Printable version of Revision (PDF).


Revision is the process of revisiting your work to make sure it says what you want it to say. You need to be flexible and prepared to make major structural and organizational changes. It takes time and is a circular process, which means going back over your work several times throughout the writing process.
 

Helpful tip: What is the difference between revision and proofreading?

Proofreading is the final stage in revising and editing your writing, whereas revision looks at more global aspects of your writing such as the argument, flow, logic, evidence, and organization of your work. Only when you are satisfied with these larger aspects of your writing is it time to proofread.

Note that the Writing Centre will not proofread your paper and make changes for you. We will help you determine your personal problem areas and teach you to proofread your own work.
 

General strategies

  • Get some distance
    Take a break. Go for a walk. Give yourself at least a few hours between finishing a draft and picking it back up again for revision.
     
  • Print out a hard copy
    Print out your work and revise from a hard copy.
     
  • Read your work out loud
    Your ears are better at finding problems than your eyes are, especially when you have been working on a piece of writing for a while.
     
  • Revise and proofread in stages
    Don't try to review all your work at once. If you do, you'll likely become frustrated and miss what you want to change.
     
  • Review large elements first
    Pay attention to large, overall concerns like content and structure. Work on smaller items like grammar and punctuation last.
     
  • Keep re-reading
    Keep re-reading your work to make sure your entire paper makes sense as you make changes.
     
  • Get feedback
    Give your work to others for feedback. Seeing how your work is understood by a reader can help you improve your writing in new ways.
     

Specific strategies

Content

When reviewing your content, make sure your information is presented clearly, at the right time, with sufficient depth, detail, and relevance for the purpose of your work. Check that there is no extra or irrelevant information. It's hard to let go of ideas and thoughts, but if they don't fit, they must be cut.

Questions to ask:

  • Is my purpose clear?
  • Is my main idea/thesis stated early?
  • Do I have sufficient evidence or data to support my ideas?
  • Is all my material relevant to my purpose?
  • Have I addressed my readers' potential questions?

Structure

The shape and flow of your paper or assignment is very important. Your reader should be able to follow the logic and path of your argument, easily and without feeling surprised, confused, or lost.

Questions to ask:

  • Are my ideas presented logically?
  • Do I introduce new information by connecting it to what I've already said?
  • Do I connect back to my thesis or purpose to show how pieces fit into the overall paper?
  • Is my information easy to follow? Does the writing flow?
  • Have I repeated any ideas in more than one place?
  • Are any parts too long or too short?
  • Does my organization follow the structure required for the assignment?
     

Helpful tip: To see whether your paper presents information in a logical order, make a reverse outline:

  • Summarize each paragraph in a single sentence.
  • Arrange these summaries according to the order of your paragraphs.
  • Evaluate the outline. Do you notice any gaps in information or places where the content should be rearranged?
     

Paragraphs

Each paragraph or section should be a well-organized, self-contained unit that focuses on a main idea and/or serves one purpose. Check to see whether each paragraph is cohesive by ensuring that all of your information flows and is connected, like a chain, from beginning to end.

Questions to ask:

  • Does the paragraph focus on a single idea?
  • Does the idea clearly relate to my thesis or purpose?
  • Do I begin with a topic sentence to summarize the paragraph?
  • Do I provide evidence and other details to support any argument/claims I make?
  • Do I provide sufficient explanation and analysis to connect the paragraph's main idea, the evidence, and my thesis?
  • Do I finish the paragraph with a summary?

Clarity

Sentences can be different lengths, but each sentence should focus on one point or idea as clearly and concisely as possible.

Questions to ask:

  • Are any sentences too long with too many ideas?
  • Do any sentences have more words than needed?
  • Can I replace vague words with more precise language?
  • Do I use the right word (not the biggest word) for what I want to say?
  • Can I state an idea more simply?


Helpful tip: Read your sentences out loud. If you find yourself losing interest, or having to reread to make sense, it's time to rewrite.

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