


Thanks to Alise Isbell for contributing this wonderful post on a very interesting proofreading method. You’re bound to catch more errors if you do this!

Ratiocination is a miracle that changed the way I write and edit. While not a professional writer, my company trains people how to write more effectively, and ratiocination helps. Webster’s Dictionary defines ratiocination as “the process of exact thinking” or “a reasoned train of thought.”

Language is a vehicle, like a car. It has parts like suffixes, prefixes, words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs etc… People can rearrange the parts to function differently. For example, we slow down the reader with longer words or more complicated verb tenses. We can also speed up the reader by doing the opposite. The key to effective writing is tinkering with the right parts of language to get the desired results.

Why does ratiocination get results? When proofreading, the process isolates grammar concepts and allows the writer to assess the parts instead of the whole piece. Writers use basic grammar concepts with this process to improve the effectiveness and impact of their message.

How it works:
The simple version…
1. Select any piece of writing.
2. Choose a set of grammar concepts and a symbol or color for each concept to highlight these in the writing. Ideally, the grammar concepts should be common errors. (Examples include: their, there and they’re or it’s and its).
3. Code the writing for each grammar concept. For example, mark all the “that” words with red. The word “that” is used as a pronoun, but often overused as a conjunction (which lengthens sentences unnecessarily.)


1. Too many prepositions
2. Unnecessary “that”
3. Sentence too long
4. Passive voice
5. Too many big words

Because of the client’s proposal instructions, we will start documenting when engineers examine problems. This documentation will help us establish if new employees need more training.

Change the grammar concepts to fit the purpose, weaknesses or bad habits you want to fix. Your writing will look like a paint-by-numbers, but the dissection leads to clear, concise and streamlined prose. Once you have highlighted each of the grammar concepts, it sets them apart from the writing, making language easier to evaluate.

Alise Isbell, Owner
Write Wise Communications, LLC
We drive achievement with effective communication!
488 W. 19th St., #359
Houston, TX 77008
(713) 863-9140 direct/fax
(713) 557-6112 cellular
Follow me on Twitter: amisbell

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