The Revision Process
Revision literally means to re-see or re-envision a piece of writing. This process may involve adding, rearranging, removing, and replacing (ARRR) words, sentences, and ideas. Since writing is recursive, revising may require revisiting the prewriting stage.
What else does the reader need to know? If the essay doesn’t meet the required word or page count, what areas can be expanded? Where would further explanation help key points to be more clear? This is a good time to go back to the prewriting notes and look for ideas which weren’t included in the draft.
Even when writers carefully plan their writing, they may need to rearrange sections for their essays to flow better.
Some ideas just don’t work or don’t contribute enough to the overall goal of the essay. Often when writers delete excess words or paragraphs, the ideas become clearer.
Vivid details help bring writing to life. Writers need to look for strong examples and quotable passages from outside sources to support their arguments. If particular paragraphs aren’t working well, writers need to try rewriting them.
Other Useful Strategies
- Reverse Outlining
In reverse outlining, the student reads through the written text and notes, noting down the topic of each paragraph. This way, the student can review if each paragraph has a clear focus and if each paragraph fits the overall organization of the paper. More on reverse outlining is available at The Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL), “Reverse Outlining: An Exercise for Taking Notes and Revising Your Work.”
- Reading Aloud
The act of reading one’s essay aloud allows the student to “hear it” in the way a reader will. This act permits the writer to slow down and pay attention to all words in the essay. They get a sense of what a reader experiences, where words are clear and effective, and where they are weak. Poorly structured sentences are hard to read out loud, indicating that this would be a good place to start revising. This technique is a great precursor for receiving feedback from others. It also helps writers take responsibility for their writing.
- Peer and Instructor 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. At this stage of the process, it’s important for writers to get the measure of how well their writing works for readers that they are wanting to entertain, educate, or persuade. Showing the writing to someone else is essential. This might be done in a writers’ circle or just with a friend who is good with words and can be asked for feedback. It’s best to show our work to several people to get more than one opinion. Receiving feedback helps writers discover the strengths in their writing as well as areas that may be improved.
After receiving feedback, whether through track changes in Google Docs, Microsoft Word, on paper, or verbally in a peer-review session, the writer can discuss the comments with the reviewer. It’s important that a writer consider these comments. Every reader comes from a different point of view, and the writer may not agree with everything that gets said by various readers. Sometimes, comments will be contradictory. It is the writer’s responsibility to ask further and decide how to use comments received. A community that embraces and nurtures its members through the revision process works to communicate feedback so that everyone can grow and learn.
Successful college students utilize their resources, specifically their instructors and peers, to get feedback. Tutoring is an effective means by which students can receive knowledgeable one-on-one feedback about their writing. It can also be an effective way to help manage time.
Peer mentors provide students with additional one-on-one and group support in writing classrooms or during office hours. The peer mentor has had the previous experience of completing similar writing assignments and students find it helpful when they revise with their expertise in mind.
- Take an essay that you have written under time pressure. Create a reverse outline of the different sections of your text. Observe whether this outline makes sense. Try moving around the different parts of your essay. Are there structures that help you to highlight certain ideas or make them more powerful?
- Find a partner or group of classmates who are willing to meet at least once a week. During your meetings, read your essays aloud and give each other feedback on the content and language of your essays. This should be a group you are committed to working with throughout the semester with the goal of helping each other grow as writers.
- Make an appointment with your instructor or college tutor to work through prewriting, revising or editing stages of your writing process.