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Steps for Revising Your Paper

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When you have plenty of time to revise, use the time to work on your paper and to take breaks from writing. If you can forget about your draft for a day or two, you may return to it with a fresh outlook. During the revising process, put your writing aside at least twice—once during the first part of the process, when you are reorganizing your work, and once during the second part, when you are polishing and paying attention to details.

Use the following questions to evaluate your drafts. You can use your responses to revise your papers by reorganizing them to make your best points stand out, by adding needed information, by eliminating irrelevant information, and by clarifying sections or sentences.

Find your main point.

What are you trying to say in the paper? In other words, try to summarize your thesis, or main point, and the evidence you are using to support that point. Try to imagine that this paper belongs to someone else. Does the paper have a clear thesis? Do you know what the paper is going to be about?

Identify your readers and your purpose.

What are you trying to do in the paper? In other words, are you trying to argue with the reading, to analyze the reading, to evaluate the reading, to apply the reading to another situation, or to accomplish another goal?

Evaluate your evidence.

Does the body of your paper support your thesis? Do you offer enough evidence to support your claim? If you are using quotations from the text as evidence, did you cite them properly?

Save only the good pieces.

Do all of the ideas relate back to the thesis? Is there anything that doesn't seem to fit? If so, you either need to change your thesis to reflect the idea or cut the idea.

Tighten and clean up your language.

Do all of the ideas in the paper make sense? Are there unclear or confusing ideas or sentences? Read your paper out loud and listen for awkward pauses and unclear ideas. Cut out extra words, vagueness, and misused words.

Visit the Purdue OWL's vidcast on cutting during the revision phase for more help with this task.

Eliminate mistakes in grammar and usage.

Do you see any problems with grammar, punctuation, or spelling? If you think something is wrong, you should make a note of it, even if you don't know how to fix it. You can always talk to a Writing Lab tutor about how to correct errors.

Switch from writer-centered to reader-centered.

Try to detach yourself from what you've written; pretend that you are reviewing someone else's work. What would you say is the most successful part of your paper? Why? How could this part be made even better? What would you say is the least successful part of your paper? Why? How could this part be improved?

The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Revising Drafts

Rewriting is the essence of writing well—where the game is won or lost. —William Zinsser

What this handout is about

This handout will motivate you to revise your drafts and give you strategies to revise effectively.

What does it mean to revise?

Revision literally means to “see again,” to look at something from a fresh, critical perspective. It is an ongoing process of rethinking the paper: reconsidering your arguments, reviewing your evidence, refining your purpose, reorganizing your presentation, reviving stale prose.

But I thought revision was just fixing the commas and spelling

Nope. That’s called proofreading. It’s an important step before turning your paper in, but if your ideas are predictable, your thesis is weak, and your organization is a mess, then proofreading will just be putting a band-aid on a bullet wound. When you finish revising, that’s the time to proofread. For more information on the subject, see our handout on proofreading .

How about if I just reword things: look for better words, avoid repetition, etc.? Is that revision?

Well, that’s a part of revision called editing. It’s another important final step in polishing your work. But if you haven’t thought through your ideas, then rephrasing them won’t make any difference.

Why is revision important?

Writing is a process of discovery, and you don’t always produce your best stuff when you first get started. So revision is a chance for you to look critically at what you have written to see:

  • if it’s really worth saying,
  • if it says what you wanted to say, and
  • if a reader will understand what you’re saying.

The process

What steps should i use when i begin to revise.

Here are several things to do. But don’t try them all at one time. Instead, focus on two or three main areas during each revision session:

  • Wait awhile after you’ve finished a draft before looking at it again. The Roman poet Horace thought one should wait nine years, but that’s a bit much. A day—a few hours even—will work. When you do return to the draft, be honest with yourself, and don’t be lazy. Ask yourself what you really think about the paper.
  • As The Scott, Foresman Handbook for Writers puts it, “THINK BIG, don’t tinker” (61). At this stage, you should be concerned with the large issues in the paper, not the commas.
  • Check the focus of the paper: Is it appropriate to the assignment? Is the topic too big or too narrow? Do you stay on track through the entire paper?
  • Think honestly about your thesis: Do you still agree with it? Should it be modified in light of something you discovered as you wrote the paper? Does it make a sophisticated, provocative point, or does it just say what anyone could say if given the same topic? Does your thesis generalize instead of taking a specific position? Should it be changed altogether? For more information visit our handout on thesis statements .
  • Think about your purpose in writing: Does your introduction state clearly what you intend to do? Will your aims be clear to your readers?

What are some other steps I should consider in later stages of the revision process?

  • Examine the balance within your paper: Are some parts out of proportion with others? Do you spend too much time on one trivial point and neglect a more important point? Do you give lots of detail early on and then let your points get thinner by the end?
  • Check that you have kept your promises to your readers: Does your paper follow through on what the thesis promises? Do you support all the claims in your thesis? Are the tone and formality of the language appropriate for your audience?
  • Check the organization: Does your paper follow a pattern that makes sense? Do the transitions move your readers smoothly from one point to the next? Do the topic sentences of each paragraph appropriately introduce what that paragraph is about? Would your paper work better if you moved some things around? For more information visit our handout on reorganizing drafts.
  • Check your information: Are all your facts accurate? Are any of your statements misleading? Have you provided enough detail to satisfy readers’ curiosity? Have you cited all your information appropriately?
  • Check your conclusion: Does the last paragraph tie the paper together smoothly and end on a stimulating note, or does the paper just die a slow, redundant, lame, or abrupt death?

Whoa! I thought I could just revise in a few minutes

Sorry. You may want to start working on your next paper early so that you have plenty of time for revising. That way you can give yourself some time to come back to look at what you’ve written with a fresh pair of eyes. It’s amazing how something that sounded brilliant the moment you wrote it can prove to be less-than-brilliant when you give it a chance to incubate.

But I don’t want to rewrite my whole paper!

Revision doesn’t necessarily mean rewriting the whole paper. Sometimes it means revising the thesis to match what you’ve discovered while writing. Sometimes it means coming up with stronger arguments to defend your position, or coming up with more vivid examples to illustrate your points. Sometimes it means shifting the order of your paper to help the reader follow your argument, or to change the emphasis of your points. Sometimes it means adding or deleting material for balance or emphasis. And then, sadly, sometimes revision does mean trashing your first draft and starting from scratch. Better that than having the teacher trash your final paper.

But I work so hard on what I write that I can’t afford to throw any of it away

If you want to be a polished writer, then you will eventually find out that you can’t afford NOT to throw stuff away. As writers, we often produce lots of material that needs to be tossed. The idea or metaphor or paragraph that I think is most wonderful and brilliant is often the very thing that confuses my reader or ruins the tone of my piece or interrupts the flow of my argument.Writers must be willing to sacrifice their favorite bits of writing for the good of the piece as a whole. In order to trim things down, though, you first have to have plenty of material on the page. One trick is not to hinder yourself while you are composing the first draft because the more you produce, the more you will have to work with when cutting time comes.

But sometimes I revise as I go

That’s OK. Since writing is a circular process, you don’t do everything in some specific order. Sometimes you write something and then tinker with it before moving on. But be warned: there are two potential problems with revising as you go. One is that if you revise only as you go along, you never get to think of the big picture. The key is still to give yourself enough time to look at the essay as a whole once you’ve finished. Another danger to revising as you go is that you may short-circuit your creativity. If you spend too much time tinkering with what is on the page, you may lose some of what hasn’t yet made it to the page. Here’s a tip: Don’t proofread as you go. You may waste time correcting the commas in a sentence that may end up being cut anyway.

How do I go about the process of revising? Any tips?

  • Work from a printed copy; it’s easier on the eyes. Also, problems that seem invisible on the screen somehow tend to show up better on paper.
  • Another tip is to read the paper out loud. That’s one way to see how well things flow.
  • Remember all those questions listed above? Don’t try to tackle all of them in one draft. Pick a few “agendas” for each draft so that you won’t go mad trying to see, all at once, if you’ve done everything.
  • Ask lots of questions and don’t flinch from answering them truthfully. For example, ask if there are opposing viewpoints that you haven’t considered yet.

Whenever I revise, I just make things worse. I do my best work without revising

That’s a common misconception that sometimes arises from fear, sometimes from laziness. The truth is, though, that except for those rare moments of inspiration or genius when the perfect ideas expressed in the perfect words in the perfect order flow gracefully and effortlessly from the mind, all experienced writers revise their work. I wrote six drafts of this handout. Hemingway rewrote the last page of A Farewell to Arms thirty-nine times. If you’re still not convinced, re-read some of your old papers. How do they sound now? What would you revise if you had a chance?

What can get in the way of good revision strategies?

Don’t fall in love with what you have written. If you do, you will be hesitant to change it even if you know it’s not great. Start out with a working thesis, and don’t act like you’re married to it. Instead, act like you’re dating it, seeing if you’re compatible, finding out what it’s like from day to day. If a better thesis comes along, let go of the old one. Also, don’t think of revision as just rewording. It is a chance to look at the entire paper, not just isolated words and sentences.

What happens if I find that I no longer agree with my own point?

If you take revision seriously, sometimes the process will lead you to questions you cannot answer, objections or exceptions to your thesis, cases that don’t fit, loose ends or contradictions that just won’t go away. If this happens (and it will if you think long enough), then you have several choices. You could choose to ignore the loose ends and hope your reader doesn’t notice them, but that’s risky. You could change your thesis completely to fit your new understanding of the issue, or you could adjust your thesis slightly to accommodate the new ideas. Or you could simply acknowledge the contradictions and show why your main point still holds up in spite of them. Most readers know there are no easy answers, so they may be annoyed if you give them a thesis and try to claim that it is always true with no exceptions no matter what.

How do I get really good at revising?

The same way you get really good at golf, piano, or a video game—do it often. Take revision seriously, be disciplined, and set high standards for yourself. Here are three more tips:

  • The more you produce, the more you can cut.
  • The more you can imagine yourself as a reader looking at this for the first time, the easier it will be to spot potential problems.
  • The more you demand of yourself in terms of clarity and elegance, the more clear and elegant your writing will be.

How do I revise at the sentence level?

Read your paper out loud, sentence by sentence, and follow Peter Elbow’s advice: “Look for places where you stumble or get lost in the middle of a sentence. These are obvious awkwardness’s that need fixing. Look for places where you get distracted or even bored—where you cannot concentrate. These are places where you probably lost focus or concentration in your writing. Cut through the extra words or vagueness or digression; get back to the energy. Listen even for the tiniest jerk or stumble in your reading, the tiniest lessening of your energy or focus or concentration as you say the words . . . A sentence should be alive” (Writing with Power 135).

Practical advice for ensuring that your sentences are alive:

  • Use forceful verbs—replace long verb phrases with a more specific verb. For example, replace “She argues for the importance of the idea” with “She defends the idea.”
  • Look for places where you’ve used the same word or phrase twice or more in consecutive sentences and look for alternative ways to say the same thing OR for ways to combine the two sentences.
  • Cut as many prepositional phrases as you can without losing your meaning. For instance, the following sentence, “There are several examples of the issue of integrity in Huck Finn,” would be much better this way, “Huck Finn repeatedly addresses the issue of integrity.”
  • Check your sentence variety. If more than two sentences in a row start the same way (with a subject followed by a verb, for example), then try using a different sentence pattern.
  • Aim for precision in word choice. Don’t settle for the best word you can think of at the moment—use a thesaurus (along with a dictionary) to search for the word that says exactly what you want to say.
  • Look for sentences that start with “It is” or “There are” and see if you can revise them to be more active and engaging.
  • For more information, please visit our handouts on word choice and style .

How can technology help?

Need some help revising? Take advantage of the revision and versioning features available in modern word processors.

Track your changes. Most word processors and writing tools include a feature that allows you to keep your changes visible until you’re ready to accept them. Using “Track Changes” mode in Word or “Suggesting” mode in Google Docs, for example, allows you to make changes without committing to them.

Compare drafts. Tools that allow you to compare multiple drafts give you the chance to visually track changes over time. Try “File History” or “Compare Documents” modes in Google Doc, Word, and Scrivener to retrieve old drafts, identify changes you’ve made over time, or help you keep a bigger picture in mind as you revise.

Works consulted

We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.

Anson, Chris M., and Robert A. Schwegler. 2010. The Longman Handbook for Writers and Readers , 6th ed. New York: Longman.

Elbow, Peter. 1998. Writing With Power: Techniques for Mastering the Writing Process . New York: Oxford University Press.

Lanham, Richard A. 2006. Revising Prose , 5th ed. New York: Pearson Longman.

Lunsford, Andrea A. 2015. The St. Martin’s Handbook , 8th ed. Boston: Bedford/St Martin’s.

Ruszkiewicz, John J., Christy Friend, Daniel Seward, and Maxine Hairston. 2010. The Scott, Foresman Handbook for Writers , 9th ed. Boston: Pearson Education.

Zinsser, William. 2001. On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction , 6th ed. New York: Quill.

You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute the source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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8.4 Revising and Editing

Learning objectives.

  • Identify major areas of concern in the draft essay during revising and editing.
  • Use peer reviews and editing checklists to assist revising and editing.
  • Revise and edit the first draft of your essay and produce a final draft.

Revising and editing are the two tasks you undertake to significantly improve your essay. Both are very important elements of the writing process. You may think that a completed first draft means little improvement is needed. However, even experienced writers need to improve their drafts and rely on peers during revising and editing. You may know that athletes miss catches, fumble balls, or overshoot goals. Dancers forget steps, turn too slowly, or miss beats. For both athletes and dancers, the more they practice, the stronger their performance will become. Web designers seek better images, a more clever design, or a more appealing background for their web pages. Writing has the same capacity to profit from improvement and revision.

Understanding the Purpose of Revising and Editing

Revising and editing allow you to examine two important aspects of your writing separately, so that you can give each task your undivided attention.

  • When you revise , you take a second look at your ideas. You might add, cut, move, or change information in order to make your ideas clearer, more accurate, more interesting, or more convincing.
  • When you edit , you take a second look at how you expressed your ideas. You add or change words. You fix any problems in grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure. You improve your writing style. You make your essay into a polished, mature piece of writing, the end product of your best efforts.

How do you get the best out of your revisions and editing? Here are some strategies that writers have developed to look at their first drafts from a fresh perspective. Try them over the course of this semester; then keep using the ones that bring results.

  • Take a break. You are proud of what you wrote, but you might be too close to it to make changes. Set aside your writing for a few hours or even a day until you can look at it objectively.
  • Ask someone you trust for feedback and constructive criticism.
  • Pretend you are one of your readers. Are you satisfied or dissatisfied? Why?
  • Use the resources that your college provides. Find out where your school’s writing lab is located and ask about the assistance they provide online and in person.

Many people hear the words critic , critical , and criticism and pick up only negative vibes that provoke feelings that make them blush, grumble, or shout. However, as a writer and a thinker, you need to learn to be critical of yourself in a positive way and have high expectations for your work. You also need to train your eye and trust your ability to fix what needs fixing. For this, you need to teach yourself where to look.

Creating Unity and Coherence

Following your outline closely offers you a reasonable guarantee that your writing will stay on purpose and not drift away from the controlling idea. However, when writers are rushed, are tired, or cannot find the right words, their writing may become less than they want it to be. Their writing may no longer be clear and concise, and they may be adding information that is not needed to develop the main idea.

When a piece of writing has unity , all the ideas in each paragraph and in the entire essay clearly belong and are arranged in an order that makes logical sense. When the writing has coherence , the ideas flow smoothly. The wording clearly indicates how one idea leads to another within a paragraph and from paragraph to paragraph.

Reading your writing aloud will often help you find problems with unity and coherence. Listen for the clarity and flow of your ideas. Identify places where you find yourself confused, and write a note to yourself about possible fixes.

Creating Unity

Sometimes writers get caught up in the moment and cannot resist a good digression. Even though you might enjoy such detours when you chat with friends, unplanned digressions usually harm a piece of writing.

Mariah stayed close to her outline when she drafted the three body paragraphs of her essay she tentatively titled “Digital Technology: The Newest and the Best at What Price?” But a recent shopping trip for an HDTV upset her enough that she digressed from the main topic of her third paragraph and included comments about the sales staff at the electronics store she visited. When she revised her essay, she deleted the off-topic sentences that affected the unity of the paragraph.

Read the following paragraph twice, the first time without Mariah’s changes, and the second time with them.

Nothing is more confusing to me than choosing among televisions. It confuses lots of people who want a new high-definition digital television (HDTV) with a large screen to watch sports and DVDs on. You could listen to the guys in the electronics store, but word has it they know little more than you do. They want to sell what they have in stock, not what best fits your needs. You face decisions you never had to make with the old, bulky picture-tube televisions. Screen resolution means the number of horizontal scan lines the screen can show. This resolution is often 1080p, or full HD, or 768p. The trouble is that if you have a smaller screen, 32 inches or 37 inches diagonal, you won’t be able to tell the difference with the naked eye. The 1080p televisions cost more, though, so those are what the salespeople want you to buy. They get bigger commissions. The other important decision you face as you walk around the sales floor is whether to get a plasma screen or an LCD screen. Now here the salespeople may finally give you decent info. Plasma flat-panel television screens can be much larger in diameter than their LCD rivals. Plasma screens show truer blacks and can be viewed at a wider angle than current LCD screens. But be careful and tell the salesperson you have budget constraints. Large flat-panel plasma screens are much more expensive than flat-screen LCD models. Don’t let someone make you by more television than you need!

Answer the following two questions about Mariah’s paragraph:

Collaboration

Please share with a classmate and compare your answers.

  • Now start to revise the first draft of the essay you wrote in Section 8 “Writing Your Own First Draft” . Reread it to find any statements that affect the unity of your writing. Decide how best to revise.

When you reread your writing to find revisions to make, look for each type of problem in a separate sweep. Read it straight through once to locate any problems with unity. Read it straight through a second time to find problems with coherence. You may follow this same practice during many stages of the writing process.

Writing at Work

Many companies hire copyeditors and proofreaders to help them produce the cleanest possible final drafts of large writing projects. Copyeditors are responsible for suggesting revisions and style changes; proofreaders check documents for any errors in capitalization, spelling, and punctuation that have crept in. Many times, these tasks are done on a freelance basis, with one freelancer working for a variety of clients.

Creating Coherence

Careful writers use transitions to clarify how the ideas in their sentences and paragraphs are related. These words and phrases help the writing flow smoothly. Adding transitions is not the only way to improve coherence, but they are often useful and give a mature feel to your essays. Table 8.3 “Common Transitional Words and Phrases” groups many common transitions according to their purpose.

Table 8.3 Common Transitional Words and Phrases

After Maria revised for unity, she next examined her paragraph about televisions to check for coherence. She looked for places where she needed to add a transition or perhaps reword the text to make the flow of ideas clear. In the version that follows, she has already deleted the sentences that were off topic.

Many writers make their revisions on a printed copy and then transfer them to the version on-screen. They conventionally use a small arrow called a caret (^) to show where to insert an addition or correction.

A marked up essay

1. Answer the following questions about Mariah’s revised paragraph.

2. Now return to the first draft of the essay you wrote in Section 8 “Writing Your Own First Draft” and revise it for coherence. Add transition words and phrases where they are needed, and make any other changes that are needed to improve the flow and connection between ideas.

Being Clear and Concise

Some writers are very methodical and painstaking when they write a first draft. Other writers unleash a lot of words in order to get out all that they feel they need to say. Do either of these composing styles match your style? Or is your composing style somewhere in between? No matter which description best fits you, the first draft of almost every piece of writing, no matter its author, can be made clearer and more concise.

If you have a tendency to write too much, you will need to look for unnecessary words. If you have a tendency to be vague or imprecise in your wording, you will need to find specific words to replace any overly general language.

Identifying Wordiness

Sometimes writers use too many words when fewer words will appeal more to their audience and better fit their purpose. Here are some common examples of wordiness to look for in your draft. Eliminating wordiness helps all readers, because it makes your ideas clear, direct, and straightforward.

Sentences that begin with There is or There are .

Wordy: There are two major experiments that the Biology Department sponsors.

Revised: The Biology Department sponsors two major experiments.

Sentences with unnecessary modifiers.

Wordy: Two extremely famous and well-known consumer advocates spoke eloquently in favor of the proposed important legislation.

Revised: Two well-known consumer advocates spoke in favor of the proposed legislation.

Sentences with deadwood phrases that add little to the meaning. Be judicious when you use phrases such as in terms of , with a mind to , on the subject of , as to whether or not , more or less , as far as…is concerned , and similar expressions. You can usually find a more straightforward way to state your point.

Wordy: As a world leader in the field of green technology, the company plans to focus its efforts in the area of geothermal energy.

A report as to whether or not to use geysers as an energy source is in the process of preparation.

Revised: As a world leader in green technology, the company plans to focus on geothermal energy.

A report about using geysers as an energy source is in preparation.

Sentences in the passive voice or with forms of the verb to be . Sentences with passive-voice verbs often create confusion, because the subject of the sentence does not perform an action. Sentences are clearer when the subject of the sentence performs the action and is followed by a strong verb. Use strong active-voice verbs in place of forms of to be , which can lead to wordiness. Avoid passive voice when you can.

Wordy: It might perhaps be said that using a GPS device is something that is a benefit to drivers who have a poor sense of direction.

Revised: Using a GPS device benefits drivers who have a poor sense of direction.

Sentences with constructions that can be shortened.

Wordy: The e-book reader, which is a recent invention, may become as commonplace as the cell phone.

My over-sixty uncle bought an e-book reader, and his wife bought an e-book reader, too.

Revised: The e-book reader, a recent invention, may become as commonplace as the cell phone.

My over-sixty uncle and his wife both bought e-book readers.

Now return once more to the first draft of the essay you have been revising. Check it for unnecessary words. Try making your sentences as concise as they can be.

Choosing Specific, Appropriate Words

Most college essays should be written in formal English suitable for an academic situation. Follow these principles to be sure that your word choice is appropriate. For more information about word choice, see Chapter 4 “Working with Words: Which Word Is Right?” .

  • Avoid slang. Find alternatives to bummer , kewl , and rad .
  • Avoid language that is overly casual. Write about “men and women” rather than “girls and guys” unless you are trying to create a specific effect. A formal tone calls for formal language.
  • Avoid contractions. Use do not in place of don’t , I am in place of I’m , have not in place of haven’t , and so on. Contractions are considered casual speech.
  • Avoid clichés. Overused expressions such as green with envy , face the music , better late than never , and similar expressions are empty of meaning and may not appeal to your audience.
  • Be careful when you use words that sound alike but have different meanings. Some examples are allusion/illusion , complement/compliment , council/counsel , concurrent/consecutive , founder/flounder , and historic/historical . When in doubt, check a dictionary.
  • Choose words with the connotations you want. Choosing a word for its connotations is as important in formal essay writing as it is in all kinds of writing. Compare the positive connotations of the word proud and the negative connotations of arrogant and conceited .
  • Use specific words rather than overly general words. Find synonyms for thing , people , nice , good , bad , interesting , and other vague words. Or use specific details to make your exact meaning clear.

Now read the revisions Mariah made to make her third paragraph clearer and more concise. She has already incorporated the changes she made to improve unity and coherence.

A marked up essay with revisions

1. Answer the following questions about Mariah’s revised paragraph:

2. Now return once more to your essay in progress. Read carefully for problems with word choice. Be sure that your draft is written in formal language and that your word choice is specific and appropriate.

Completing a Peer Review

After working so closely with a piece of writing, writers often need to step back and ask for a more objective reader. What writers most need is feedback from readers who can respond only to the words on the page. When they are ready, writers show their drafts to someone they respect and who can give an honest response about its strengths and weaknesses.

You, too, can ask a peer to read your draft when it is ready. After evaluating the feedback and assessing what is most helpful, the reader’s feedback will help you when you revise your draft. This process is called peer review .

You can work with a partner in your class and identify specific ways to strengthen each other’s essays. Although you may be uncomfortable sharing your writing at first, remember that each writer is working toward the same goal: a final draft that fits the audience and the purpose. Maintaining a positive attitude when providing feedback will put you and your partner at ease. The box that follows provides a useful framework for the peer review session.

Questions for Peer Review

Title of essay: ____________________________________________

Date: ____________________________________________

Writer’s name: ____________________________________________

Peer reviewer’s name: _________________________________________

  • This essay is about____________________________________________.
  • Your main points in this essay are____________________________________________.
  • What I most liked about this essay is____________________________________________.

These three points struck me as your strongest:

These places in your essay are not clear to me:

a. Where: ____________________________________________

Needs improvement because__________________________________________

b. Where: ____________________________________________

Needs improvement because ____________________________________________

c. Where: ____________________________________________

The one additional change you could make that would improve this essay significantly is ____________________________________________.

One of the reasons why word-processing programs build in a reviewing feature is that workgroups have become a common feature in many businesses. Writing is often collaborative, and the members of a workgroup and their supervisors often critique group members’ work and offer feedback that will lead to a better final product.

Exchange essays with a classmate and complete a peer review of each other’s draft in progress. Remember to give positive feedback and to be courteous and polite in your responses. Focus on providing one positive comment and one question for more information to the author.

Using Feedback Objectively

The purpose of peer feedback is to receive constructive criticism of your essay. Your peer reviewer is your first real audience, and you have the opportunity to learn what confuses and delights a reader so that you can improve your work before sharing the final draft with a wider audience (or your intended audience).

It may not be necessary to incorporate every recommendation your peer reviewer makes. However, if you start to observe a pattern in the responses you receive from peer reviewers, you might want to take that feedback into consideration in future assignments. For example, if you read consistent comments about a need for more research, then you may want to consider including more research in future assignments.

Using Feedback from Multiple Sources

You might get feedback from more than one reader as you share different stages of your revised draft. In this situation, you may receive feedback from readers who do not understand the assignment or who lack your involvement with and enthusiasm for it.

You need to evaluate the responses you receive according to two important criteria:

  • Determine if the feedback supports the purpose of the assignment.
  • Determine if the suggested revisions are appropriate to the audience.

Then, using these standards, accept or reject revision feedback.

Work with two partners. Go back to Note 8.81 “Exercise 4” in this lesson and compare your responses to Activity A, about Mariah’s paragraph, with your partners’. Recall Mariah’s purpose for writing and her audience. Then, working individually, list where you agree and where you disagree about revision needs.

Editing Your Draft

If you have been incorporating each set of revisions as Mariah has, you have produced multiple drafts of your writing. So far, all your changes have been content changes. Perhaps with the help of peer feedback, you have made sure that you sufficiently supported your ideas. You have checked for problems with unity and coherence. You have examined your essay for word choice, revising to cut unnecessary words and to replace weak wording with specific and appropriate wording.

The next step after revising the content is editing. When you edit, you examine the surface features of your text. You examine your spelling, grammar, usage, and punctuation. You also make sure you use the proper format when creating your finished assignment.

Editing often takes time. Budgeting time into the writing process allows you to complete additional edits after revising. Editing and proofreading your writing helps you create a finished work that represents your best efforts. Here are a few more tips to remember about your readers:

  • Readers do not notice correct spelling, but they do notice misspellings.
  • Readers look past your sentences to get to your ideas—unless the sentences are awkward, poorly constructed, and frustrating to read.
  • Readers notice when every sentence has the same rhythm as every other sentence, with no variety.
  • Readers do not cheer when you use there , their , and they’re correctly, but they notice when you do not.
  • Readers will notice the care with which you handled your assignment and your attention to detail in the delivery of an error-free document..

The first section of this book offers a useful review of grammar, mechanics, and usage. Use it to help you eliminate major errors in your writing and refine your understanding of the conventions of language. Do not hesitate to ask for help, too, from peer tutors in your academic department or in the college’s writing lab. In the meantime, use the checklist to help you edit your writing.

Editing Your Writing

  • Are some sentences actually sentence fragments?
  • Are some sentences run-on sentences? How can I correct them?
  • Do some sentences need conjunctions between independent clauses?
  • Does every verb agree with its subject?
  • Is every verb in the correct tense?
  • Are tense forms, especially for irregular verbs, written correctly?
  • Have I used subject, object, and possessive personal pronouns correctly?
  • Have I used who and whom correctly?
  • Is the antecedent of every pronoun clear?
  • Do all personal pronouns agree with their antecedents?
  • Have I used the correct comparative and superlative forms of adjectives and adverbs?
  • Is it clear which word a participial phrase modifies, or is it a dangling modifier?

Sentence Structure

  • Are all my sentences simple sentences, or do I vary my sentence structure?
  • Have I chosen the best coordinating or subordinating conjunctions to join clauses?
  • Have I created long, overpacked sentences that should be shortened for clarity?
  • Do I see any mistakes in parallel structure?

Punctuation

  • Does every sentence end with the correct end punctuation?
  • Can I justify the use of every exclamation point?
  • Have I used apostrophes correctly to write all singular and plural possessive forms?
  • Have I used quotation marks correctly?

Mechanics and Usage

  • Can I find any spelling errors? How can I correct them?
  • Have I used capital letters where they are needed?
  • Have I written abbreviations, where allowed, correctly?
  • Can I find any errors in the use of commonly confused words, such as to / too / two ?

Be careful about relying too much on spelling checkers and grammar checkers. A spelling checker cannot recognize that you meant to write principle but wrote principal instead. A grammar checker often queries constructions that are perfectly correct. The program does not understand your meaning; it makes its check against a general set of formulas that might not apply in each instance. If you use a grammar checker, accept the suggestions that make sense, but consider why the suggestions came up.

Proofreading requires patience; it is very easy to read past a mistake. Set your paper aside for at least a few hours, if not a day or more, so your mind will rest. Some professional proofreaders read a text backward so they can concentrate on spelling and punctuation. Another helpful technique is to slowly read a paper aloud, paying attention to every word, letter, and punctuation mark.

If you need additional proofreading help, ask a reliable friend, a classmate, or a peer tutor to make a final pass on your paper to look for anything you missed.

Remember to use proper format when creating your finished assignment. Sometimes an instructor, a department, or a college will require students to follow specific instructions on titles, margins, page numbers, or the location of the writer’s name. These requirements may be more detailed and rigid for research projects and term papers, which often observe the American Psychological Association (APA) or Modern Language Association (MLA) style guides, especially when citations of sources are included.

To ensure the format is correct and follows any specific instructions, make a final check before you submit an assignment.

With the help of the checklist, edit and proofread your essay.

Key Takeaways

  • Revising and editing are the stages of the writing process in which you improve your work before producing a final draft.
  • During revising, you add, cut, move, or change information in order to improve content.
  • During editing, you take a second look at the words and sentences you used to express your ideas and fix any problems in grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure.
  • Unity in writing means that all the ideas in each paragraph and in the entire essay clearly belong together and are arranged in an order that makes logical sense.
  • Coherence in writing means that the writer’s wording clearly indicates how one idea leads to another within a paragraph and between paragraphs.
  • Transitional words and phrases effectively make writing more coherent.
  • Writing should be clear and concise, with no unnecessary words.
  • Effective formal writing uses specific, appropriate words and avoids slang, contractions, clichés, and overly general words.
  • Peer reviews, done properly, can give writers objective feedback about their writing. It is the writer’s responsibility to evaluate the results of peer reviews and incorporate only useful feedback.
  • Remember to budget time for careful editing and proofreading. Use all available resources, including editing checklists, peer editing, and your institution’s writing lab, to improve your editing skills.

Writing for Success Copyright © 2015 by University of Minnesota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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The Writing Process

Making expository writing less stressful, more efficient, and more enlightening, search form, step 4: revise.

revising in essay

"Rewriting is the essence of writing well: it's where the game is won or lost." —William Zinsser, On Writing Well

What does it really mean to revise, and why is a it a separate step from editing? Look at the parts of the word revise : The prefix re- means again or anew , and – vise comes from the same root as vision —i.e., to see. Thus revising is "re-seeing" your paper in a new way. That is why revising here refers to improving the global structure and content of your paper, its organization and ideas , not grammar, spelling, and punctuation. That comes last.

revising in essay

Logically, we also revise before we edit because revising will most certainly mean adding and deleting and rewriting sentences and often entire paragraphs . And there is no sense in editing text that you are going to cut or editing and then adding material and having to edit again.

revising in essay

Continue to step-by-step instructions for revising .

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How to revise drafts, now the real work begins....

After writing the first draft of an essay, you may think much of your work is done, but actually the real work – revising – is just beginning. The good news is that by this point in the writing process you have gained some perspective and can ask yourself some questions: Did I develop my subject matter appropriately? Did my thesis change or evolve during writing? Did I communicate my ideas effectively and clearly? Would I like to revise, but feel uncertain about how to do it?

Also see the UMN Crookston Writing Center's  Revising and Editing Handout .

How to Revise

First, put your draft aside for a little while.  Time away from your essay will allow for more objective self-evaluation. When you do return to the draft, be honest with yourself; ask yourself what you really think about the paper.

Check the  focus  of the paper.  Is it appropriate to the assignment prompt? Is the topic too big or too narrow? Do you stay on track throughout the entire paper? (At this stage, you should be concerned with the large, content-related issues in the paper, not the grammar and sentence structure).

Get  feedback .  Since you already know what you’re trying to say, you aren’t always the best judge of where your draft is clear or unclear. Let another reader tell you. Then discuss aloud what you were trying to achieve. In articulating for someone else what you meant to argue, you will clarify ideas for yourself.

Think honestly about your thesis.  Do you still agree with it? Should it be modified in light of something you discovered as you wrote the paper? Does it make a sophisticated, provocative point? Or does it just say what anyone could say if given the same topic? Does your thesis generalize instead of taking a specific position? Should it be changed completely?

Examine the  balance  within your paper.  Are some parts out of proportion with others? Do you spend too much time on one trivial point and neglect a more important point? Do you give lots of details early on and then let your points get thinner by the end? Based on what you did in the previous step, restructure your argument: reorder your points and cut anything that’s irrelevant or redundant. You may want to return to your sources for additional supporting evidence.

Now that you know what you’re really arguing, work on your  introduction and conclusion . Make sure to begin your paragraphs with topic sentences, linking the idea(s) in each paragraph to those proposed in the thesis.

Proofread.  Aim for precision and economy in language. Read aloud so you can hear imperfections. (Your ear may pick up what your eye has missed). Note that this step comes LAST. There’s no point in making a sentence grammatically perfect if it’s going to be changed or deleted anyway.

As you revise your own work, keep the following in mind:

Revision means rethinking your thesis. It is unreasonable to expect to come up with the best thesis possible – one that accounts for all aspects of your topic – before beginning a draft, or even during a first draft. The best theses evolve; they are actually produced during the writing process. Successful revision involves bringing your thesis into focus—or changing it altogether.

Revision means making structural changes. Drafting is usually a process of discovering an idea or argument. Your argument will not become clearer if you only tinker with individual sentences. Successful revision involves bringing the strongest ideas to the front of the essay, reordering the main points, and cutting irrelevant sections. It also involves making the argument’s structure visible by strengthening topic sentences and transitions.

Revision takes time. Avoid shortcuts: the reward for sustained effort is an essay that is clearer, more persuasive, and more sophisticated.

Think about your purpose in writing: Does your introduction clearly state what you intend to do? Will your aims be clear to your readers?

Check the organization. Does your paper follow a pattern that makes sense? Doe the transitions move your readers smoothly from one point to the next? Do the topic sentences of each paragraph appropriately introduce what that paragraph is about? Would your paper be work better if you moved some things around?

Check your information. Are all your facts accurate? Are any of our statements misleading? Have you provided enough detail to satisfy readers’ curiosity? Have you cited all your information appropriately?

Revision doesn’t necessarily mean rewriting the whole paper. Sometimes it means revising the thesis to match what you’ve discovered while writing. Sometimes it means coming up with stronger arguments to defend your position, or coming up with more vivid examples to illustrate your points. Sometimes it means shifting the order of your paper to help the reader follow your argument, or to change the emphasis of your points. Sometimes it means adding or deleting material for balance or emphasis. And then, sadly, sometimes revision does mean trashing your first draft and starting from scratch. Better that than having the teacher trash your final paper.

Revising Sentences

Read your paper out loud, sentence by sentence, and look for places where you stumble or get lost in the middle of a sentence. These are obvious places that need fixing. Look for places where you get distracted or even bored – where you cannot concentrate. These are places where you probably lost focus or concentration in your writing. Cut through the extra words or vagueness or digression: get back to the energy.

Tips for writing good sentences:

Use forceful verbs – replace long verb phrases with a more specific verb. For example, replace “She argues for the importance of the idea” with ‘she defends the idea.” Also, try to stay in the active voice.

Look for places where you’ve used the same word or phrase twice or more in consecutive sentences and look for alternative ways to say the same thing OR for ways to combine the two sentences.

Cut as many prepositional phrases as you can without losing your meaning. For instance, the sentence “There are several examples of the issue of integrity in  Huck Finn ” would be much better this way: “ Huck Finn  repeated addresses the issue of integrity.”

Check your sentence variety. IF more than two sentences in a row start the same way (with a subject followed by a verb, for example), then try using a different sentence pattern. Also, try to mix simple sentences with compound and compound-complex sentences for variety.

Aim for precision in word choice. Don’t settle for the best word you can think of at the moment—use a thesaurus (along with a dictionary) to search for the word that says exactly what you want to say.

Look for sentences that start with “it is” or “there are” and see if you can revise them to be more active and engaging.

By Jocelyn Rolling, English Instructor Last edited October 2016 by Allison Haas, M.A.

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18 Revising Your Writing

Once you’ve worked on your draft, you need to revise and edit your work. Revising will help you check if you’ve responded to the assignment instructions and clearly communicated your ideas. Revising will also help you will help you correct grammatical, punctuation, and presentation issues. When you are revising, try moving through three different stages:

  • Checking in on the Big Picture
  • The Mid-view Review
  • Editing Up Close

We’ll look first at Checking in on the Big Picture…

Revising Stage 1 – Checking in on the Big Picture

Hiker stands on top of peak looking at three sandstone buttes in the distance

When you first begin revising, you should focus on the big picture. The following questions [1] can help guide you with this:

  • Do you have a  clear thesis ? Do you know what idea or perspective you want your reader to understand upon reading your essay?
  • Is your essay  well organized ?
  • Is each paragraph a building block  in your essay: does each explain or support your thesis?
  • Does it need a different shape?  Do parts need to be moved?
  • Do you fully  explain and illustrate the main ideas  of your paper?
  • Does your  introduction grab the reader’s interest ?
  • Does your conclusion leave the reader understanding your point of view?
  • Are you saying in your essay what you want to say?
  • What is the strength of your paper? What is its weakness?

Revising Stage 2 – The Mid-View Review

Person walking down a road with trees on either side

The second stage of revising requires that you look at your content closely at the paragraph level. It’s now time to examine each paragraph, on its own, to see where you might need to revise. The following questions [2] will guide you through the mid-view revision stage:

  • Does each paragraph contain  solid, specific information, vivid description, or examples  that illustrate the point you are making in the paragraph?
  • Are there are other  facts, quotations, examples, or descriptions  to add that can more clearly illustrate or provide evidence for the points you are making?
  • Are there sentences, words, descriptions or  information that you can delete  because they don’t add to the points you are making or may confuse the reader?
  • Are the paragraphs in the  right order ?
  • Are your paragraphs overly long ? Does each paragraph explore  one main idea ?
  • Do you use  clear transitions  so the reader can follow your thinking?
  • Are any paragraphs or parts of paragraphs  repetitive  and need to be deleted

Take a look at the paragraph [3] below and click the hot spots to see suggestions for revision:

Black and white photograph of workspace showing laptop, with a hand typing, and mobile phone. Text reads "Try it Now! Work on the Activity Below"

Practice: Revising Paragraphs

Review the paragraph [4] below and select the most important revision that Sophie, the student writer, should focus on in her revisions:

Revising Stage 3 – Editing Up Close

Close-up image of a purple flower with yellow stamen

Once you have completed your revision and feel confident in your content, it’s time to begin the editing stage of your revision and editing process. The following questions [5] will guide you through your editing:

  • Are there any  grammar errors , i.e. have you been consistent in your use of tense, do your pronouns agree?
  • Have you accurately and effectively used  punctuation ?
  • Do you rely on  strong verbs and nouns  and maintain a good balance with  adjectives and adverbs , using them to enhance descriptions but ensuring clear sentences?
  • Are your words as  accurate  as possible?
  • Do you  define any technical or unusual terms  you use?
  • Are there  extra words or clichés  in your sentences that  you can delete ?
  • Do you  vary your sentence structure ?
  • Have you  accurately presented facts ; have you copied quotations precisely?
  • If you’re writing an academic essay, have you tried to be  objective  in your evidence and tone?
  • If writing a personal essay, is the  narrative voice lively and interesting ?
  • Have you  spellchecked  your paper?
  • If you used sources, have you  consistently documented all of the sources’ ideas and informatio n using a standard documentation style?
  • Revising Stage 1 by Excelsior Online Writing Lab CC BY 4.0 ↵
  • Revising Stage 2  by Excelsior Online Writing Lab CC-BY-4.0 ↵
  • " Revising Paragraphs " in Writing Skills Lab by Department of Writing and Rhetoric at the University of Mississippi ↵
  • " Revising Paragraphs " in Writing Skills Lab by Department of Writing and Rhetoric at the University of Mississippi CC BY 4.0 ↵
  • Revising Stage 3  by Excelsior Online Writing Lab CC BY-4.0 ↵

Academic Writing Basics Copyright © 2019 by Megan Robertson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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Academic Writing Success

Academic Revising 101: The Essential Essay Revision Checklist

by Suzanne Davis | Feb 8, 2018 | Academic Writing Skills , Writing Essays and Papers

What do you do after you write the first draft of your essay?

You should feel proud because you just finished the hard work of taking ideas and information and writing the first draft.  It’s the hardest obstacle to overcome. But you still need to revise and shape it into a great final essay.  I created an essay revision checklist to guide you through the entire revising process.

Revision is key the to great writing.  Author E.B. White stated, “The best writing is rewriting.”  So, get excited about revising because you’re taking your writing and making it your best writing.

The Essay Revision Process

When you finish a first draft take a break.  Wait a few hours or if possible a day.  You will come back to your writing with a fresh pair of eyes.   Then go back to your essay and launch into revising it.

In this post, I show you a three-phase revision process that has some overlap with editing.   But, I focus on revising because it includes deeper changes to ideas and information in your essay.

The essay revision checklist here has three sections:  content, organization, and clarity.  Go through each section separately.  Move on from one section to the next when you’ve completed everything in a section.

The Essay Revision Checklist

Revising the content of an essay.

Content is the substance of your essay.  It’s the topic, main ideas and supporting reasons that connect back to your thesis statement.   If you don’t have strong content your essay is a group of fluffy words.

Checklist for Good Essay Content

  • Content reveals the purpose of your essay or paper.
  • There is a complex and supportable thesis statement.
  • The main ideas support the thesis statement.
  • There are supporting details for each of the main ideas.
  • There is evidence to support the main ideas and thesis statement.

Keep revising the essay until you can check off each of these elements.

Revising the Organization of an Essay

Essays are organized into 3 basic parts: the introduction, body, and conclusion.

The introduction has a hook, overview of the topic or description of the situation, and the thesis statement. The body contains the ideas and details that support the thesis statement.  It’s the heart of your essay content.   The conclusion summarizes the thesis statement and describes the significance of it.

Checklist for Good Essay Organization

  • The introduction starts with a hook.  A hook is a sentence or a few sentences that capture your reader’s interest.  Read, “7 Sensational Types of Essays Hooks”   https://www.academicwritingsuccess.com/7-sensational-types-of-essay-hooks/ and see different hooks you can use in your writing.
  • The introduction has an overview of the topic that leads to the thesis statement.
  • The body of the essay is organized so that the main ideas follow the sequence of things stated in your thesis .  For example, if your thesis statement lists three causes of something: Cause A, Cause B, and Cause C.  The first part of your essay examines Cause A.  The second part examines Cause B etc.
  • The conclusion reviews the thesis statement and points out something significant about it. It shows some importance to your field, to people in general, to life, history, etc. Why does your thesis matter?

Revising Your Essay for Clarity

Clarity means that your ideas, sentences, and words are easy to understand.  Clarity is the window through which the reader sees your meaning.  If your essay is unclear, the content of your essay is confusing.

When you revise your essay for clarity analyze the ideas, sentences, and words in your writing.  I’ve included in this checklist the common problems I see in essays.

Checklist for Essay Clarity

  • There is subject-verb agreement throughout the essay.  A singular subject has a singular verb tense. Plural subjects have plural verb tenses.  An example of a singular subject and singular verb tense is: He drinks hot coffee .  A plural subject with a plural verb tense is: They drink ice tea.
  • There is good sentence flow . Fix any run-ons, incomplete sentences, short choppy sentences or just very long sentences. Make sure you have sentence variety in your essay.  Not all your sentences are short, and not all sentences are long.  Mix it up.
  • There are no unclear or confusing words or phrases .   Don’t overuse academic vocabulary or the thesaurus.  Use words and phrases you understand .
  • The Point of View (POV) (1 st person, 2 nd person or 3 rd person) is consistent and appropriate for the essay.   Most academic essays are written from the 3 rd person (he, she, they, it,) POV.  Usually, narrative essays and descriptive essays use the 1 st person (I, me, we, us,) POV.   Rarely is an essay written from the 2 nd person (you, your) POV.
  • The pronouns agree in number and person .   For information on pronoun agreement, see Purdue OWL, “Using Pronouns Clearly.” https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/595/01/
  • T he punctuation is correct .

After the Revision Process

When you’re done with the checklist, get another person to read your essay.  Ask that person for suggestions.  This could be a classmate, a peer tutor, or a private tutor (in-person or online).

Your professor might offer to help you during office hours. Professors are busy, so check to see if they offer that kind of assistance.  Writing professors usually do.  Professors of other subjects will tell you to go to a tutor.

Next, edit and proofread for grammar and spelling mistakes.   Don’t just use a spell checker/ grammar checker or Grammarly.  Read your essay aloud and listen for mistakes.  When you read aloud you read slower and see more punctuation problems.  You also notice missing words.

Another great tip is to read your paper from the last sentence all the way back to the first sentence.  This way you’re not focusing on the content and how things fit together.  You see each sentence individually.  It’s easier to find grammar mistakes when you focus on one sentence at a time.

I teach students this 3-part revision process because it highlights the key elements of an academic essay.  It helps you analyze content, organize content, and make your essay clear to the reader.   This essay revision checklist will help you change your first draft into a strong piece of academic writing.

Are you revising an academic paper? Then download your free copy of The Roadmap to Revising Academic Writing and Handing in a Great Final Paper! Each section has a list of questions that will help you revise the content, organization, and clarity of an academic paper.    Sign-up at the form above and get your free guide now!

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Writing a Paper: Revising

Although sometimes revising and proofreading seem interchangeable, they are, in fact, different. Revision means to see (vision) again (re). Revision is more than proofreading. It is looking back at whole ideas to make sure that everything fits the purpose of the document. It may be looking back at the type of or amount of evidence provided to support the ideas, or it may be looking back at the organization of paragraphs and their relation to one another.

In U.S. academic English, the process of writing is emphasized. In other words, it is expected that a document go through multiple drafts instead of being written once. In fact, experienced writers often say that the majority of their time is spent rewriting, reorganizing, and rewording their first draft.

Writing is also often very personal. Once something is placed on the page, it can be difficult to decide to delete it. True revision, however, may require deletion. It may be necessary to delete entire paragraphs (or entire pages). It might also be necessary to move ideas from one part of the text to another. Do not be afraid of the bigger changes—this is part of the process.

Writers may tend to be more linear or more recursive. A linear writer may have clearly defined steps in the writing process. This type of writer might begin with brainstorming, then produce an outline, then write the draft, then revise the draft, and then proofread the draft. A recursive writer often has a less clearly defined approach. The outline of the document may not be clear until after the first draft is written. The writing and the revision may happen throughout the production of the document. There is no one correct approach to writing, but understanding what type of writer you tend to be may help you to understand the process of writing and where revision occurs in your process.

Revising Strategies

Please read the following pages for some revising strategies.

  • Revising in General
  • Revising Based on Feedback
  • Revising for Focused Ideas
  • Revising for Stronger Evidence
  • Revising for Effective Organization
  • Revising for Scholarly Voice
  • Revising for Grammar
  • Reflecting & Improving

Also check out our blog posts on revising . We add new posts continually, so check back often.

Our Paper Review Service

Our Paper Review Service is another beneficial way to enhance your revision skills. In addition to the revision strategies listed above, we also encourage you to set up a paper review appointment with our writing instructors to receive individualized feedback on your project. We, at the Writing Center, look forward to partnering with you in your journey to academic writing and revision success!

Applying Feedback in Your Paper Video Playlist

Note that these videos were created while APA 6 was the style guide edition in use. There may be some examples of writing that have not been updated to APA 7 guidelines.

  • Applying Feedback in Your Paper: Applying Feedback Principles (video transcript)
  • Applying Feedback in Your Paper: Thesis Statement Feedback (video transcript)
  • Applying Feedback in Your Paper: Transition Feedback (video transcript)
  • Applying Feedback in Your Paper: Paragraph Feedback (video transcript)
  • Applying Feedback in Your Paper: Grammar Feedback (video transcript)
  • Applying Feedback to Your Paper: APA Feedback (video transcript)
  • Applying Feedback to Your Paper: Word Choice Feedback (video transcript)

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Ai, ethics & human agency, collaboration, information literacy, writing process, working through revision: rethink, revise, reflect.

  • CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 by Megan McIntyre - University of Arkansas

revising in essay

Revision is what happens after you’ve written something; this might mean you have a full draft or a paragraph or two. It’s an opportunity for you to revisit your work, rethink your approach, and make changes to your text so that your work better fits the task you were given or your goals for writing in the first place. In what follows, I lay out some definitions for revision and then offer five steps that can help you revise your work in thoughtful but manageable ways. These steps are most helpful when you have a section or the full piece drafted but can also be helpful at most any step of the writing process.

Revision is your chance to revisit your work and rethink how you’ve approached the writing situation (whether a writing assignment for a class, an article for your school’s student paper, or a brief document, like a memo, for your job or internship). Revising a draft means reviewing what you’ve already written and (often with the help of feedback from a teacher, supervisor, colleague, or peer) making changes, usually significant, to the text you’ve written. 

As Joseph M. Moxley lays out in his “ Revision: Questions to Consider ,” there are a few key areas where you might make revisions:

  • The purpose, focus, or thesis of your text
  • The evidence or support you use
  • The organization or order of information
  • The formatting, style, or layout of your text

Revision might also involve making smaller changes, though that’s often called “ editing ,” which focuses on sentence-level changes to grammar, style, word choice, and/or punctuation. Polished texts tend to undergo both revision and editing at various stages of the writing process.

Five Steps for Making Substantive but Manageable Revisions

Now that we know what revision is, let’s talk about how to do it. As an experienced writer and a long-time writing teacher, I’ve found that there are five key steps for successfully revising my work. First, I solicit feedback. In some classes, feedback may be a required part of the writing process (like when your teacher requires you to submit a draft so that they can offer you suggestions). Even if it’s not, though, you can reach out for feedback from your professors, supervisors, or peers; you might also make an appointment at your university’s writing center. Once I have feedback from trusted sources, I need to interpret that feedback (step two) and translate it into concrete plans for revision (step three). Next (step four), I need to make changes to the text itself. Below, I’ll share some strategies for doing this work, including creating a reverse outline, focusing on the thesis or main idea, reading only for evidence, examining introductions and conclusions, and reading aloud for flow, connection, and clarity of ideas. Finally (step 5), I reflect on the changes I’ve made by revisiting the feedback I received and articulating how my revisions respond to that feedback and improve my work.

Step 1: Ask for Feedback

When feedback is already part of your class , you won’t really have to ask for feedback, but it can still be useful to think about the kind of feedback that you most want: are you struggling with making sure your essay makes a specific point and that point is clear to the reader? If so, this may mean that feedback about your main idea (sometimes called a thesis ) could be helpful. Or would you like feedback about your evidence (the sources you chose, how you used quotations or paraphrased the work you cited, the details you selected, or whether there’s enough support for the claims you make)? Would you like to know how well the reader (whether your professor or a peer) could follow the organization ? Articulating the kind of feedback you want can help your reader focus their attention; it can also help you re-read your own work with a critical eye.

When you want to ask your professor or supervisor for feedback , consider some of the same questions as above, and ask your professor/supervisor directly. The more specific you are about the kind of feedback you want, the easier it will be for your reader to figure out how to help. Be cognizant, though, of the time you’re asking your reader to spend, and give them enough turnaround time to actually give you useful feedback prior to the deadline. For instance, if you want feedback about the organization of a five-page paper, a week may not be enough time, given your professor’s other responsibilities. If, though, you want feedback on a smaller section like your introduction, conclusion, main idea, or a single paragraph in the paper, a week may be enough time. Professors may also have different practices for giving feedback; for example, some may ask you to meet them during office hours to talk through your draft or questions while others may be happy to provide written feedback via email. Always check your syllabus and/or the assignment to see if there’s information about the best way to proceed.

If you decided to reach out for feedback, here’s a template that might be helpful:

Dear Professor [professor’s last name],

My name is [your name], and I’m a student in [name of class]. I was hoping you might have time to give me some feedback on [name of the assignment]. Specifically, I was hoping you would read [part of paper] and give me feedback on my [particular issue; for example, you might ask about use of sources, the organization of the paragraph, or the paragraph’s connection back to the main idea of the text] .

When you visit the writing center : here, too, you might consider asking some of the same questions above: would feedback about your main idea be helpful? Or would you like feedback about your evidence? Would you like to know how well the reader could follow the organization? Many writing center consultations involve reading your paper aloud with the writing consultant, but for longer papers, you may not have time to review the entire text. What part of the paper do you want to focus on first? One other tip: bring the assignment itself and any feedback you’ve already received with you to your writing center appointment. Your consultant can help you review both the assignment and previous feedback and help you make a plan for revision.

Step 2: Interpret Feedback : Once you’ve asked for feedback, you’ll need to (1) figure out what it means, (2) make a plan about how to incorporate the feedback, and (3) make changes to your text. Feedback might do some or all of the following things: tell you how your text is working well, ask questions meant to lead to revision or point out areas that aren’t working, and give you advice for how to make changes to the text. Let’s look at examples of each of these and think about how we might translate those into a to-do list of sorts.

Look for information about what’s already working : generous readers often want writers to know what their text does well, and instructors might begin their feedback by telling students what’s already working. This positive feedback shouldn’t just make us feel good about our work. (Though, we should; writing is hard work!) This positive feedback can also give us a blueprint for how to revise sections that aren’t working as well. Let’s look at an example

revising in essay

Here, the instructor tells the writer that the first sentences of this paragraph “offer a clear, specific idea of what the paragraph will cover.” These kinds of “topic sentences” help readers more easily follow an idea or argument, and this piece of positive feedback means we have a clear idea of how to do that work well, so we might ask ourselves, “how well do the opening sentences of my other paragraphs prepare the reader for the content of the paragraph?”If the answer is “not that well,” consider using the topic sentence your reviewer commented on as a model for revision.

Look for information about what’s not working: Feedback will often also point to places in your text that are not quite working. This may take the form of questions that ask for additional information (e.g., “What evidence do you have to support that?” or “How do you know that?”), express confusion (e.g., “As a reader, I’m not sure I follow the order of information in this paragraph.”), or point to places that need specific revisions or additions (e.g., “This paragraph feels disconnected to me. It needs a transition that connects it to the paragraph before it.”). Each of these questions or comments could lead to a specific revision. For example, if my reader asks, “How do you know that?,” it likely means that I need to add additional evidence, detail, and/or context to make it clear how I came to a particular conclusion. I’ll want to make sure to note these questions as I’m drafting my revision plan in the step below.

Look for advice about how to make changes or which changes to make: Sometimes, like with the last example above (“This paragraph feels disconnected to me. It needs a transition that connects it to the paragraph before it.”), your reader will also tell you what kind of changes to make. In this case, adding a transitional sentence or idea will help solve the problem the reader identifies (the lack of connection between paragraphs and ideas). 

Step 3: Translate Feedback into a Concrete Revision Plan

List changes in order of importance or impact: Once you have gotten feedback and spent some time thinking about what that feedback means, you’ll need to make a plan for addressing the feedback. In a separate document, make a list of the feedback you’ve gotten; then, put it in order according to which piece of feedback might lead to revisions that will have the most significant impact on the draft. Let’s think about an example: on a recent draft of an article I wrote, the reviewers gave me three pieces of feedback:

  • Add additional evidence to the first section of the text
  • Reorder the paragraphs in the final section so that the sections are better connected to one another
  • Use fewer contractions throughout

Now, it might be tempting to do the final thing (“use fewer contractions throughout”) first; after all, this is the easiest and most straightforward piece of feedback to implement. But, is that the best place to start? Probably not. First of all, adding evidence and changing the organization of a section may mean deleting sentences that contain contractions or adding new sentences with contractions. That is to say, taking on the first two pieces of feedback may change my plan for responding to that third piece of feedback. And secondly, if I have a very limited time to make the requested revisions, spending time on those first two pieces of feedback will likely have the greatest impact on my draft. They require more work on my part, but they also lead to more significant and impactful revisions to my text.

Decide if there’s feedback that you disagree with and/or don’t plan to incorporate. All feedback is useful because it helps us as writers understand how readers interpret our work, but just because all feedback is useful doesn’t mean we have to implement every piece of feedback we get. If there are suggestions for revision with which you disagree, it’s important for you to articulate (both to yourself and, if possible, to your professor or supervisor) why you disagree and/or why you aren’t planning to make the suggested changes. Let’s think through an example: when I was in graduate school, I wrote a final paper about teaching for one of my theory classes. Throughout the paper, I used “I.” During peer review, one of my peers commented that the use of “I” undercut my authority and credibility and that I should change everything to third person. I disagreed: I think using “I” in that paper gave me more credibility because it allowed me to make clear that my claims were based both on the sources I was using as evidence and on my own experiences. I didn’t stop using “I,” and when asked by my professor why, I told her exactly what I just wrote here: using “I” was an important part of my approach to this topic, and I thought it enhanced my credibility. Sometimes, feedback asks us to make changes that go against the goals or purposes we have for our writing, and when that happens, it sometimes makes sense to decide against incorporating that feedback. The key is to know why you’re making such a choice and to be able to articulate that reason to others.

Share your plan with your professor/supervisor: At this point in the process (when you’ve received specific feedback but haven’t started making changes to your text) it might be a good idea to send a brief email or have a brief conversation with the person who gave you the assignment to see if your plan for revisions also make sense to them. If there are changes suggested by your readers that you’re not planning to incorporate, this is also a good time to articulate that to your professor and discuss why you don’t plan to make those particular changes. Your professor or supervisor might also have some additional suggestions for how to make changes that could be helpful as you begin to make revisions.

Step 4: Make Changes

In many of the examples above, there are specific, concrete changes that flow naturally from the feedback I received. But sometimes, feedback is more general or applies to a large section of a text. In those cases, you might need some additional strategies for figuring out which specific changes you want to make and how to make those changes. Here are few strategies that might be helpful at this point in the process: 

Create a reverse outline: Creating a reverse outline allows you to see the main ideas of each of your paragraphs and think about the overall organization of your text. To create a reverse outline, you’ll need a full draft of your text. Next to each paragraph, add a word or phrase that conveys the main topic of the paragraph. (If you find yourself wanting to write multiple words/phrases, that’s often an indication that the paragraph in question should be more than one paragraph.) Once you’ve done this for each paragraph, make a list of these words and phrases in order. Are there similar words or phrases in different sections of your text? Do you need to move paragraphs around to make sure similar ideas are close to one another? Does the order of ideas make sense to you? Is there an important idea missing?

Focus on the thesis or main idea: Focusing on your main idea allows you to ensure that the text serves the purpose you intended or makes the argument you intended. Start by highlighting or underlining your main idea. Does the section you underlined adequately capture what you intended your main idea to be? Are there things missing? 

Next, look at each paragraph. Does each of your paragraphs move your reader closer to understanding that main idea? Are there ideas covered by paragraphs or sections that don’t show up in your main idea? If so, should you revise your main idea to represent these ideas? Or, if there are sections that don’t help to advance your readers’ understanding of the main idea, should you remove these sections?

Review your evidence: Each of your paragraphs needs evidence. Different kinds of text use different kinds of evidence. Sometimes, evidence takes the form of quotes, paraphrases, or ideas from scholarly or expert sources. Other times, evidence takes the form of specific details or narratives. Thinking about your purpose for writing (and, if there’s an assignment involved, the specific requirements of the assignment), what kinds of evidence does your text need? Do each of your paragraphs have adequate evidence to support the main idea or purpose of that paragraph?

Examine introductions and conclusions : Introductions and conclusions give writers a chance to clearly communicate their purposes, so it’s always a great idea to review these two sections as you make revisions. Does your introduction help the reader understand both your topic and your purpose for writing about it? Does your conclusion make clear what you wanted your reader to understand? Making changes to introductions and conclusions can make a big difference to your reader’s overall experience of your text.

Step 5: Reflect on the Changes You’ve Made

So now you’re done, right? You’ve solicited feedback, interpreted the comments you received, and made changes to your work. What’s left? The answer is reflection. Reflection asks us to look back on the process that allowed us to compose and revise our texts and think about how that process and the changes we’ve made might help us compose differently in the future.Taking time to reflect allows you to think through how the feedback you received on this piece of writing might change your writing process moving forward. What have you learned about your strengths as a writer? What have you learned about your challenges? What have you learned about how to address those challenges? Answering these questions will allow you to more easily apply what you’ve learned writing this specific document to other writing contexts.

Revisit feedback: Once you’ve made changes to your text, it’s a good idea to return to the feedback and consider if there’s anything in that feedback you haven’t yet responded to. Did the feedback include a suggested revision you decided not to make? Are there additional changes that the feedback encourages? If you’ve chosen not to implement any of the suggested changes, how would you justify that decision?

Articulate how the changes you made address that feedback : Finally, it can be useful to take a few minutes to articulate how the revisions you made address the feedback you received. What changes did you actually make to your text? And for each of those changes, what piece of feedback were you responding to? These notes might be helpful as you work on future drafts of this project and/or future writing projects.

Reflect on (and write a little about) how this process of writing, feedback, and revision might change your process moving forward. This is your chance to take a few notes about how you might approach another writing situation differently because of what you’ve learned about yourself as a writer. What has this process taught you about your strengths? What has it taught you about your challenges? How will you approach those challenges differently based on what you learned here?

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Brevity – Say More with Less

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Clarity (in Speech and Writing)

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Inclusivity – Inclusive Language

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Unity

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Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

  • An Introduction to Punctuation
  • Ph.D., Rhetoric and English, University of Georgia
  • M.A., Modern English and American Literature, University of Leicester
  • B.A., English, State University of New York

In composition , revision is the process of rereading a text and making changes (in content, organization , sentence structures , and word choice ) to improve it.

During the revision stage of the writing process , writers may add, remove, move and substitute text (the ARMS treatment). "[T]hey have opportunities to think about whether their text communicates effectively to an audience , to improve the quality of their prose , and even to reconsider their content and perspective and potentially transform their own understanding" (Charles MacArthur in Best Practices in Writing Instruction , 2013).

"Leon approved of revision," says Lee Child in his novel Persuader (2003). "He approved of it big time. Mainly because revision was about thinking, and he figured thinking never hurt anybody." See the Observations and Recommendations below. Also see:

  • Revision Checklist
  • Writers on Rewriting
  • Audience Analysis Checklist
  • The Best Time to Stop Rewriting: Russell Baker on the Perils of Obsessive Revision
  • Campaign to Cut the Clutter: Zinsser's Brackets
  • Collaborative Writing and Peer Response
  • Common Revision Symbols and Abbreviations
  • The Invisible Mark of Punctuation: The Paragraph Break
  • Revising an Argument Essay
  • Revising a Place Description
  • Revision and Editing Checklist for a Critical Essay
  • Two Versions of "Kidnapped by Movies," by Susan Sontag
  • Writers on Writing: Ten Tips for Finding the Right Words
  • Writing Portfolio
  • The Writing Process

Etymology From the Latin, "to visit again, to look at again"  

Observations and Recommendations

  • "Rewriting is the essence of writing well: it's where the game is won or lost." (William Zinsser, On Writing Well . 2006)
  • " [R]evision begins with the large view and proceeds from the outside in, from overall structure to paragraphs and finally sentences and words, toward ever more intricate levels of detail. In other words, there's no sense in revising a sentence to a hard shining beauty if the passage including that sentence will have to be cut." (Philip Gerard, Creative Nonfiction: Researching and Crafting Stories of Real Life . Story Press, 1996)
  • "Writing is revising , and the writer's craft is largely a matter of knowing how to discover what you have to say, develop, and clarify it, each requiring the craft of revision ." (Donald M. Murray, The Craft of Revision , 5th ed. Wadsworth, 2003)
  • Fixing the Mess " Revision is a grand term for the frantic process of fixing the mess. . . . I just keep reading the story, first on the tube, then in paper form, usually standing up at a file cabinet far from my desk, tinkering and tinkering, shifting paragraphs around, throwing out words, shortening sentences, worrying and fretting, checking spelling and job titles and numbers." (David Mehegan, quoted by Donald M. Murray in Writing to Deadline . Heinemann, 2000)
  • Two Kinds of Rewriting "[T]here are at least two kinds of rewriting. The first is trying to fix what you've already written, but doing this can keep you from facing up to the second kind, from figuring out the essential thing you're trying to do and looking for better ways to tell your story. If [F. Scott] Fitzgerald had been advising a young writer and not himself he might have said, 'Rewrite from principle,' or 'Don't just push the same old stuff around. Throw it away and start over.'" (Tracy Kidder and Richard Todd, Good Prose: The Art of Nonfiction . Random House, 2013)
  • A Form of Self-Forgiveness "I like to think of revision as a form of self-forgiveness: you can allow yourself mistakes and shortcomings in your writing because you know you're coming back later to improve it. Revision is the way you cope with bad luck that made your writing less than excellent this morning. Revision is the hope you hold out for yourself to make something beautiful tomorrow though you didn't quite manage it today. Revision is democracy's literary method, the tool that allows an ordinary person to aspire to extraordinary achievement." (David Huddle, The Writing Habit . Peregrine Smith, 1991)
  • Peer Revising "Peer revising is a common feature of writing-process classrooms, and it is often recommended as a way of providing student writers with an audience of readers who can respond to their writing, identify strengths and and problems, and recommend improvements. Students may learn from serving in roles of both author and editor . The critical reading required as an editor can contribute to learning how to evaluate writing. Peer revising is most effective when it is combined with instruction based on evaluation criteria or revising strategies." (Charles A. MacArthur, "Best Practices in Teaching Evaluation and Revision." Best Practices in Writing Instruction , ed. by Steve Graham, Charles A. MacArthur, and Jill Fitzgerald. Guilford Press, 2007)
  • Revising Out Loud "You will find, to your delight, that reading your own work aloud, even silently, is the most astonishingly easy and reliable method that there is for achieving economy in prose, efficiency of description, and narrative effect as well." (George V. Higgins, On Writing . Henry Holt, 1990)
  • Writers on Revising - "We have discovered that writing allows even a stupid person to seem halfway intelligent, if only that person will write the same thought over and over again, improving it just a little bit each time. It is a lot like inflating a blimp with a bicycle pump. Anybody can do it. All it takes is time." (Kurt Vonnegut, Palm Sunday: An Autobiographical Collage . Random House, 1981) - "Beginning writers everywhere might take a lesson from [Lafcadio] Hearn's working method: when he thought he was finished with a piece, he put it in his desk drawer for a time, then took it out to revise it, then returned it to the drawer, a process that continued until he had exactly what he wanted." (Francine Prose, "Serene Japan." Smithsonian , September 2009) - "An excellent rule for writers is this: Condense your article to the last possible point consistent with clearness. Then cut off its head and tail, and serve up the remains with the sauce of good humor." (C.A.S. Dwight, "The Religious Press." The Editor , 1897) - " Revision is one of the exquisite pleasures of writing.” (Bernard Malamud, Talking Horse: Bernard Malamud on Life and Work , ed. by Alan Cheuse and Nichola Delbanco. Columbia University Press, 1996) - "I rewrite a great deal. I'm always fiddling, always changing something. I'll write a few words--then I'll change them. I add. I subtract. I work and fiddle and keep working and fiddling, and I only stop at the deadline." (Ellen Goodman) - "I'm not a very good writer, but I'm an excellent rewriter." (James Michener) - "Writing is like everything else: the more you do it the better you get. Don't try to perfect as you go along, just get to the end of the damn thing. Accept imperfections. Get it finished and then you can go back. If you try to polish every sentence there's a chance you'll never get past the first chapter." (Iain Banks) - " Revision is very important to me. I just can't abide some things that I write. I look at them the next day and they're terrible. They don't make sense, or they're awkward, or they're not to the point--so I have to revise, cut, shape. Sometimes I throw the whole thing away and start from scratch." (William Kennedy) - "Successful writing takes great exertion, and multiple revisions , refinement, retooling--until it looks as if it didn't take any effort at all." (Dinty W. Moore, The Mindful Writer . Wisdom Publications, 2012)
  • Jacques Barzun on the Pleasures of Revision "Rewriting is called revision in the literary and publishing trade because it springs from re-viewing , that is to say, looking at your copy again--and again and again. When you have learned to look at your own words with critical detachment, you will find that rereading a piece five or six times in a row will each time bring to light fresh spots of trouble. The trouble is sometimes elementary: you wonder how you can have written it as a pronoun referring to a plural subject. The slip is easily corrected. At other times you have written yourself into a corner, the exit from which is not at once apparent. Your words down there seem to preclude the necessary repairs up here--because of repetition, syntax, logic, or some other obstacle. Nothing comes to mind as reconciling sense with sound and with clarity in both places. In such a fix you may have to start farther back and pursue a different line altogether. The sharper your judgment, the more trouble you will find. That is why exacting writers are known to have rewritten a famous paragraph or chapter six or seven times. It then looked right to them, because every demand of their art had been met, every flaw removed, down to the slightest. "You and I are far from that stage of mastery, but we are none the less obliged to do some rewriting beyond the intensive correction of bad spots. For in the act of revising on the small scale one comes upon gaps in thought and--what is as bad--real or apparent repetitions or intrusions, sometimes called backstitching . Both are occasions for surgery. In the first case you must write a new fragment and insert it so that its beginning and end fit what precedes and follows. In the second case you must lift the intruding passage and transfer or eliminate it. Simple arithmetic shows you that there are then three and not two sutures to be made before the page shows a smooth surface. If you have never performed this sort of work in writing, you must take it from me that it affords pleasure and satisfaction, both. (Jacques Barzun, Simple and Direct: A Rhetoric for Writers , 4th ed. Harper Perennial, 2001)
  • John McPhee on the End of Revision "People often ask how I know when I'm done--not just when I've come to the end, but in all the drafts and revisions and substitutions of one word for another how do I know there is no more to do? When am I done? I just know. I'm lucky that way. What I know is that I can't do any better; someone else might do better, but that's all I can do; so I call it done." (John McPhee, "Structure." The New Yorker , January 14, 2013)

Pronunciation: re-VIZH-en

  • Examples of Great Introductory Paragraphs
  • How Do You Edit an Essay?
  • Explore and Evaluate Your Writing Process
  • An Essay Revision Checklist
  • 10 Tips for Finding the Right Words
  • Imitation in Rhetoric and Composition
  • The Drafting Stage of the Writing Process
  • The Difference Between Revising and Editing
  • John McPhee: His Life and Work
  • A Writing Portfolio Can Help You Perfect Your Writing Skills
  • How to Write a Letter of Complaint
  • Revision and Editing Checklist for a Narrative Essay
  • An Introduction to Academic Writing
  • Self-Evaluation of Essays
  • The Writer's Voice in Literature and Rhetoric
  • Writing a Lead or Lede to an Article

Writing Studio

Questions to ask when revising a paper.

In an effort to make our handouts more accessible, we have begun converting our PDF handouts to web pages. Download this page as a PDF: Questions to Ask When Revising a Paper Return to Writing Studio Handouts

Here are some questions to help you get started on revising a paper. Under each question are some suggested revision activities to assist you in this process.

Full descriptions of the recommended activities can be found on our Revision resource page.

Questions and Corresponding Revision Strategies

Does the writing have a clear sense of purpose.

Suggested Revision Strategies: Underline Your Main Point, Memory Draft. See also: Reverse Outline, 3×5 Note Card, Cubing

Is my paper’s main idea, or thesis, clearly stated early on (within the first paragraph, ideally)?

Suggested Revision Strategies: Reverse Outline, Talk Your Paper, Underline Your Main Point

Could I organize my ideas more logically (within a paragraph or among paragraphs)?

Suggested Revision Strategies: Reverse Outline and 3×5 Note Card. See also: Memory Draft, Read Out Loud

Are the topic sentences clearly connected to my paper’s main idea and do (most) topic sentences appear at the beginning of each paragraph?

Put differently: could someone read only the first sentence of each paragraph and thereby get a good sense of what the paper is about?

Suggested Revision Strategies: 3×5 Note Card. See also: Reverse Outline, Unpacking an Idea

Do the sentences in each paragraph relate to that paragraph’s topic sentence?

Suggested Revision Strategies: 3×5 Note Card. See also: Unpacking an Idea

Is there unnecessary repetition of certain points (an indication that the paper’s organization should be tinkered with, overhauled, etc.)?

Suggested Revision Strategies: Reverse Outline, Cubing, Read Out Loud

Is there sufficient (but not excessive) use of texts, evidence, or data?

Suggested Revision Strategies: Unpacking an Idea, Cubing, Talk Your Paper, Outside Reader

Does my paper employ effective transitional words, phrases, and sentences?

Suggested Revision Strategies: Outside Reader, Read Out Loud

Are the sentences well-worded and well-constructed?

Suggested Revision Strategies: Read Out Loud

Should some sentences be combined (for the sake of clarity, to avoid choppiness, etc.)? Should others be broken into two or more sentences, so that distinct—even if also related—ideas receive proper emphasis?

Suggested Revision Strategies: Read Out Loud, Outside Reader

Is the language precise and appropriate to the writing context?

Suggested Revision Strategies: Writing Between the Lines, Read Out Loud

Is the style authentic and engaging?

Suggested Revision Strategies: Talk Your Paper, Read Out Loud

Have I rewritten the introduction in order to remove sentences that are not essential to the set-up of my argument?

We strongly suggest removing, for instance, any “since the dawn of time” statements and others of its type that do not help to introduce your topic.

Suggested Revision Strategies: Talk Your Paper, Underline Your Main Point, Memory Draft

Have I addressed all of the questions (or parts of questions) in the assignment?

Suggested Revision Strategies: Return to the Prompt

Last revised: 07/2008| Adapted for web delivery: 05/2021

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In the pandemic, we were told to keep 6 feet apart. There’s no science to support that.

In a congressional appearance, infectious-disease expert Anthony S. Fauci characterized the recommendation as “an empiric decision that wasn’t based on data.”

revising in essay

The nation’s top mental health official had spent months asking for evidence behind the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s social distancing guidelines, warning that keeping Americans physically apart during the coronavirus pandemic would harm patients, businesses, and overall health and wellness.

Now, Elinore McCance-Katz, the Trump administration’s assistant secretary for mental health and substance use, was urging the CDC to justify its recommendation that Americans stay six feet apart to avoid contracting covid-19 — or get rid of it.

“I very much hope that CDC will revisit this decision or at least tell us that there is more and stronger data to support this rule than what I have been able to find online,” McCance-Katz wrote in a June 2020 memo submitted to the CDC and other health agency leaders and obtained by The Washington Post. “If not, they should pull it back.”

The CDC would keep its six-foot social distance recommendation in place until August 2022, with some modifications as Americans got vaccinated against the virus and officials pushed to reopen schools. Now, congressional investigators are set Monday to press Anthony S. Fauci, the infectious-disease doctor who served as a key coronavirus adviser during the Trump and Biden administrations, on why the CDC’s recommendation was allowed to shape so much of American life for so long, particularly given Fauci and other officials’ recent acknowledgments that there was little science behind the six-foot rule after all.

“It sort of just appeared, that six feet is going to be the distance,” Fauci testified to Congress in a January closed-door hearing, according to a transcribed interview released Friday. Fauci characterized the recommendation as “an empiric decision that wasn’t based on data.”

Francis S. Collins, former director of the National Institutes of Health, also privately testified to Congress in January that he was not aware of evidence behind the social distancing recommendation, according to a transcript released in May.

Four years later, visible reminders of the six-foot rule remain with us, particularly in cities that rushed to adopt the CDC’s guidelines hoping to protect residents and keep businesses open. D.C. is dotted with signs in stores and schools — even on sidewalks or in government buildings — urging people to stand six feet apart.

Experts agree that social distancing saved lives, particularly early in the pandemic when Americans had no protections against a novel virus sickening millions of people. One recent paper published by the Brookings Institution , a nonpartisan think tank, concludes that behavior changes to avoid developing covid-19, followed later by vaccinations, prevented about 800,000 deaths. But that achievement came at enormous cost, the authors added, with inflexible strategies that weren’t driven by evidence.

“We never did the study about what works,” said Andrew Atkeson, a UCLA economist and co-author of the paper, lamenting the lack of evidence around the six-foot rule. He warned that persistent frustrations over social distancing and other measures might lead Americans to ignore public health advice during the next crisis.

The U.S. distancing measure was particularly stringent, as other countries adopted shorter distances; the World Health Organization set a distance of one meter, or slightly more than three feet, which experts concluded was roughly as effective as the six-foot mark at deterring infections, and would have allowed schools to reopen more rapidly.

The six-foot rule was “probably the single most costly intervention the CDC recommended that was consistently applied throughout the pandemic,” Scott Gottlieb, former Food and Drug Administration commissioner, wrote in his book about the pandemic, “Uncontrolled Spread.”

It’s still not clear who at the CDC settled on the six-foot distance; the agency has repeatedly declined to specify the authors of the guidance, which resembled its recommendations on how to avoid contracting the flu. A CDC spokesperson credited a team of experts, who drew from research such as a 1955 study on respiratory droplets . In his book, Gottlieb wrote that the Trump White House pushed back on the CDC’s initial recommendation of 10 feet of social distance, saying it would be too difficult to implement.

Perhaps the rule’s biggest impact was on children, despite ample evidence they were at relatively low risk of covid-related complications. Many schools were unable to accommodate six feet of space between students’ desks and forced to rely on virtual education for more than a year, said Joseph Allen, a Harvard University expert in environmental health, who called in 2020 for schools to adopt three feet of social distance.

“The six-foot rule was really an error that had been propagated for several decades, based on a misunderstanding of how particles traveled through indoor spaces,” Allen said, adding that health experts often wrongly focused on avoiding droplets from infected people rather than improving ventilation and filtration inside buildings.

Social distancing had champions before the pandemic. Bush administration officials, working on plans to fight bioterrorism, concluded that social distancing could save lives in a health crisis and renewed their calls as the coronavirus approached. The idea also took hold when public health experts initially believed that the coronavirus was often transmitted by droplets expelled by infected people, which could land several feet away; the CDC later acknowledged the virus was airborne and people could be exposed just by sharing the same air in a room, even if they were farther than six feet apart.

“There was no magic around six feet,” Robert R. Redfield, who served as CDC director during the Trump administration, told a congressional committee in March 2022. “It’s just historically that’s what was used for other respiratory pathogens. So that really became the first piece” of a strategy to protect Americans in the early days of the virus, he said.

It also became the standard that states and businesses adopted, with swift pressure on holdouts. Lawmakers and workers urged meat processing plants, delivery companies and other essential businesses to adopt the CDC’s social distancing recommendations as their employees continued reporting to work during the pandemic.

Some business leaders weren’t sure the measures made sense. Jeff Bezos, founder of online retail giant Amazon, petitioned the White House in March 2020 to consider revising the six-foot recommendation, said Adam Boehler, then a senior Trump administration official helping with the coronavirus response. At the time, Amazon was facing questions about a rising number of infections in its warehouses, and Democratic senators were urging the company to adopt social distancing.

“Bezos called me and asked, is there any real science behind this rule?” Boehler said, adding that Bezos pushed on whether Amazon could adopt an alternative distance if workers were masked, physically separated by dividers or other precautions were taken. “He said … it’s the backbone of trying to keep America running here, and when you separate somebody five feet versus six feet, it’s a big difference,” Boehler recalled. Bezos owns The Washington Post.

Kelly Nantel, an Amazon spokesperson, confirmed that Bezos called Boehler and said the Amazon founder’s focus was the discrepancy between the U.S. recommendation and the WHO’s shorter distance. The company soon said it would follow the CDC’s six-foot social distancing guidelines in its warehouses and later developed technologies to try to enforce those guidelines. “We did it globally everywhere because it was the right thing to do,” Nantel said.

Boehler said he spoke with Redfield and Fauci about testing alternatives to the six-foot recommendation but that he was not aware of what happened to those tests or what they found. Fauci declined to comment. Redfield did not respond to requests for comment.

But challenging the six-foot recommendation, particularly in the pandemic’s early days, was seen as politically difficult. Rochelle Walensky, then chief of infectious disease at Massachusetts General Hospital, argued in a July 2020 email that “if people are masked it is quite safe and much more practical to be at 3 feet” in many school settings.

Five months later, incoming president Joe Biden would tap Walensky as his CDC director. Walensky swiftly endorsed the six-foot distance before working to loosen it, announcing in March 2021 that elementary school students could sit three feet apart if they were masked. Walensky declined to comment.

The most persistent government critic of the social distancing guidelines may have been McCance-Katz, who did not respond to requests for comment for this article. Trump’s mental health chief had spent several years clashing with other Department of Health and Human Services officials on various matters and had few internal defenders by the time the pandemic arrived, hampering her message. But while her pleas failed to move the CDC, her warnings about the risks to mental health found an audience with Trump and his allies, who blamed federal bureaucrats for the six-foot rule and other measures.

“What is this nonsense that somehow it’s unsafe to return to school?” McCance-Katz said in September 2020 on an HHS podcast, lamenting the broader shutdown of American life. “I do think that Americans are smart people, and I think that they need to start asking questions about why is it this way.”

revising in essay

IMAGES

  1. How to Revise an Essay

    revising in essay

  2. How to Revise an Essay and Make It Better Than Ever

    revising in essay

  3. Revising and Editing an Essay: Checklist for Students

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  4. How to Revise an Essay in 3 Steps

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  5. Revising Your Essay in 5 Steps

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  6. How to Revise an Essay

    revising in essay

VIDEO

  1. ENG 101 Online Week 11 Revising and Editing Essay 3

  2. Professor Wadsack's Monday, Nov. 20, Class Video, Part 1

  3. Professor Wadsack's Monday, Nov. 20, Class Video, Part 2

  4. Revising Your Essay

  5. How to Revise Effectively

  6. تفاوت انگلیسی آکادمیک با انگلیسی روزمره|

COMMENTS

  1. How to Revise an Essay in 3 Simple Steps

    How to Revise an Essay in 3 Simple Steps. Published on December 2, 2014 by Shane Bryson.Revised on December 8, 2023 by Shona McCombes. Revising and editing an essay is a crucial step of the writing process.It often takes up at least as much time as producing the first draft, so make sure you leave enough time to revise thoroughly.

  2. Steps for Revising

    Steps for Revising Your Paper. When you have plenty of time to revise, use the time to work on your paper and to take breaks from writing. If you can forget about your draft for a day or two, you may return to it with a fresh outlook. During the revising process, put your writing aside at least twice—once during the first part of the process ...

  3. Revising Drafts

    But be warned: there are two potential problems with revising as you go. One is that if you revise only as you go along, you never get to think of the big picture. The key is still to give yourself enough time to look at the essay as a whole once you've finished. Another danger to revising as you go is that you may short-circuit your creativity.

  4. 8.4 Revising and Editing

    Revising and editing are the two tasks you undertake to significantly improve your essay. Both are very important elements of the writing process. You may think that a completed first draft means little improvement is needed. However, even experienced writers need to improve their drafts and rely on peers during revising and editing.

  5. The Writing Center

    Why Revise. To make the draft more accessible to the reader. To sharpen and clarify the focus and argument. To improve and further develop ideas. Revision VS. Editing. Revising a piece of your own writing is more than just fixing errors—that's editing. Revision happens before editing. Revising involves re-seeing your essay from the eyes of a ...

  6. 17 Powerful Revision Strategies for Your Writing

    Editing is then followed by proofreading. Even though it's okay to do a little proofreading while editing, it's important that you do a full revision focused on editing and then another one on proofreading. 3. Justify Yourself. Each statement, question, point, and word should have a reason for being in your content.

  7. Step 4: Revise

    Step 4: Revise. "Rewriting is the essence of writing well: it's where the game is won or lost." —William Zinsser, On Writing Well. What does it really mean to revise, and why is a it a separate step from editing? Look at the parts of the word revise: The prefix re- means again or anew, and - vise comes from the same root as vision —i.e ...

  8. Academic Guides: Writing a Paper: Revising in General

    Plan for revision time. Give yourself time away from the document—an hour, a day, a week—so that you can look back at the document again with fresh eyes. Think big picture. Remember that the revision process focuses on your overall ideas and your overall organization. Use the revision checklist to check for this.

  9. How to Revise Drafts

    How to Revise. First, put your draft aside for a little while. Time away from your essay will allow for more objective self-evaluation. When you do return to the draft, be honest with yourself; ask yourself what you really think about the paper. Check the focus of the paper. Is it appropriate to the assignment prompt?

  10. How to Revise an Essay and Make It Better Than Ever

    Write and revise on separate days. Set aside your draft, and return to it in a day or two to begin the revision process. Read your essay out loud. By reading your essay aloud, you can hear errors and identify places where you might need to clarify or reword ideas. Check the content of your essay first.

  11. Revising Your Writing

    18. Revising Your Writing. Once you've worked on your draft, you need to revise and edit your work. Revising will help you check if you've responded to the assignment instructions and clearly communicated your ideas. Revising will also help you will help you correct grammatical, punctuation, and presentation issues.

  12. Academic Revising 101: The Essential Essay Revision Checklist

    Revising the Organization of an Essay. Essays are organized into 3 basic parts: the introduction, body, and conclusion. The introduction has a hook, overview of the topic or description of the situation, and the thesis statement. The body contains the ideas and details that support the thesis statement. It's the heart of your essay content.

  13. PDF Strategies for Essay Writing

    When you write an essay for a course you are taking, you are being asked not only to create a product (the essay) but, more importantly, to go through a process of thinking more deeply about a question or problem related to the course. By writing about a source or collection of sources, you will have the chance to wrestle with some of the

  14. Revising

    Revision means to see (vision) again (re). Revision is more than proofreading. It is looking back at whole ideas to make sure that everything fits the purpose of the document. It may be looking back at the type of or amount of evidence provided to support the ideas, or it may be looking back at the organization of paragraphs and their relation ...

  15. Guidelines for Revising a Composition

    Guidelines for Revising a Composition. Revision means looking again at what we have written to see how we can improve it. Some of us start revising as soon as we begin a rough draft —restructuring and rearranging sentences as we work out our ideas. Then we return to the draft, perhaps several times, to make further revisions.

  16. Revision

    Revision is an extremely important part of the writing process. 2. Revision improves the quality of writing. 3. Revision encourages critical thinking. 4. Revision helps writers establish a consistent and appropriate voice, tone, persona, and style. Review of Helpful Guides to Revision @ Writing Commons.

  17. Revision Strategies

    Read your essay carefully and think about the lessons you have learned about logic, fallacies, and audience. For an example of the revision process, check out the first revising and editing video on the See It in Practice page from the Research area of the Excelsior OWL. A post draft outline can also help you during the revision process.

  18. Working Through Revision: Rethink, Revise, Reflect

    Polished texts tend to undergo both revision and editing at various stages of the writing process. Five Steps for Making Substantive but Manageable Revisions. Step 1: Ask for Feedback. Step 3: Translate Feedback into a Concrete Revision Plan. Step 4: Make Changes. Step 5: Reflect on the Changes You've Made.

  19. Revision: Revising an Essay During the Writing Process

    Definition. In composition, revision is the process of rereading a text and making changes (in content, organization, sentence structures, and word choice) to improve it. During the revision stage of the writing process, writers may add, remove, move and substitute text (the ARMS treatment). " [T]hey have opportunities to think about whether ...

  20. Questions to Ask When Revising a Paper

    Download this page as a PDF: Questions to Ask When Revising a Paper. Return to Writing Studio Handouts. Here are some questions to help you get started on revising a paper. Under each question are some suggested revision activities to assist you in this process.

  21. Why any estimate of the cost of climate change will be flawed

    In 2022 America's Environmental Protection Agency ( EPA) proposed revising up its estimate of the social cost of carbon from $51 to $190. Messrs Känzig's and Bilal's calculations produce a ...

  22. In the pandemic, we were told to keep 6 feet apart. There's no science

    Jeff Bezos, founder of online retail giant Amazon, petitioned the White House in March 2020 to consider revising the six-foot recommendation, said Adam Boehler, then a senior Trump administration ...