Now that you've finished writing a draft, your job is far from done! You have just entered the revision stage. Good writers rewrite. The best writers rewrite. Revision is basically "re-visioning" your writing. There are two types of revision: global and local.
Many writers plan (outline) what they are going to write. If you do this, go back and look at your outline and see if you need to move paragraphs around or if you need more details to prove your point. If you write some sort of outline, it is much easier to write the paper. As a matter of fact, the paper writes itself.
Other writers can’t organize their thoughts in outline form but just sit down and start writing. This makes the writing more difficult than outlining, but is still “workable.” If you are that kind of writer then just sit and write. You will probably need to do more revision, especially global, but it can be done. We suggest that you work with a hard copy of the text because it is difficult to see the paper as a whole when you’re just looking at it on a computer screen. After you move thoughts around, decide you need more details, have given too many details and slighted other areas, or not transitioned between thoughts, then go back to the computer and make the corrections.
The best plan is the one that works for you.
We'll look at global revision first because that's what you should do first.
Global revision looks at the entire piece of writing. Before you begin to revise, if at all possible, let your writing sit for a while—at least overnight. Lucretia Yaghjian, in Writing Theology Well: A Rhetoric for Theological and Biblical Writers, quotes Annie Dillard:
"Aim for the chopping block. If you aim for the wood, you will have nothing. Aim past the wood, aim through the wood; aim for the chopping blocks."
As Annie Dillard implies in the above epigraph, in editing a first draft most writers chip away at their writing rather than cutting through it cleanly by ‘aiming for the chopping block.’
Consequently, even when writing assignments specify a page limit, it is not always easy to observe those limits. . . In order to find out what we really want to say, we may require the luxury of throwing much of it away. (289)
This is a difficult task because we often feel that we are chopping away part of ourselves. Writers must remember that they are not their words.
OK. Now it’s time to get busy.
Change perspectives and reread your piece of writing as if you were the reader not the author. Distance yourself from the text and evaluate the writing in terms of its rhetorical effect. Ask yourself these questions:
- Does the writing meet the requirements of the assignment?
- Does the text "speak" to a specific audience (i.e. theologians, congregants, or children)?
- Is there an introductory paragraph with a thesis statement that tells the reader your position on the subject?
- Are there enough details to support that position?
- Is the logic solid?
- Do the major points connect to the thesis?
- Have you wandered off the main point of the question?
- Is there a conclusion that gives the reader a sense of closure?
With this new perspective on your paper you might need to:
- Change the focus perhaps by rewriting the introduction and/or modifying the thesis.
- Re-order the evidence.
- Eliminate or add details.
- Reword your thesis to coincide with the rest of the essay. Often once we begin to write, the path of the essay goes off into a direction that we did not anticipate.
- Add a conclusion or polish the one you have.
Local Revision examines sentence level issues and proofreading. We proofread for many things: to see if we made typos; to see if the computer caught all of our misspellings; to see if we left out or added words; and/or to make sure each sentence is complete and logical. We all know what our weakness are so pay special attention to those trouble areas—for me spelling is my nemesis. To proofread effectively, try to:
- Read the paper aloud slowly.
- Read the paper backwards. Start with the last sentence and proceed so that you are focusing on the sentence itself instead of the idea in the paragraph. Each sentence should be complete by itself.
- Read with a cover sheet so that you can only review one line at a time.
- Search for errors that you typically make by reviewing professors comments on other papers.
- Learn how to fix the errors you continue to make. Work with your professor or a tutor to learn the "rules."
- Cut out wordiness whenever possible. Longer is not necessarily better.
Example: "The nature of man is to seek adventure" becomes "Humans seek adventure."
- Vary word order to introduce complexity without sacrificing clarity.
- Be aware of gender-biased language.
- Check to make sure you haven’t used the same word too many times.
- Use active verbs. Try to reword "is" and "was" constructions.
Example: "Global warming is a threat to our long-term survival" becomes "Global warming threatens our long-term survival."
- Avoid the constructions "it is" and "there are."
Example: "It was a dark and dreary night" could become "The night was dark and dreary."
- Often we change the subject from singular to plural (or the other way around) but forget to change the verb.
- Check for correct spelling and punctuation. The spelling and grammar checkers on your word processing programs do not catch everything!
- Check for correct use of pronouns.
- Remember that the pronoun refers to the next closest noun.
- Never begin a paragraph with a pronoun because the reader has forgotten whom the pronoun references.