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Revising and Editing

What is revision.

Once you have reached the point that you have a full rough draft, take some time to step away from the essay to get a newer and better perspective. Then begin revising.

Revising means reexamining and rethinking what you’ve written in earlier drafts. The process of revision is more cyclical than it is linear, but any revision process should have clear steps that help you focus on different elements of your writing.

A successful revision process should involve:

  • Adding and deleting ideas extensively
  • Rearranging ideas, paragraphs, sentences, phrases, and words
  • Rewriting paragraphs and sentences for more variety, better flow, and more precise word choices

Keep in mind that successful revision is rarely accomplished quickly and easily. It is typical that you will work through the process of revising three or four rough drafts before you are finally satisfied and ready to call your essay finished.

Developing a Process for Revising

Just as writing is a deeply personal and individualized act, so is revising. This chapter, along with advice from your professors and classmates, can help you identify and develop skills for revising your writing. But in order for the shape and style of your revision process to ultimately prove useful to you, then your methods for revising must become uniquely your own. This means you might take bits and pieces of the advice in this chapter, and then mix that together to formulate your specific process for revising. Also keep in mind that as you evolve as a writer, and as you write across different genres, your revision process will likewise change. What is most important is that you view revision as a continual practice that you are committed to developing and refining over time.

A Top-Down Approach to Revising

It can be tempting to focus most of your revision efforts on the small stuff happening in your sentences. But this approach will usually lead to more work, especially if you end up realizing that perfectly edited paragraphs later need to be cut because they no longer fit with your overall purpose or structure.

Instead, you should use a top-down approach for revising. Doing so helps you address larger issues before focusing on smaller issues.

  • Revise for overall meaning and structure. Your essay should develop a central point clearly and logically. The purpose, tone, and point-of-view of your essay should be suited for your audience and line up with your professor’s instructions.
  • Revise for paragraph development. Check that your paragraphs are logically ordered, unified, and specific.
  • Revise sentence structure. Make sure your sentences remain consistent with your overall tone, are varied in type and length, and state your ideas effectively and efficiently.
  • Revise for word choices. You should strive to use specific rather than general terms, should rely on strong verbs, and should only use necessary modifiers.

Other Useful Strategies for Revising

Self-questioning. Just as we use questions to help us brainstorm and define our ideas, we can use question to revise and review our writing. The below questions can help you consider multiple levels and aspects of your writing.

  • Voice: Does it sound like a real human being wrote this draft? Does your introduction project a clear sense of your purpose? Honestly, would someone other than your paid instructor or classmates read beyond the first paragraph of this essay?
  • Audience: Does your writing use specific strategies or ideas to draw in a specific set of readers? Do you address the same audience throughout the essay? If you don’t, are you being intentional about shifting from one audience to another, and is that intention clear in your writing?
  • Message: Are your main points strong and clear? Do you have ample support for each of them? Do your supporting details clearly support your main points?
  • Tone: Are you using the proper tone for the genre of writing, and for your purpose and intended audience? Is your language too casual or not professional enough? Or does it come off as overly formal and stiff? Does your tone stay consistent throughout the draft?
  • Attitude: Does your stance toward the topic stay consistent throughout the draft? If it doesn’t, do you explain the cause of the transformation in your attitude?
  • Reception: Is your goal or intent for writing clear? How is this essay likely to be received by another reader? What kind of motivation, ideas, or emotions will this draft draw out of your readers? What will your readers do, think, or feel immediately after finishing this essay?

Reverse Outlining. In reverse outlining, you read through your rough draft so that you can identify the topic of each paragraph. This way, you can determine if each paragraph has a clear focus and if each paragraph fits the overall organization of your essay.

Reading Aloud. The act of reading your essay aloud allows you to hear it in the way a reader will. This also forces you to slow down and pay attention to all the words in your rough draft, helping you notice where your writing is clear and effective, or where your writing is unclear or ineffective. As a general rule, poorly structured sections or sentences are hard to read out loud, indicating you might need to rework those parts of your draft.

Getting Peer Feedback. No one becomes a good writer in a vacuum. Sometimes writing is done for ourselves, but, more often, writing is done to connect to others, to share thoughts, and to communicate something others need to know. Once you have a full rough draft, it’s important for you to get an understanding of how well your writing works for readers. Showing the writing to someone else is essential. You might do this in a writers’ circle or just with a friend who is good with words and giving feedback. If possible, it’s best to show your writing to several people to get more than one opinion. Receiving feedback helps you discover the strengths in your writing as well as areas that may be improved.

Getting Feedback from a Tutor. Tutoring is an effective way for you to receive knowledgeable one-on-one feedback about your writing. It can also be an effective way to help manage time. Once you have a rough draft, you should seek the advice of the college’s writing tutors. They can quickly help you identify weaknesses in your writing and then discuss options for improvement.

What is Editing?

Editing is part of revising. If most of the revision process encourages you to consider how elements of your draft work together, editing is when you start to focus on isolated issues of grammar, mechanics, punctuation, spelling, and typos.

Remember that it is extremely important not to focus on editing too early in the writing process. If you write one sentence or paragraph and immediately begin to edit it, your overall progress will be slowed. This is why you should revise thoroughly first, and then edit and proofread your essays toward the end of your writing process.

What To Look for While Editing Your Writing

Grammar refers to the way people use language rules and how words are used in a certain order to form phrases and clauses that relay a meaning for readers. The term syntax (the art of sentence structure) goes hand in hand with grammar.

It’s important to note that, since you use language every day, you already have internalized essential grammar rules. Whether you believe it or not, you already know a great deal about how English grammar works, even if you can’t identify many grammar concepts by name. Most college writers struggle with only one or two main grammar issues, like how to correctly use a comma or semicolon. Once you master these issues, you can confidently edit your own work.

For help with understanding the rules and concepts of English grammar, check out the Purdue OWL: Grammar Guide .

Mechanics and Punctuation

Mechanics are established rules within a language system, and sometimes include the individual decisions that writers make regarding the use of capitalization, underlining, italicizing, numbers versus numerals, the placement of specific punctuation marks, and how all this differs throughout English-speaking countries. For example, many mechanics and punctuation rules differ between American English and British English.

Punctuation refers to the symbols you use to help readers understand and process the information you wish to convey through the sentences you write. Somewhat like the notes within a piece of music help musicians move quickly or slowly through a composition, punctuation marks are used to control the flow and rhythm of your writing.

For help with understanding the rules and concepts of English grammar, check out the Purdue OWL: Mechanics Guide and the Purdue OWL: Punctuation Guide .

Other Key Issues to Look Out for While Editing

Precision of Words. In early parts of the drafting process, it’s common to use generic words that do not accurately capture our intended message. Once you reach the editing phase, you should be on the lookout for any generic word choices that can be changed to become more precise. One of the overall goals in academic writing, and in most forms of writing, is to use specific language and terms as often as possible.

Unnecessary Words. In addition to striving to be as precise as possible in your use of language, you should also try to remove any unnecessary words. Many students believe that words like  really , very , just , and so on add an something important to their writing. However, words like these are overused and should be given special consideration. Each word in your writing should feel necessary to both you and your readers, and anything less than necessary should be removed or rewritten.

Repetition of Words and Phrases. The unintentional repetition of words and phrases is one of the most common oversights we make in our writing. We all have our go-to words and phrases—ones that come naturally to us as we speak and when we write. Because of this, you need to diligently check your writing for overuse of words and phrases. One of the best ways to do this is to read aloud while you edit. Doing so will allow you to hear and more easily notice the repetitions. Along with reading aloud, you can also use the search function in programs like Microsoft Word and Google Docs to quickly locate words and phrases you know you tend to repeat.

Spelling. We all have words that give us trouble as we write, even if we have learned how to spell those words. While spell-checkers can help us most of the time, they are not always correct, and it’s our responsibility to recognize which words we commonly misspell and edit our drafts to find spelling mistakes. Many of the words we misspell look or sound like other words, and for help identifying those words you should check out the Purdue OWL’s Common Words that Sound Alike .

Sources Used to Create this Chapter

Parts of this chapter were remixed from:

  • Let’s Get Writing by Elizabeth Browning et. al., which was published under a CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0 license.
  • English Composition by Ann Inoshita et. al., which was published under a CC-BY 4.0 license.
  • English Composition I  by Kimberly Miller-Davis, which was published under a CC-BY 4.0 license.

Starting the Journey: An Intro to College Writing Copyright © by Leonard Owens III; Tim Bishop; and Scott Ortolano is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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36 What Is revising?

Kathy Boylan

Once a rough draft is created, take some time to step away from the essay to get a newer and better perspective.  Then begin revising.  Revising means reexamining and rethinking the first draft, adding and deleting ideas extensively; rearranging any of the ideas, sentences, or paragraphs in the first draft; rewriting sentences and paragraphs for more variety, better flow, and more precise word choices.  Often times, you may have three or four drafts before you are finally satisfied with a final draft.  For easier revision, follow the following tips:

  • Take time between the first draft and the later revisions to approach it more objectively.
  • Revise on hard copy rather than on the computer screen.  Do not delete any drafts!  Do label each successive one. Allow yourself and others to annotate (comment on and give suggestions to improve) your draft.
  • Read the draft aloud.  Better yet, have someone else read it aloud.
  • Take advantage of opportunities to get feedback; however, do not become overwhelmed by feedback.
  • Do not allow ego to get in the way of a successful paper.
  • Revise for overall meaning and structure. Does the essay develop a central point clearly and logically and are the purpose, tone, and point-of-view suited for the audience of the essay?
  • Revise for paragraph development. Check that your paragraphs are logically ordered, unified, and specific.
  • Revise sentence structure. Make your sentences consistent with your overall tone, varied in type and length, emphatic, and economical.
  • Finally, revise for word choices. Aim for an appropriate level of diction, word choices that do not overstate or understate, specific rather than general terms, strong verbs, only necessary modifiers, and original and nonsexist language.
  • When you get your essays back, read the essay and heed your instructor’s comments.  They can help improve your future essays.  If you do not understand your grade or the instructor’s comments, schedule a conference to discuss them with her.  As you revise your future essays, revisit the mistakes made before and be sure you avoid repeating them.

Let's Get Writing! Copyright © 2018 by Kathy Boylan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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Writing Center

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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  • College essay

How to Revise Your College Admissions Essay | Examples

Published on September 24, 2021 by Kirsten Courault . Revised on December 8, 2023.

Revision and editing are essential to make your college essay the best it can be.

When you’ve finished your draft, first focus on big-picture issues like the overall narrative and clarity of your essay. Then, check your style and tone . You can do this for free with a paraphrasing tool . Finally, when you’re happy with your essay, polish up the details of grammar and punctuation with the essay checker , and don’t forget to check that it’s within the word count limit .

Remember to take a break after you finish writing and after each stage of revision. You should go through several rounds of revisions and ask for feedback on your drafts from a teacher, friend or family member, or professional essay coach. If you don’t have much time , focus on clarity and grammar by using a grammar checker .

You can also check out our college essay examples to get an idea of how to turn a weak essay into a strong one.

Table of contents

Big picture: check for overall message, flow, and clarity, voice: check for style and tone, details: check for grammar and punctuation, feedback: get a second opinion, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about college application essays.

In your first reading, don’t touch grammatical errors; just read through the entire essay to check the overall message, flow, and content quality.

Check your overall message

After reading your essay, answer the following questions:

  • What message do I take away from my essay?
  • Did I answer the prompt?
  • Does it end with an insight, or does it just tell a story?
  • Do I use stories and examples to demonstrate my values? Do these values match the university’s values?
  • Is it focused on me, or is it too focused on another person or idea?

If you answer any of these questions negatively, rewrite your essay to fix these problems.

Check transitions and flow

Underline every paragraph’s topic and transition sentence to visualize whether a clear structure and natural flow are maintained throughout your essay. If necessary, rewrite or rearrange these topic and transition sentences to create a logical outline. Then, reread the entire essay to check it flows naturally.

Also check that your application essay’s introduction catches the reader’s attention and that you end the essay with an effective payoff that builds on what comes before.

Check for content quality

Highlight any parts that are unclear, boring, or unnecessary. Afterward, go back and clarify the unclear sections, embellish the boring parts with vivid language to help your essay stand out , and delete any unnecessary sentences or words.

Make sure everything in the essay is showing off what colleges are looking for : your personality, interests, and positive traits.

Prevent plagiarism. Run a free check.

To ensure you use the correct tone for your essay, check whether there’s vulnerability, authenticity, a positive and polite tone, and a balance between casual and formal. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does the essay sound like me? Do my word choices seem natural?
  • Is it vulnerable? Do I write about myself in a way that demonstrates genuine self-reflection?
  • Is the tone conversational but respectful?
  • Is it polite and respectful about sensitive topics?

Read it aloud to catch errors

Hearing your essay read aloud can help you to catch problems with style and voice that you might miss when reading it silently. For example, you may overuse certain words, have unparallel sentence structures , or use vocabulary that sounds unnatural.

You should read your essay aloud several times throughout the revision process. This can also help you find grammar and punctuation errors. You can try the following:

  • Read it aloud yourself.
  • Have someone read it aloud for you.
  • Put it into a text-to-speech program.
  • Record yourself and play it back.

After checking for big-picture and stylistic issues, read your essay again for grammar and punctuation errors.

Run spell check

First, run spell check in your word processor to find any obvious spelling, grammar, or punctuation mistakes.

Punctuation, capitalization, and verb errors

Spell check might miss some minor errors in punctuation and capitalization . With verbs , check for correct subject-verb agreement and verb tense .

Sentence structure

Check for common sentence structure mistakes such as sentence fragments and run-ons. Throughout your essay, ensure you vary your sentence lengths and structures for an interesting flow.

Check for parallel structure in more complex sentences. Maintain clarity by fixing any dangling or misplaced modifiers .

Consistency

Be consistent with your use of contractions, acronyms, and verb tenses.

Whenever you reuse an essay for another university, make sure you replace any names from or references to the previous university.

You should get feedback on your essay before you submit your application. Stick to around two to three readers to avoid too much conflicting advice.

Ask for feedback from people who know you well, such as teachers or family members. It’s also important to get feedback on the content, tone, and flow of your essay from someone who is familiar with the college admissions process and has strong language skills.

You might want to consider getting professional help from an essay coach or editor. Editors should only give advice and suggestions; they should never rewrite your essay for you.

Have your readers or editors answer these feedback questions:

  • Is the introduction catchy and memorable?
  • Do I include specific stories that demonstrate my values?
  • Are there smooth transitions between paragraphs?
  • What message did you take away from my essay?
  • What parts were unclear, boring, or unnecessary?
  • Does the essay sound like me?
  • Is it vulnerable? Does it demonstrate genuine self-reflection?
  • Does it have the appropriate tone?
  • Is my humor (if any) funny?

Everyone needs feedback—asking for help doesn’t mean you’re a bad writer. A fresh pair of eyes might notice things you have missed.

Get help from a teacher, guidance counselor, or mentor

You can ask for feedback from a teacher who is familiar with your writing, preferably your English teacher , who can help you with narrative, flow, and grammar:

  • Familiar with your writing
  • Has good knowledge of narrative essays, grammar, and style techniques
  • May be overwhelmed with other students asking for help
  • May not be familiar with the college essay writing style

You can also ask your school’s guidance counselor , who should have specialist knowledge of what admissions officers look for in a college admissions essay:

  • Has good knowledge of the college application process
  • Most likely overwhelmed with other students asking for help
  • May not be familiar with your writing or personal background

Ask your teacher or guidance counselor for help at least one to two months before the submission deadline, as many other students will also want their help. Give them at least three weeks to review your essay.

You can also ask another adult, such as a mentor or coach who supervises your extracurricular activities:

  • Knows your background well
  • Might not be a strong writer

Ask family or friends to check for authenticity

Family and friends can be a good resource for checking that your essay sounds like you. However, for more comprehensive feedback, seek help from family with a strong writing or English educational background. You can also ask older siblings or cousins who have successfully completed the college admissions process.

  • Familiar with your background, personality, and key life moments
  • Can help you identify whether your essay has authenticity and vulnerability
  • May be unqualified to edit your essay
  • May give subjective advice to avoid hurting your feelings
  • May be difficult for you to receive unfavorable feedback from someone close to you

Hire an essay coach or editor

After receiving feedback from your close network, you can also get help from an essay editor who can give you objective expert feedback.

  • Has specialized knowledge of college admissions essays
  • Can give objective, high-quality feedback on your content, tone, and grammar
  • Unfamiliar with your background and personality

Explore our essay editing service

Incorporate feedback after a break

After receiving feedback, take a break for a few hours or get a good night’s sleep. Then, come back refreshed to incorporate feedback.

Depending on your writing, you may undergo multiple rounds of revision. Save each draft of your essay in a separate document, in case you want to borrow phrases or ideas from a previous draft.

If you want to know more about academic writing , effective communication , or parts of speech , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.

Academic writing

  • Writing process
  • Transition words
  • Passive voice
  • Paraphrasing

 Communication

  • How to end an email
  • Ms, mrs, miss
  • How to start an email
  • I hope this email finds you well
  • Hope you are doing well

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  • Personal pronouns
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When revising your college essay , first check for big-picture issues regarding message, flow, tone, style , and clarity. Then, focus on eliminating grammar and punctuation errors.

Teachers and guidance counselors can help you check your language, tone, and content . Ask for their help at least one to two months before the submission deadline, as many other students will also want their help.

Friends and family are a good resource to check for authenticity. It’s best to seek help from family members with a strong writing or English educational background, or from older siblings and cousins who have been through the college admissions process.

If possible, get help from an essay coach or editor ; they’ll have specialized knowledge of college admissions essays and be able to give objective expert feedback.

Depending on your writing, you may go through several rounds of revision . Make sure to put aside your essay for a little while after each editing stage to return with a fresh perspective.

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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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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.

An Overview of the Writing Process

Reviewing, editing, proofreading, and making an overview.

Every time you revise your work substantially, you will be conducting three distinct functions in the following order: reviewing for purpose, editing and proofreading, making a final overview.

Reviewing for Purpose

Learning objectives.

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Understand why and when to review for purpose.
  • Be prepared to use self-questioning in the purpose review process.

Although you will naturally be reviewing for purpose throughout the entire writing process, you should read through your first complete draft once you have finished it and carefully reconsider all aspects of your essay. As you review for purpose, keep in mind that your paper has to be clear to others, not just to you. Try to read through your paper from the point of view of a member of your targeted audience who is reading your paper for the first time. Make sure you have neither failed to clarify the points your audience will need to have clarified nor overclarified the points your audience will already completely understand.

A vertical flowchart: The top segment is "Review for Purpose"; the middle segment is "Edit and Proofread"; and the third segment is "Make a Final Overview."  The top segment, Review for Purpose, is highlighted to show the current stage.

Revisiting Your Statement of Purpose

Self-questioning is a useful tool when you are in the reviewing process. In anticipation of attaching a writer’s memo to your draft as you send it out for peer or instructor review, reexamine the six elements of the triangle that made up your original statement of purpose (voice, audience, message, tone, attitude, and reception):

Voice: Does it sound like a real human being wrote this draft? Does my introduction project a clear sense of who I am? Honestly, would someone other than my paid instructor or assigned peer(s) read beyond the first paragraph of this essay?

Audience: Does my writing draw in a specific set of readers with a catchy hook? Do I address the same audience throughout the essay? If I don’t, am I being intentional about shifting from one audience to another?

Message: Are my main points strong and clear? Do I have ample support for each of them? Do my supporting details clearly support my main points?

Tone: Am I using the proper tone given my audience? Is my language too casual or not professional enough? Or is it needlessly formal and stiff sounding? Does my tone stay consistent throughout the draft?

Attitude: Will my organization make sense to another reader? Does my stance toward the topic stay consistent throughout the draft? If it doesn’t, do I explain the cause of the transformation in my attitude?

Reception: Is my goal or intent for writing clear? How is this essay likely to be received? What kind of motivation, ideas, or emotions will this draft draw out of my readers? What will my readers do, think, or feel immediately after finishing this essay?

Handling Peer and Instructor Reviews

In many situations, you will be required to have at least one of your peers review your essay (and you will, in turn, review at least one peer’s essay). Even if you’re not required to exchange drafts with a peer, it’s simply essential at this point to have another pair of eyes, so find a classmate or friend and ask them to look over your draft. In other cases, your instructor may be intervening at this point with ungraded but evaluative commentary on your draft. Whatever the system, before you post or trade your draft for review, use your answers to the questions in  “Reviewing for Purpose”  to tweak your original statement of purpose, giving a clear statement of your desired voice, audience, message, tone, attitude, and reception. Also, consider preparing a descriptive outline showing how the essay actually turned out and comparing that with your original plan, or consider writing a brief narrative describing how the essay developed from idea to execution. Finally, include any other questions or concerns you have about your draft, so that your peer reader(s) or instructor can  give you useful, tailored feedback. These reflective statements and documents could be attached with your draft as part of a writer’s memo. Remember, the more guidance you give your readers, regardless of whether they are your peers or your instructor, the more they will be able to help you.

When you receive suggestions for content changes from your instructors, try to put aside any tendencies to react defensively, so that you can consider their ideas for revisions with an open mind. If you are accustomed only to getting feedback from instructors that is accompanied by a grade, you may need to get used to the difference between evaluation and judgment . In college settings, instructors often prefer to intervene most extensively after you have completed a first draft, with evaluative commentary that tends to be suggestive, forward-looking, and free of a final quantitative judgment (like a grade). If you read your instructors’ feedback in those circumstances as final, you can miss the point of the exercise. You’re supposed to do something with this sort of commentary, not just read it as the justification for a (nonexistent) grade.

Sometimes peers think they’re supposed to “sound like an English teacher” so they fall into the trap of “correcting” your draft, but in most cases, the prompts used in college- level peer reviewing discourage that sort of thing. In many situations, your peers will give you ideas that will add value to your paper, and you will want to include them. In other situations, your peers’ ideas will not really work into the plan you have for your paper. It is not unusual for peers to offer ideas that you may not want to implement. Remember, your peers’ ideas are only suggestions, and it is your essay, and you are the person who will make the final decisions. If your peers happen to be a part of the audience to which you are writing, they can sometimes give you invaluable ideas. And if they’re not, take the initiative to find outside readers who might actually be a part of your audience.

When you are reviewing a peer’s essay, keep in mind that the author likely knows more about the topic than you do, so don’t question content unless you are certain of your facts. Also, do not suggest changes just because you would do it differently or because you want to give the impression that you are offering ideas. Only suggest changes that you seriously think would make the essay stronger.

Key Takeaways

  • You should review for purpose while you are writing, after you finish your first draft, and after you feel your essay is nearly complete.
  • Use self-questioning to evaluate your essay as you are revising the purpose. Keep your voice, audience, message, tone, attitude, and reception in mind as you write and revise.
  • When you are reviewing a peers’ essay, make only suggestions that you think will  make the essay stronger. When you receive reviews from instructors or peers, try to be open minded and consider the value of the ideas to your essay.
  • Find multiple drafts of an essay you have recently completed. Write a descriptive outline of at least two distinct drafts you wrote during the process.
  • For a recently completed essay, discuss how at least one element of your statement of purpose (voice, audience, message, tone, attitude, or reception) changed over the course of the writing process.
  • With your writing group, develop five questions you think everyone in your class should have to answer about their essay drafts before submitting them for evaluation from a peer or your instructor.

Editing and Proofreading

  • Understand why editing and proofreading is important even for careful writers.
  • Recognize the benefits of peer editing and proofreading and the similarities between editing and proofreading your work and the work of others.
  • Know how to edit and proofread for issues of both mechanics and style.

When you have made some revisions to your draft based on feedback and your recalibration of your purpose for writing, you may now feel your essay is nearly complete. However, you should plan to read through the entire final draft at least one additional time. During this stage of editing and proofreading your entire essay, you should be looking for general consistency and clarity. Also, pay particular attention to parts of the paper you have moved around or changed in other ways to make sure that your new versions still work smoothly.

Although you might think editing and proofreading isn’t necessary since you were fairly careful when you were writing, the truth is that even the very brightest people and best writers make mistakes when they write. One of the main reasons that you are likely to make mistakes is that your mind and fingers are not always moving along at the same speed nor are they necessarily in sync. So what ends up on the page isn’t always exactly what you intended. A second reason is that, as you make changes and adjustments, you might not totally match up the original parts and revised parts. Finally, a third key reason for proofreading is because you likely have errors you typically make and proofreading gives you a chance to correct those errors.

Editing and proofreading can work well with a partner. You can offer to be another pair of eyes for peers in exchange for their doing the same for you. Whether you are editing and proofreading your work or the work of a peer, the process is basically the same. Although the rest of this section assumes you are editing and proofreading your work, you can simply shift the personal issues, such as “Am I…” to a viewpoint that will work with a peer, such as “Is she…”

As you edit and proofread, you should look for common problem areas that stick out. There are certain writing rules that you must follow, but other more stylistic writing elements are more subjective and will require judgment calls on your part.

Be proactive in evaluating these subjective, stylistic issues since failure to do so can weaken the potential impact of your essay. Keeping the following questions in mind as you edit and proofread will help you notice and consider some of those subjective issues:

  • At the word level: Am I using descriptive words? Am I varying my word choices rather than using the same words over and over? Am I using active verbs? Am I writing concisely? Does every word in each sentence perform a function?
  • At the sentence level: Am I using a variety of sentence beginnings? Am I using a variety of sentence formats? Am I using ample and varied transitions? Does every sentence advance the value of the essay?
  • At the paragraph and essay level: How does this essay look? Am I using paragraphing and paragraph breaks to my advantage? Are there opportunities to make this essay work better visually? Are the visuals I’m already using necessary? Am I using the required formatting (or, if there’s room for creativity, am I using the optimal formatting)? Is my essay the proper length?
  • Edit and proofread your work since it is easy to make mistakes between your mind and your typing fingers, as well as when you are moving around parts of your essay.
  • Trading a nearly final version of a draft with peers is a valuable exercise since others can often more easily see your mistakes than you can. When you edit and proofread for a peer, you use the same process as when you edit and proofread for yourself.
  • As you are editing and proofreading, you will encounter some issues that are either right or wrong and you simply have to correct them when they are wrong. Other more stylistic issues, such as using adequate transitions, ample descriptive words, and enough variety in sentence formats, are subjective. Besides dealing with matters of correctness, you will have to make choices about subjective and stylistic issues while you proofread.
  • Write a one-page piece about how you decided which college to attend. Give a copy of your file (or a hard copy) to three different peers to edit and proofread. Then edit and proofread your page yourself. Finally, compare your editing and proofreading results to those of your three peers. Categorize the suggested revisions and corrections as objective standards of correctness or subjective matters of style.
  • Create a “personal editing and proofreading guide” that includes an overview of both objective and subjective issues covered in this book that are common problems for you in your writing. In your guide, include tips from this book and self-questions that can help you with your problem writing areas.

Making a Final Overview

  • Understand the types of problems that might recur throughout your work.
  • Know when you should conduct isolated checks during a final overview.
  • Understand how to conduct isolated checks.

While you are managing the content of your essay and moving things around in it, you are likely to notice isolated issues that could recur throughout your work. To verify that these issues are satisfactorily dealt with from the beginning to the end of your essay, make a checklist of the issues as you go along. Conduct isolated checks of the whole paper after you are finished editing and proofreading. You might conduct some checks by flipping through the hard-copy pages, some by clicking through the pages on your computer, and some by conducting “ computer finds ” (good for cases when you want to make sure you’ve used the same proper noun correctly and consistently). Remember to take advantage of all the editing features of the word processing program you’re using, such as spell check and grammar check. In most versions of Word, for instance, you’ll see red squiggly lines underneath misspelled words and green squiggly lines underneath misuses of grammar. Right click on those underlined words to examine your options for revision.

The following checklist shows examples of the types of things that you might look for as you make a final pass (or final passes) through your paper. It often works best to make a separate pass for each issue because you are less likely to miss an issue and you will probably be able to make multiple, single-issue passes more quickly than you can make one multiple-issue pass.

  • All subheadings are placed correctly (such as in the center or at the beginning of a page).
  • All the text is the same size and font throughout.
  • The page numbers are all formatted and appearing as intended.
  • All image and picture captions are appearing correctly.
  • All spellings of proper nouns have been corrected.
  • The words “there” and “their” and “they’re” are spelled correctly. (Or you can insert your top recurring error here.)
  • References are all included in the citation list.
  • Within the citation list, references are all in a single, required format (no moving back and forth between Modern Language Association [MLA] and American Psychological Association [APA], for instance).
  • All the formatting conventions for the final manuscript follow the style sheet assigned by the instructor (e.g., MLA, APA, Chicago Manual of Style [CMS], or other).

This isn’t intended to be an all-inclusive checklist. Rather, it simply gives you an idea of the types of things for which you might look as you conduct your final check. You should develop your unique list that might or might not include these same items.

  • Often a good way to make sure you do not miss any details you want to change is to make a separate pass through your essay for each area of concern. You can conduct passes by flipping through hard copies, clicking through pages on a computer, or using the “find” feature on a computer.
  • You should conduct a final overview with isolated checks after you are finished editing and proofreading the final draft.
  • As you are writing, make a checklist of recurring isolated issues that you notice in your work. Use this list to conduct isolated checks on the final draft of your paper.

Complete each sentence to create a logical item for a list to use for a final isolated check. Do not use any of the examples given in the text.

  • All the subheadings are…
  • The spacing between paragraphs…
  • Each page includes…
  • I have correctly spelled…
  • The photos are all placed…
  • The words in the flow charts and diagrams…
  • Revising. Authored by : Anonymous. Provided by : Anonymous. Located at : http://2012books.lardbucket.org/books/writers-handbook/s12-revising.html . License : CC BY-NC-SA: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike

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5b. Revising

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. Published writing is typically revised and edited multiple times before it reaches the page or screen. The lessons in this section will help you appreciate that good writers may put as much or even far more time into revising and editing an essay as they do into writing a first draft.

Understanding the Purpose of Revising

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 share your work with peers, writing coaches, instructors and other trusted readers and self-reflect to 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.

Strategies for Revision

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.

  • Plan time between your first draft and your deadline. 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 days until you can look at it objectively.
  • Ask someone you trust for feedback and constructive criticism.
  • Pretend you are one of your readers or a journal editor. Would they be satisfied or dissatisfied?
  • 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.
  • Develop “thick skin.” Accepting criticism and seeking praise can be emotionally taxing.
  • Use the feedback you receive to complete a “reverse outline” of your first draft, creating a guide you can follow while you write your second draft.

Many people hear the words critique 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. You may receive different feedback from various reviewers and have to trust your instincts while revising your work.

Revising for Unity and Coherence

Creating an outline that you can follow 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 or quotations their writing may become underdeveloped and flat. Their writing may no longer be clear and concise, and they may be adding information that is not needed to develop the main idea. Revising for overall unity and coherence is a great place to begin.

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.

Transitions

What this section is about.

In this crazy, mixed-up world of ours, transitions glue our ideas and our essays together. This section will introduce you to some useful transitional expressions and help you employ them effectively.

The function and importance of transitions

In both academic writing and professional writing, your goal is to convey information clearly and concisely, if not to convert the reader to your way of thinking. Transitions help you to achieve these goals by establishing logical connections between sentences, paragraphs, and sections of your papers. In other words, transitions tell readers what to do with the information you present to them. Whether single words, quick phrases, or full sentences, they function as signs that tell readers how to think about, organize, and react to old and new ideas as they read through what you have written.

Transitions signal relationships between ideas—relationships such as: “Another example coming up—stay alert!” or “Here’s an exception to my previous statement” or “Although this idea appears to be true, here’s the real story.” Basically, transitions provide the reader with directions for how to piece together your ideas into a logically coherent argument. Transitions are not just verbal decorations that embellish your paper by making it sound or read better. They are words with particular meanings that tell the reader to think and react in a particular way to your ideas. In providing the reader with these important cues, transitions help readers understand the logic of how your ideas fit together.

Signs that you might need to work on your transitions

How can you tell whether you need to work on your transitions? Here are some possible clues:

  • Your instructor has written comments like “choppy,” “jumpy,” “abrupt,” “flow,” “need signposts,” or “how is this related?” on your papers.
  • Your readers (instructors, friends, or classmates) tell you that they had trouble following your organization or train of thought.
  • You tend to write the way you think—and your brain often jumps from one idea to another pretty quickly.
  • You wrote your paper in several discrete “chunks” and then pasted them together.
  • You are working on a group paper; the draft you are working on was created by pasting pieces of several people’s writing together.

Organization

Since the clarity and effectiveness of your transitions will depend greatly on how well you have organized your paper, you may want to evaluate your paper’s organization before you work on transitions. In the margins of your draft, summarize in a word or short phrase what each paragraph is about or how it fits into your analysis as a whole. This exercise should help you to see the order of and connection between your ideas more clearly.

If after doing this exercise you find that you still have difficulty linking your ideas together in a coherent fashion, your problem may not be with transitions but with organization. For help in this area (and a more thorough explanation of the “reverse outlining” technique described in the previous paragraph), please see the [University of North Carolina] Writing Center’s handout on organization .

How transitions work

The organization of your written work includes two elements: (1) the order in which you have chosen to present the different parts of your discussion or argument, and (2) the relationships you construct between these parts. Transitions cannot substitute for good organization, but they can make your organization clearer and easier to follow. Take a look at the following example:

El Pais , a Latin American country, has a new democratic government after having been a dictatorship for many years. Assume that you want to argue that El Pais is not as democratic as the conventional view would have us believe.

One way to effectively organize your argument would be to present the conventional view and then to provide the reader with your critical response to this view. So, in Paragraph A you would enumerate all the reasons that someone might consider El Pais highly democratic, while in Paragraph B you would refute these points. The transition that would establish the logical connection between these two key elements of your argument would indicate to the reader that the information in paragraph B contradicts the information in paragraph A. As a result, you might organize your argument, including the transition that links paragraph A with paragraph B, in the following manner:

Paragraph A: points that support the view that El Pais’s new government is very democratic.

Transition: Despite the previous arguments, there are many reasons to think that El Pais’s new government is not as democratic as typically believed.

Paragraph B: points that contradict the view that El Pais’s new government is very democratic.

In this case, the transition words “Despite the previous arguments,” suggest that the reader should not believe paragraph A and instead should consider the writer’s reasons for viewing El Pais’s democracy as suspect.

As the example suggests, transitions can help reinforce the underlying logic of your paper’s organization by providing the reader with essential information regarding the relationship between your ideas. In this way, transitions act as the glue that binds the components of your argument or discussion into a unified, coherent, and persuasive whole.

Types of transitions

Now that you have a general idea of how to go about developing effective transitions in your writing, let us briefly discuss the types of transitions your writing will use.

The types of transitions available to you are as diverse as the circumstances in which you need to use them. A transition can be a single word, a phrase, a sentence, or an entire paragraph. In each case, it functions the same way: First, the transition either directly summarizes the content of a preceding sentence, paragraph, or section or implies such a summary (by reminding the reader of what has come before). Then, it helps the reader anticipate or comprehend the new information that you wish to present.

  • Transitions between sections: Particularly in longer works, it may be necessary to include transitional paragraphs that summarize for the reader the information just covered and specify the relevance of this information to the discussion in the following section.
  • Transitions between paragraphs: If you have done a good job of arranging paragraphs so that the content of one leads logically to the next, the transition will highlight a relationship that already exists by summarizing the previous paragraph and suggesting something of the content of the paragraph that follows. A transition between paragraphs can be a word or two (however, for example, similarly), a phrase, or a sentence. Transitions can be at the end of the first paragraph, at the beginning of the second paragraph, or in both places.
  • Transitions within paragraphs: As with transitions between sections and paragraphs, transitions within paragraphs act as cues by helping readers to anticipate what is coming before they read it. Within paragraphs, transitions tend to be single words or short phrases.

Transitional expressions

Effectively constructing each transition often depends upon your ability to identify words or phrases that will indicate for the reader the kind of logical relationships you want to convey. The table below should make it easier for you to find these words or phrases. Whenever you have trouble finding a word, phrase, or sentence to serve as an effective transition, refer to the information in the table for assistance. Look in the left column of the table for the kind of logical relationship you are trying to express. Then look in the right column of the table for examples of words or phrases that express this logical relationship.

Keep in mind that each of these words or phrases may have a slightly different meaning. Consult a dictionary or writer’s handbook if you are unsure of the exact meaning of a word or phrase.

Keep in mind that transitional words and expressions are used at the beginning and end of paragraphs to guide readers from the flow of one significant idea to the next. They are used in combination with topic sentences, reasoning, evidence, and analysis to build effective paragraphs. Phrases like “in conclusion” may be useful within paragraphs but are less creative and interesting than transitioning more fluidly into your final paragraph from the one that precedes it.

Clarity and Concision

Some writers are very methodical and painstaking when they write a first draft. Other writers unleash a storm of words in order to get out all their ideas at once. Do either of these composing styles match your approach? 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: Drivers who have a poor sense of direction benefit from using a GPS device.

  • Sentences with wordy constructions that can be shortened.

Wordy: The e-book reader, which is a recent invention, may have become as commonplace as the cell phone; even my over-sixty uncle and his wife just bought one of those.

Revised: E-book readers have recently become as commonplace as cell phones.

Choosing Specific, Appropriate Words to suit your Audience and Purpose

Most college essays should be written in formal English suitable for an academic situation. Follow these principles and check with your instructors to be sure that your word choice and tone of voice are appropriate.

  • Avoid slang and derogatory language. Find alternatives to words like huge, dope , awesome, and sucks that may be unfamiliar, upsetting, or insulting to your readers.
  • Use formal rather than casual words. Write about “men and women” rather than “gals and guys” unless you are trying to create a specific effect. A formal tone calls for formal language. Inclusive terms like they and folks may also be preferable to gendered pronouns.
  • Use contractions strategically. Contractions combine two words into a single word, such as replacing do not with don’t , I am with I’m , have not with haven’t , and so on. Contractions can be effective for establishing style and tone but overuse can be considered too informal for academic writing.
  • 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 mindful of 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 suited to your audience and purpose rather than overly general words. Find synonyms for things , people , nice , good , bad , interesting , and other vague words. Or use specific details to make your exact meaning clear. Use a thesaurus to look up synonyms to develop your vocabulary but be mindful that not all synonyms mean exactly the same thing.

Revise and Edit Poster

Revise-and-Edit-Poster-1 [pdf] (download here).

5b.  Key Takeaways

  • During revising, you add, cut, move, or change information in order to improve content.
  • 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.

Acknowledgments:

  • Chapter 5b is adapted from Chapters 8 and 9 of Writing for Success by University of Minnesota, which is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
  • The “Transitions” section of Chapter 5b is included with minor approved alterations with permission from the handout “Transitions” by The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 License.

Writing as Inquiry Copyright © 2021 by Kara Clevinger and Stephen Rust is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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Writing and Research: Revising an Essay

  • Getting Started
  • Choosing a Topic
  • Creating an Outline
  • Conducting Research
  • Drafting an Essay
  • Revising an Essay
  • Creating Citations

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Proofreading and Revising

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What is Proofreading?   This article defines proofreading and offers strategies for doing it successfully.

Proofreading vs Revising: What is the Difference?   This article discusses the differences between proofreading and revising and offers tips for how to do both.

Revising, Editing, and Proofreading   Eastern Washington University Library provides helpful information on the differences among revising, editing, and proofreading and when to use each method.

Grammar and Style

Grammar, Punctuation, and Sentences   Eastern Washington University Library provides a detailed overview of the major grammar and style issues that academic writers face.

Common Grammar Mistakes   This resource by the University of Southern California Libraries explores common grammar mistakes in academic writing.

Revision Checklist

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Revision Checklist   UNC Chapel Hill's Writing Center features questions and prompts for revision.

Essay Revision Checklist   This downloadable revision checklist was created by Massasoit Community College's Writing Center.

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revision (composition)

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

  • How Do You Edit an Essay?
  • Explore and Evaluate Your Writing Process
  • An Essay Revision Checklist
  • 10 Tips for Finding the Right Words
  • The Drafting Stage of the Writing Process
  • How to Write a Letter of Complaint
  • A Writing Portfolio Can Help You Perfect Your Writing Skills
  • Focusing in Composition
  • The Basic Characteristics of Effective Writing
  • Writing a Lead or Lede to an Article
  • Prewriting for Composition
  • The Five Steps of Writing an Essay
  • 12 Writers Discuss Writing
  • The Difference Between an Article and an Essay
  • Sentence Length
  • What E.B. White Has to Say About Writing

Table of Contents

Collaboration, information literacy, writing process, working through revision: rethink, revise, reflect.

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

what does revising your essay mean

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

what does revising your essay mean

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?

Brevity – Say More with Less

Brevity – Say More with Less

Clarity (in Speech and Writing)

Clarity (in Speech and Writing)

Coherence – How to Achieve Coherence in Writing

Coherence – How to Achieve Coherence in Writing

Diction

Flow – How to Create Flow in Writing

Inclusivity – Inclusive Language

Inclusivity – Inclusive Language

Simplicity

The Elements of Style – The DNA of Powerful Writing

Unity

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4.6: What is Revising?

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Once a rough draft is created, take some time to step away from the essay to get a newer and better perspective. Then begin revising. Revising means reexamining and rethinking the first draft, adding and deleting ideas extensively; rearranging any of the ideas, sentences, or paragraphs in the first draft; rewriting sentences and paragraphs for more variety, better flow, and more precise word choices. Often times, you may have three or four drafts before you are finally satisfied with a final draft. For easier revision, follow the following tips:

  • Take time between the first draft and the later revisions to approach it more objectively.
  • Revise on hard copy rather than on the computer screen. Do not delete any drafts! Do label each successive one. Allow yourself and others to annotate (comment on and give suggestions to improve) your draft.
  • Read the draft aloud. Better yet, have someone else read it aloud.
  • Take advantage of opportunities to get feedback; however, do not become overwhelmed by feedback.
  • Do not allow ego to get in the way of a successful paper.
  • Revise for overall meaning and structure. Does the essay develop a central point clearly and logically and are the purpose, tone, and point-of-view suited for the audience of the essay?
  • Revise for paragraph development. Check that your paragraphs are logically ordered, unified, and specific.
  • Revise sentence structure. Make your sentences consistent with your overall tone, varied in type and length, emphatic, and economical.
  • Finally, revise for word choices. Aim for an appropriate level of diction, word choices that do not overstate or understate, specific rather than general terms, strong verbs, only necessary modifiers, and original and nonsexist language.
  • When you get your essays back, read the essay and heed your instructor’s comments. They can help improve your future essays. If you do not understand your grade or the instructor’s comments, schedule a conference to discuss them with her. As you revise your future essays, revisit the mistakes made before and be sure you avoid repeating them.

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How to revise your college essay

A step-by-step guide for revising your college essay.

Bonus Material:   PrepMaven’s 30 College Essays That Worked

You’re been diligently working on putting together your college application essays, and now you’ve finally sat down and typed out a full, 650-word Common App essay. So… you’re done, right?

Alas, not quite. 

The good news is you’ve done the hardest bit–the first draft. 

The bad news? If you’re seriously planning to wow college admissions officers at top schools with your application essay, you’ve still got a lot of work to do on the personal essay itself. 

At PrepMaven, we’ve helped countless students perfect their admissions essays and earn acceptances to some of the most selective colleges. What did all of those successful college applications have in common? The application essay always went through many, many revisions and redrafts. 

In this post, we’re going to break down the process by which you can revise the early drafts of your college admissions essay, turning it into a successful, polished essay that’ll convince admissions committees that you deserve a spot. 

In the free link below, you can find 30 real sample essays: all finished products that have undergone the rigorous revision process we’re going to outline for you later in the post. 

Download 30 College Essays that Worked

Jump to section: How big a deal is revision, really? The five stages of revision Stage 1: Big picture and content Stage 2: Organization Stage 3: Style and language Stage 4: Pruning Stage 5: Proofreading Next steps

How big a deal is revision, really?

No beating around the bush: when it comes to the college admissions process, essay revision is basically mandatory. 

what does revising your essay mean

We’ve never–not once–seen a first draft that wouldn’t benefit from being redrafted, tweaked, or polished. Even if your first draft is really, really good, revisions will help make it great, maybe even perfect. 

And when we say revision, we don’t just mean going through and changing a few words or catching some grammar mistakes. Revision means significantly rewriting or reorganizing portions of your essay. It might mean cutting whole paragraphs and replacing them; it might mean taking what you thought would be an introduction and making it part of the body; it might even mean keeping the basic ideas but changing just about everything else. 

Revision will also always mean working on things like sentence structure and word choice, but these are actually more like the finishing touches. Much of your earlier revision work is going to include making big changes, and our guide will walk you through how to do exactly that. 

The five stages of revision

We think it’s most helpful to think about college essay revision/editing in five stages: 

what does revising your essay mean

  • Big picture/content
  • Organization
  • Style/language
  • Proofreading 

Each of these stages means looking at different elements of your essay, and each stage involves asking specific questions about what’s working and what isn’t. 

This all presumes you have a first or rough draft already. If you’re just starting the college application process or the essay,then be sure to check out our posts on brainstorming and topic selection , essay structures , and essay beginnings and endings. 

Stage 1: Big picture/content

When people think of revision, they often jump right to looking for grammar mistakes or messing around with word choice and sentence structure. Usually, that ends up being a big waste of time. 

Why? Because, if you’re doing revision right , you’ll be rewriting large portions of your essay to ensure that the fundamental pieces (the content and the organizations) are perfect. There’s really no reason to waste time making all the sentences sound pretty when, odds are, you’ll be totally changing lots of those sentences anyway. 

what does revising your essay mean

So, the first stage of revision should always mean looking at the big picture–by which we really just mean the actual content of your essay. 

Here are the key questions to ask yourself in the first stage of revision: 

  • What do you want this entire essay to tell the admissions committee about you?
  • What parts of this essay are absolutely necessary to get that central idea across? 
  • What parts of this essay are unnecessary to that central idea?

It’s only three questions, but these are big questions that deserve careful attention. If you want to understand what kinds of topics are good responses to question 1, we’d really recommend you consult our post on topic selection here. 

Once you’ve concretely identified the answer to 1, identify what in your essay is fundamentally necessary for it to work. These ideas will be the backbone of your essay; you will likely still edit and reorganize them in further drafts, but you won’t cut them out entirely

Say, for example, the central idea is that your experiences growing up in a town marked by gross wealth disparities have made you determined to combat economic inequality. In that essay, the “backbone” you identify in the first editing stage might be a vivid example of this wealth disparity, a narrative of your understanding of it developed as you grew, and a final discussion of how and why it has shaped your current goals. 

These are things that probably need to be kept for the story to make sense. 

You’ll next want to identify anything that doesn’t connect meaningfully to the central idea. 

In the hypothetical example above, maybe the student had a paragraph or two about athletic struggles or their passion for some extracurricular. If those ideas aren’t necessary for the essay’s main takeaway, they should be cut. You only have, in most cases, 650 words: if you want to put together a detailed, polished personal statement, you just won’t have room for any ideas that aren’t necessary. 

We want to be clear that when we say “necessary” and “unnecessary” here, we’re talking about ideas and large elements of your draft, not any individual sentence or detail. Obviously, there’s lots of details that aren’t “necessary” for the main story, but the purpose of this stage isn’t to focus on those. 

Instead, your goal should simply be to find your essay’s backbone, and ensure there aren’t large sections of your personal statement dedicated to discussing something tangential. 

Your second draft should cut out all these unnecessary ideas while retaining the necessary ones. Reread this second draft (after taking some time away from it) and ask yourself the same questions. If everything in this second draft is necessary, proceed to Stage 2. If not, repeat what you did for Stage 1. 

Note: these initial drafts should be near or over word count. If you find you’ve cut out so much that you’re down below 600 words, that means you’ll also have to add more content to those necessary “backbone” sections. 

Click the link below for 30 essays that mastered the big picture elements, and see how every part of each essay works together. 

Stage 2: Organization

what does revising your essay mean

Now that you have the necessary parts of your essay all in one place, you want to organize them in the way that’s most conducive to telling your story to admissions officers. 

Check out our guides on intros and conclusions for some guidance that can help with those sections, and read through our collection of essays that worked to see what a well organized essay looks like. 

The fundamental questions you want to ask here:

  • Does the essay start in a way that sets up the main idea without giving too much away?
  • Does each paragraph flow smoothly from the preceding one?
  • Does each paragraph clearly describe a specific moment or articulate a specific point?
  • Does the first sentence of each paragraph make clear what direction the paragraph is going?
  • Does the essay end in a way that captures the main idea without feeling repetitive or unnecessary?

As you can maybe tell by the increased number of questions, this stage is tricky, and will likely take multiple drafts. A poorly organized essay–no matter how good the content–will be basically unreadable, so this stage is worth taking your time with. 

Because good organization can be tough to pull off, it’s also probably a good idea to call in an expert at this point–our college essay coaches can read through your essay and tell you right off the bat if it’s organized properly or not. 

For questions 1 and 5, the best resources on what makes a good intro or good ending are our blog posts, linked above. 

For the body paragraphs, there are several techniques you can use to ensure proper flow:

  • Short paragraphs are almost always best. Each paragraph should convey one crucial thing–a part of the story, a train of thought. If you see an opportunity to jump to a new paragraph, take it. Shorter paragraphs almost always help make things easier to read. 
  • Each paragraph should begin with something like a “topic sentence,” though not a stiff, formal one like you’d have in English class. The first sentence of each paragraph should clue the reader in on what the paragraph will be about without summarizing . 
  • Each paragraph should build on the previous one, developing your story and reflection. In other words, each paragraph should only make sense in one place–once your essay is well-organized, it should be impossible to move a paragraph without profoundly changing the essay. 

what does revising your essay mean

It’s not easy work, but it’s crucial. As usual, your best friends here are taking time away from the essay, reading it aloud, and getting a second opinion. After you take your first stab at reorganization, give the essay a day. Then, read it aloud to someone you trust (like a PrepMaven essay coach, maybe) and ask them whether the story it tells makes sense. 

As with Stage 1, don’t worry about pretty language or grammar here. The goal of this stage is to take the pieces you’ve settled on and arrange them in a way that works. 

Stage 3: Style and Language

Once you’ve gotten through stages 1 and 2, then you should start focusing on prettying up the language. 

It’s crucial that you lock down content and organization before getting to this stage, or you risk wasting a lot of time. So, to be safe, give your essay a few more read-throughs and ensure the fundamental story you’re telling makes sense and flow. If it does, then it’s time to make the thing sound good.

  • Read it aloud. Does your essay sound like it has a distinct, personal voice?
  • Does your essay use words that are formal, complicated, or unnatural to you?
  • Does your essay use words that are unvaried, boring, generic?
  • Are you showing, or telling?

These questions are crucial from a writing standpoint: if you want your essay to actually be a strong piece of writing that’s enjoyable to read, you need to get the right answers here. 

Of course, this can be difficult and feel subjective, especially if you don’t do much creative writing. Although by far the best way to work through these questions is with a writing expert by your side who can help you polish your writing, these questions can take you a long way. 

Most of these questions are really getting at the same thing: your essay needs to read and sound like something unique, something that captures your voice. It’s often easiest to get there by first identifying what you don’t want the college essay to be. 

It shouldn’t sound like the kind of analytical or formal essay you’ve written for English classes in high school. That’s why you don’t want to use any kind of stiff, thesaurus-y language and big, fancy transitions. 

At the same time, it shouldn’t sound like your stream of consciousness or a diary entry. You want the language to be interesting, compelling. You’re not just writing for yourself here, so you need to make it sound good. 

what does revising your essay mean

The best way to sum up the ideal tone for most college essays is something like this: imagine you’re trying to tell an interesting story to someone you don’t know very well, maybe at a party or something like that. You wouldn’t want to sound like someone from the nineteenth century, using fancy or old words for the sake of it. At the same time, you would want to keep the language engaging enough that you don’t lose their attention.

That’s where the now infamous advice of “show, don’t tell” comes in. You’ve probably heard that advice from just about every college counselor and English teacher, but we should break down what it actually means. What’s “showing” look like?

Simply put, it’s about telling a story rich with detail before making any broad or abstract claims about yourself. “Telling” would look something like: “I’ve always loved spending time with my grandfather.” “Showing” would instead mean actually describing how you spent time with your grandfather, what you did together, and how you felt in the moment. 

Or, to take another example: “I felt incredibly nervous” is a classic example of plain old telling. But you can make that same idea much more engaging by “showing:” “I tried to wipe my clammy palms on my pant legs, hoping nobody would notice the tremor in my voice. Oh God, I was up next. ”

It’s not that you can never “tell” in your essay. But you can never just tell: anything you want to tell us, you’ve first got to show us. 

Stage 3 takes a while, but it can be fun. At this point, you shouldn’t be changing any ideas or organization in your essay. Each draft will just play around with the sentences, the word choice, and the details. And each draft should sound, when you read it aloud, just a little bit more interesting, more unique, more you than the last one. 

Take a look at the 30 essays below which worked to get students into schools like Princeton: each has a different style, but note how descriptive and vivid each essay is!

Stage 4: Pruning

Once you’ve finished Stage 3–meaning that now everything looks and sounds how you want it to–take a look at the word count. If you’re at or below 650, great; skip directly to Stage 5. 

If not, the next stage is all about simply cutting for length. While we don’t recommend worrying about word count much until this stage, you should do your best to keep a general eye on it through earlier stages to make sure your essay isn’t ballooning to crazy proportions. By the time you get to stage 4, you should really be at 800 words or less–anything over that means you’ve included too much content. 

This process will depend on just how much over word count your essay is. If you’re within 50 words, you’d be surprised at how much space you can save by simply cutting a word or two out of your sentences. It might sting a bit to get rid of an adjective you’ve fallen in love with, but remember that nobody but you will ever know that word was in there. 

Generally, you can cut anywhere from 50-75 words without actually getting rid of whole sentences. That being said, if you’ve tried that and are still over word count, that means it’s time to judiciously remove or drastically shorten a few sentences. 

what does revising your essay mean

Do you have a list of three examples? Cut it down to two, or one. Do you have two sentences that could be combined into one? Do it. Ultimately, this’ll come down to what details, words, and turns of phrase you really want to keep, and which you’re willing to sacrifice. 

The most important thing is really not to panic or worry too much about word count early on. Within reason, you should include everything the story needs to work and all the details you think make it unique. When you get to Stage 5, start by looking with a careful eye for any word or phrase you can get rid of, and you’ll usually be able to free up all the room you need.

Stage 5: Proofreading

Almost there: you’ve got your essay in beautiful, polished shape. Now, you just need to proofread for grammatical, spelling, or typographical errors. This very last stage can be a quick one, but deserves to be taken seriously. 

Our advice: 

what does revising your essay mean

  • Identify and fix any grammar errors. 
  • Print the essay.
  • Using a pen or highlighter, identify any weird spacing, typos, misplaced commas, etc. 
  • Fix those on your typed document.
  • Repeat. 

Nothing stings more than submitting the perfect essay only to reread it later and find an embarrassing typo. One won’t sink your application–even college admissions officers misspell things–but a few can make you seem careless. 

That’s why we really stress printing out the document and going over it multiple times on paper. Once you get really used to seeing it on the screen, it can be hard to catch tiny mistakes. By printing it out and looking at it in a different medium, you’ll be far less likely to let something slip. 

A note on the grammar: this can be tricky, especially if you’re not a grammar expert yourself. While Google Docs and Word can be helpful and catch the occasional grammar mistake, they are absolutely not perfect. In fact, I’ve seen them suggest “revisions” that were grammatically incorrect. 

If you’re not 100% confident in your grammar knowledge, that’s another area where one of our essay tutors can be a huge help. They are grammar experts, and they’ll be able to make sure there aren’t any embarrassing mistakes tarnishing your final product. 

Revision is a tough, long process. But by following this step-by-step guide, you can maximize your time and efficiency. Each stage in this process is absolutely crucial if you want to create a successful college essay, which is all the more important given the stakes of the college application process. 

If you’re not quite at the revision stage yet, look at our other posts linked below, all of which tackle different elements of the college essay process. 

If you want to look at samples of final, fully-revised essays, click on the link below to download 30 free, real college essay samples. 

Happy revising!

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How to Revise an Essay – A Simple Step-By-Step Guide

How to Revise an Essay

Many students score poor grades because they don’t know how to revise an essay. Writing a brilliant essay requires time, skills, and experience. However, you should revise your essay after writing it to make it better. That way, the educator will have minimal reasons to give you a low grade. It’s crucial to note that revising an essay doesn’t mean a student is a bad writer.

Every writer understands that editing their work before submitting it is crucial. What’s more, good writing results from continuous editing and endless practice. Even a talented and experienced writer turns to professional editors once in a while and says, “Please revise my essay.” That’s because they know they can’t notice all errors if they revise their essay when tired. So, if you want to score the top grades in your essay assignments, always revise them before submission.

What Does It Mean to Revise Your Essay?

Revision means “to see again” or to give something a fresh look from a critical perspective. Revising an essay is an ongoing process that entails rethinking it, reconsidering the arguments in it, reviewing the presented evidence, refining the purpose, reorganizing the presentation, and reviving its stale prose. When you revise your essay you make it better.

Ideally, revision entails more than fixing spelling and punctuation mistakes. That is known as proofreading and it’s crucial before submitting your paper. However, if your essay has predictable ideas, a weak thesis, and a messed-up organization, proofreading won’t help. Instead, you should revise essay first and then proofread.

A Step-by-Step Guide on How to Revise an Essay

If you have adequate time to revise a paper, take it to perfect your work. That way, you will impress the educator with your work. Rewording your essay or using better words and avoiding repetition is only a part of the revision process. And this is what most people call editing, which is an essential final step of polishing a written work. However, rephrasing won’t make a difference if you don’t think through the ideas of your essay. In some cases, students learn how to revise an essay in college. If that’s not the case for you, here are the steps to follow when revising your essay.

Put the draft aside: Once you’re done writing the essay, put the draft aside for some time. That way, you will be more objective when you come back for essay revision. Get feedback: When revising the essay, you know what you want to say. That means you might not be the best judge to determine the clarity of your draft. Therefore, allow another person to revise the essay for you. For instance, you can get free online essay revision to determine where your essay is unclear. Once you get the feedback, use it to clarify your ideas in the essay. Create a backward outline: Revision of an essay begins when you start thinking about the issues or points you’re trying to articulate and how you’ve presented them. And a backward outline enables you to do that. This outline should identify your main idea in every paragraph. Use the outline to rank the ideas based on their importance in supporting your thesis statement. Also, consider the connections you’ve used between the ideas. Rethink the thesis statement: You can restructure the argument, reorder the point, eliminate redundancies or irrelevancies, or add implications and complications based on your previous step. Your essay might also require additional evidence. Fix the conclusion and introduction: Some people revise an essay from the introduction to the conclusion. However, the best approach is to start with the body of the essay. That’s because you will know what you want to introduce and how to conclude your argument when you start with the body. When revising the introduction, make sure that it starts with a topic sentence. Also, make sure that each paragraph has linking ideas based on your thesis statement. Your conclusion should wrap your argument nicely. Proofread: When proofreading your essay, aim for language economy and precision. Your essay revision checklist should include the items to fix when proofreading. These can include grammatical, spelling, and punctuation errors. Take your time to fix all these errors, including factual mistakes.

Some guides on how to revise a paper recommend reading it aloud. That way, you can notice stylistic infelicities. And this can help if you suspect that your eyes might have missed something when revising the essay.

Effective Paper Revision Tips

Many students know the importance and the steps to follow when revising their essays. However, they encounter challenges when trying to complete this task. So, how do you revise an essay fast without leaving some errors unfixed? Here are helpful tips to guide you.

  • Create an essay revision plan: Come up with a plan to guide you throughout the revision process. For instance, you can opt to put the draft aside twice during the revision process. And you can do this by taking a break after reorganizing the work and coming back to polish the work by proofreading.
  • Get feedback: You can miss some of the mistakes in your essay because you’ve written it. Therefore, consider using a tool or service to revise essay online free of charge. That way, you will get feedback that can guide you in polishing your work. The internet is awash with tools that allow for free essay revision. However, some of these services will require you to sign up first before using them.
  • Take your time: Even the smartest writer will take time to revise paper or essay they’ve written. That’s because they know that fixing all issues in written work requires careful attention to detail. For this reason, some writers opt to revise essay online using sophisticated tools. But if this is not an option for you, take your time to fix all errors in your essay.
  • Seek assistance: If you don’t have the time to essay revise, seek help from friends or relatives. You can ask a neighbor or a colleague to go through your essay highlighting your mistakes. After that, you can go through the essay fixing the mistakes your friend has highlighted.

If still unsure what revising an essay entails, you can check some revision essay examples online. That way, you will get a hint of what revision essay is and how to complete this task. Alternatively, you can use an online essay revision service. With this option, you pay an expert to revise your essay. And this is the best approach if you have limited time and you don’t want mistakes to ruin your grade after spending hours or days writing the essay. With some services, you say something like, “Please revise my essay free of charge” to get professional assistance.

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what does revising your essay mean

Many people divide the revising stage into revising and editing. When they make this distinction, revising focuses on making changes to improve the clarity of your ideas and organization. Editing focuses on making changes to improve the clarity of your grammar. Revising ideas, logic, and organization should generally be completed before editing grammar and mechanics.

Here are some questions you can use when you are revising your essays, giving feedback to a peer, or evaluating a sample essay:

  • Does the introduction provide the general information a reader needs in order to understand the topic?
  • Does the introduction end with an effective thesis? Does it match the style of the essay?
  • Do each of the body paragraphs begin with an effective topic sentence?
  • Are the body paragraphs sequenced in a logical order?
  • Look at each body paragraph. Do the supporting sentences support the topic sentence?
  • Look at each body paragraph. Are the supporting sentences sequenced in a logical order?
  • Look at each body paragraph. Is there enough development? Are there more details or examples that would help the reader?
  • Look at each body paragraph. Does the concluding sentence close the paragraph logically?
  • Does the conclusion paragraph start by restating the thesis?
  • Does the conclusion paragraph have a suggestion, prediction, or opinion at the end?

You should always read through your essay to identify mistakes you have made. Try to finish your drafting with enough time to leave your essay and then come back to it to make revisions. As you revise your own work, you may need to add, delete, or move text. Mark any parts of your essay that you want to ask a friend/tutor to help you with. You should also proofread for mechanical errors (spelling, grammar, etc.). You may be surprised how many errors you are able to identify on your own. Here are some strategies for proofreading:

  • Start by simply reading through your essay for typos.
  • Look through your essay for basic grammar that you know well. For example, you can check to make sure every sentence has a subject and a verb (and that they agree).
  • If you are not writing for a test, try reading your writing out loud. This may help you identify more errors as you hear what your writing sounds like.

Get feedback and make changes

If you are not writing for a test, have a friend or a tutor review your writing before you submit it to your teacher. Then use the feedback you get to make changes.

Peer Review

christina-wocintechchat-peers-helping.jpg

It can also be useful for you as a writer because you get an outside perspective on your writing and you can find out where your ideas may not be connected or supported well enough.

As you give feedback, there are a few guidelines to keep in mind.

  • Give specific feedback. Don't say things like "This paragraph is confusing" or "This thesis is great." Give specific reasons or details when you are giving feedback like "This thesis statement is really clear. It is specific and matches the style of the essay really well."
  • Focus on revising before editing. Try to look past grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors to focus on the ideas in what you read. Look for how ideas are supported, developed, and connected.
  • Find both positive and negative things to give feedback on. Don't just focus on problems. Find things that were also done well.

As you receive feedback, there are also some guidelines you should keep in mind.

  • Ask questions. If there are sections you don't understand, ask the writer for clarification.
  • Listen to understand before you revise. You aren't necessarily going to take every suggestion that your peer gives you, but you should listen to understand all of the suggestions. Once you understand them, you can decide what you will use in your revisions.

If your teacher gives you feedback on a draft before the final draft of your essay is due, make sure you use it to improve your essay. Ask questions about feedback that you do not understand. More than just improving your essay, understanding feedback from a teacher will improve your ability to write in the future.

Many teachers use symbols like the following to mark specific types of errors. If your teacher uses codes, make sure you clearly understand what the codes mean and how to fix the error.

This content is provided to you freely by EdTech Books.

Access it online or download it at https://edtechbooks.org/academic_a_writing/revising .

Our Trump reporting upsets some readers, but there aren’t two sides to facts: Letter from the Editor

  • Updated: Apr. 03, 2024, 11:22 a.m. |
  • Published: Mar. 30, 2024, 8:16 a.m.

Trump Biden collage

Some readers complain that we have different standards involving Donald Trump and Joe Biden. (AP Photo, File) AP

  • Chris Quinn, Editor, cleveland.com/The Plain Dealer

A more-than-occasional arrival in the email these days is a question expressed two ways, one with dripping condescension and the other with courtesy:

Why don’t our opinion platforms treat Donald Trump and other politicians exactly the same way. Some phrase it differently, asking why we demean the former president’s supporters in describing his behavior as monstrous, insurrectionist and authoritarian.

I feel for those who write. They believe in Trump and want their local news source to recognize what they see in him.

The angry writers denounce me for ignoring what they call the Biden family crime syndicate and criminality far beyond that of Trump. They quote news sources of no credibility as proof the mainstream media ignores evidence that Biden, not Trump, is the criminal dictator.

The courteous writers don’t go down that road. They politely ask how we can discount the passions and beliefs of the many people who believe in Trump.

Chris Quinn's recent Letters from the Editor

  • Let’s hang it up on polling. In election after election, they get it wrong: Letter from the Editor
  • Most of us readily acknowledge when our slip is showing. Why can’t Ohio politicians? Letter from the Editor
  • I made a presentation Wednesday while wearing two different shoes. Read on to see how common that is.

This is a tough column to write, because I don’t want to demean or insult those who write me in good faith. I’ve started it a half dozen times since November but turned to other topics each time because this needle is hard to thread. No matter how I present it, I’ll offend some thoughtful, decent people.

The north star here is truth. We tell the truth, even when it offends some of the people who pay us for information.

The truth is that Donald Trump undermined faith in our elections in his false bid to retain the presidency. He sparked an insurrection intended to overthrow our government and keep himself in power. No president in our history has done worse.

This is not subjective. We all saw it. Plenty of leaders today try to convince the masses we did not see what we saw, but our eyes don’t deceive. (If leaders began a yearslong campaign today to convince us that the Baltimore bridge did not collapse Tuesday morning, would you ever believe them?) Trust your eyes. Trump on Jan. 6 launched the most serious threat to our system of government since the Civil War. You know that. You saw it.

The facts involving Trump are crystal clear, and as news people, we cannot pretend otherwise, as unpopular as that might be with a segment of our readers. There aren’t two sides to facts. People who say the earth is flat don’t get space on our platforms. If that offends them, so be it.

As for those who equate Trump and Joe Biden, that’s false equivalency. Biden has done nothing remotely close to the egregious, anti-American acts of Trump. We can debate the success and mindset of our current president, as we have about most presidents in our lifetimes, but Biden was never a threat to our democracy. Trump is. He is unique among all American presidents for his efforts to keep power at any cost.

Personally, I find it hard to understand how Americans who take pride in our system of government support Trump. All those soldiers who died in World War II were fighting against the kind of regime Trump wants to create on our soil. How do they not see it?

The March 25 edition of the New Yorker magazine offers some insight. It includes a detailed review of a new book about Adolf Hitler, focused on the year 1932. It’s called “Takeover: Hitler’s Final Rise to Power” and is by historian Timothy W. Ryback. It explains how German leaders – including some in the media -- thought they could use Hitler as a means to get power for themselves and were willing to look past his obvious deficiencies to get where they wanted. In tolerating and using Hitler as a means to an end, they helped create the monstrous dictator responsible for millions of deaths.

How are those German leaders different from people in Congress saying the election was stolen or that Jan. 6 was not an insurrection aimed at destroying our government? They know the truth, but they deny it. They see Trump as a means to an end – power for themselves and their “team” – even if it means repeatedly telling lies.

Sadly, many believe the lies. They trust people in authority, without questioning the obvious discrepancies or relying on their own eyes. These are the people who take offense to the truths we tell about Trump. No one in our newsroom gets up in the morning wanting to make a segment of readers feel bad. No one seeks to demean anyone. We understand what a privilege it is to be welcomed into the lives of the millions of people who visit our platforms each month for news, sports and entertainment. But our duty is to the truth.

Our nation does seem to be slipping down the same slide that Germany did in the 1930s. Maybe the collapse of government in the hands of a madman is inevitable, given how the media landscape has been corrupted by partisans, as it was in 1930s Germany.

I hope not.

In our newsroom, we’ll do our part. Much as it offends some who read us, we will continue to tell the truth about Trump.

I’m at [email protected]

Thanks for reading.

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  1. Revising Drafts

    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.

  2. How to Revise an Essay in 3 Simple Steps

    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. Although you can save considerable time using our essay checker. The most effective approach to revising an essay is to move from general to specific:

  3. The Writing Center

    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 reader who can't read your mind, not resting satisfied until you're sure you have been as clear and as thorough as possible.. Revising also requires you to think on a large scale, to extrapolate: If a reader remarked ...

  4. Revising and Editing

    A successful revision process should involve: Adding and deleting ideas extensively. Rearranging ideas, paragraphs, sentences, phrases, and words. Rewriting paragraphs and sentences for more variety, better flow, and more precise word choices. Keep in mind that successful revision is rarely accomplished quickly and easily. It is typical that ...

  5. What Is revising?

    Revising means reexamining and rethinking the first draft, adding and deleting ideas extensively; rearranging any of the ideas, sentences, or paragraphs in the first draft; rewriting sentences and paragraphs for more variety, better flow, and more precise word choices. Often times, you may have three or four drafts before you are finally ...

  6. Revising & Finalizing your Text

    Revision is a process that's best done in different stages, moving from "big" to "small.". Bigger concerns tend to interrupt a reader's understanding of the writing, and that's why they need to be addressed first. Mid-level concerns tend to interrupt a reader's full comprehension of ideas. Smaller concerns make the road smooth ...

  7. How to Revise Drafts

    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.

  8. How to Revise Your College Admissions Essay

    Revised on December 8, 2023. Revision and editing are essential to make your college essay the best it can be. When you've finished your draft, first focus on big-picture issues like the overall narrative and clarity of your essay. Then, check your style and tone. You can do this for free with a paraphrasing tool.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. Revising

    Key Takeaways. You should review for purpose while you are writing, after you finish your first draft, and after you feel your essay is nearly complete. Use self-questioning to evaluate your essay as you are revising the purpose. Keep your voice, audience, message, tone, attitude, and reception in mind as you write and revise.

  12. 5b. Revising

    5b. Revising. 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.

  13. LibGuides: Writing and Research: Revising an Essay

    Proofreading vs Revising: What is the Difference? This article discusses the differences between proofreading and revising and offers tips for how to do both. Revising, Editing, and Proofreading Eastern Washington University Library provides helpful information on the differences among revising, editing, and proofreading and when to use each ...

  14. PDF Revising Drafts

    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.

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

    Revision tip #3: Check the content of your essay first. When people think of revision, they often think of correcting spelling errors, typos, and other grammatical errors. Though these are all part of the revision process, there's more to revision than just changing some punctuation or moving around a few words.

  16. 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 ...

  17. What does revising an essay mean?

    By the 1590s, revise came to mean "to look over again with intent to improve or amend." * But that doesn't help the student know what to do. They understand by context that they must make corrections. These are the concrete elements, the checklist, the things the teacher may have noted like "add a transition phrase here" or "choose a stronger verb" or "check for commas."

  18. Working Through Revision: Rethink, Revise, Reflect

    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 ...

  19. 4.6: What is Revising?

    Revising means reexamining and rethinking the first draft, adding and deleting ideas extensively; rearranging any of the ideas, sentences, or paragraphs in the first draft; rewriting sentences and paragraphs for more variety, better flow, and more precise word choices. Often times, you may have three or four drafts before you are finally ...

  20. How to revise your college essay

    Revision means significantly rewriting or reorganizing portions of your essay. It might mean cutting whole paragraphs and replacing them; it might mean taking what you thought would be an introduction and making it part of the body; it might even mean keeping the basic ideas but changing just about everything else.

  21. How to Revise an Essay

    Revising an essay is an ongoing process that entails rethinking it, reconsidering the arguments in it, reviewing the presented evidence, refining the purpose, reorganizing the presentation, and reviving its stale prose. When you revise your essay you make it better. Ideally, revision entails more than fixing spelling and punctuation mistakes.

  22. Revising

    Revising. When you finish writing your essay, you should revise it. Revising your essay means that you make changes to your essay to improve it. After you revise what you wrote, you may need to return to either of the previous stages (prewriting or writing) to make improvements to your writing. Many people divide the revising stage into ...

  23. Our Trump reporting upsets some readers, but there aren't two sides to

    This is a tough column to write, because I don't want to demean or insult those who write me in good faith. I've started it a half dozen times since November but turned to other topics each ...