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5.9: Revising

  • Page ID
    225911

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    WHAT IS REVISING?

    Revising means what is says: it is a re-vision of your paper. To revise is to see again, to re-conceive your original essay. When you revise a paper, the larger elements of writing generally receive attention first—the focus, organization, paragraphing, content, and overall strategy. Improvements in sentence structure, word choice, grammar, punctuation, and mechanics come later when you edit the paper.

    In revising, you make global revisions that address the larger elements of writing. Usually they affect chunks of text longer than a sentence, and frequently they can be quite dramatic. Whole paragraphs might be dropped, others added. Material once stretched over two or three paragraphs might be condensed into one. Entire sections might be rearranged. Even the content might change dramatically, for the process of revising stimulates thought.

    WHY REVISE?

    Past Supreme Court Justice, Louis Brandels said: “There is no such thing as good writing, only good rewriting.” American writer E.B. White echoed these sentiments when he said simply, “The best writing is rewriting.” When you revise or rewrite your draft, you are able to bring a higher level of clarity and development.

    HOW DO I DO IT?

    Here are some guiding questions you can use to revise your draft:

    Title

    • Does your title give readers a good idea of what's to come? ("Assignment #3" is not a title)

    Introduction

    • Is your thesis statement clearly stated?
    • Does the introduction lead in smoothly and establish the importance of and context for the topic? Is there too much? Too little? By the end of the introduction, is it clear to the audience what kind of material will follow? If so, are these expectations fulfilled?

    Body Paragraphs

    • Is it clear where your introduction ends and body begins and where the body ends and the conclusion begins? In other words, are your paragraph indents meaningful?
    • Are there transitions between all sections and paragraphs to create flow and unity?
    • Does each body paragraph have a topic sentence? If you took your thesis and all your topic sentences, would that correspond to what you want to say in your paper? If not, do you need to revise your thesis or re-examine your supporting points?
    • Do the topic sentences (1) make a connection back to the thesis, (2) establish a link with the previous paragraph's content, and (3) give enough information that the audience could guess where a particular paragraph's development would lead?
    • Does the order of paragraphs make sense?
    • Are your paragraphs too short or too long? Can you combine or separate any content?
    • Are your examples reliable, representative, and convincing? Are there enough of them or too many?
    • Are your sources convincing? Is there enough balance between your own insights and expert opinions?
    • Are all sources and direct quotations explained or have you left them standing on their own?
    • Has anything that goes off topic or is not essential been cut?

    Conclusion

    • Does the conclusion say something different from your introduction?
    • Does the conclusion leave a good lasting impression?
    • Does the conclusion end the paper on a strong and interesting note?

    Example: Sample Revision of same paper

    Rachel Bell
    Professor Lucia Lachmayr
    English 100
    21 May 2013

    Controlling Human Beings

    INTRODUCTION FROM THE DRAFT:

    “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.” This applies well to the past when blacks were enslaved. In “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave,” Douglass reveals how this long and brutal control of human beings was partly accomplished through control over literacy. The control and limitations over reading and writing during slavery sought to make slaves like Douglass ignorant, powerless, and therefore more easily controlled.

    REVISIONS: The dropped quote has now been connected to a lead in phrase telling who said it and when. A contemporary reference to a band using the quote was added to give the quote modern-day relevancy. A transition was then added showing how this quote applies to Douglass’s story. A “so what?” was added to the thesis applying the control over people in the past through literacy to today.

    In the 1940s, George Orwell warned “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.” In the 1990s there was a band called Rage Against the Machine, the name itself referring to a people’s movement to fight against control (corporation, government or otherwise) used this mantra in their song “Testify,” a warning to not silently endure. This is a warning that is not only relevant to the 20th century, but has been applicable since human beings started forming structures of power to control and oppress one another. This can be seen during the times of slavery in the United States when blacks were enslaved. In Frederick Douglass’s novel Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Douglass reveals how this control of human beings was partly accomplished through control over literacy. The control and limitations over reading and writing during slavery sought to make slaves like Douglass ignorant, powerless, and therefore more easily controlled, and this control over literacy and education is still happening in the world today.

    BODY PARAGRAPH ONE FROM THE DRAFT:

    Douglass lived in Baltimore for 7 years as a house slave and was forbidden by his masters Mr. and Mrs. Hugh to read or write. Mrs. Hugh became furious if she caught Douglass reading because she wanted to control him. Many slave states passed laws making it illegal to teach slaves to read and write as seen in this typical law in North Carolina:

    AN ACT TO PREVENT ALL PERSONS FROM TEACHING SLAVES TO READ OR WRITE, THE USE OF FIGURES EXCEPTED. Whereas the teaching of slaves to read and write, has a tendency to excite dis-satisfaction in their minds, and to produce insurrection and rebellion, to the manifest injury of the citizens of this State: Therefore, be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of North Carolina, and it is hereby enacted by the authority of the same, that any free person, who shall hereafter teach, or attempt to teach, any slave within the State to read or write, the use of figures excepted, or shall give or sell to such slave or slaves any books or pamphlets, shall be liable to indictment in any court of record in this State having jurisdiction thereof. ("Slaves Are Prohibited to Read and Write by Law")

    The law then lists the punishments and for a white person it was a hefty fine and possible imprisonment and for a free person of color they could be fined, imprisoned or whipped “not exceeding thirty nine lashes, nor less than twenty lashes” ("Slaves Are Prohibited to Read and Write by Law"). They couldn’t just control people through force but had to control their minds too.

    REVISIONS: Before the paragraph began with plot summary and facts. Now the paragraph begins with an arguable topic sentence that links directly to the thesis about control. More explanation was added connecting Mrs. Hugh’s fury with her desire to control Douglass. A quote was added from the text supporting the claim that education and slavery could not co-exist. The largest addition to the paragraph was developing the “so what?” explanation and analysis at the end of the paragraph telling what this connection between denial of literacy and control reveals.

    In his narrative, Douglass exposes how being denied education was one of the main tactics used to keep so many blacks trapped within generations of enslavement. Douglass lived in Baltimore for 7 years as a house slave and initially his once kind mistress began to teach him to read and write until her husband forbid it. Afterwards, Mrs. Hugh became furious if she caught Douglass reading as she understood that keeping him illiterate and ignorant was her only way to maintain control over him, “She was an apt woman; and a little experience soon demonstrated, to her satisfaction, that education and slavery were incompatible with each other” (82). Mr. and Mrs. Hugh were not the only slave-owners to realize that educated people are harder to control, and that they could not indefinitely sustain control over other human beings solely through physical control. Many slave states passed laws making it illegal to teach slaves to read and write as seen in this typical law in North Carolina:

    AN ACT TO PREVENT ALL PERSONS FROM TEACHING SLAVES TO READ OR WRITE, THE USE OF FIGURES EXCEPTED. Whereas the teaching of slaves to read and write, has a tendency to excite dis-satisfaction in their minds, and to produce insurrection and rebellion, to the manifest injury of the citizens of this State: Therefore, be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of North Carolina, and it is hereby enacted by the authority of the same, that any free person, who shall hereafter teach, or attempt to teach, any slave within the State to read or write, the use of figures excepted, or shall give or sell to such slave or slaves any books or pamphlets, shall be liable to indictment in any court of record in this State having jurisdiction thereof. ("Slaves Are Prohibited to Read and Write by Law")

    The law then lists the punishments and for a white person it was a fine and possible imprisonment and for a free person of color they could be fined, imprisoned or whipped ("Slaves Are Prohibited to Read and Write by Law"). The fear behind passing laws such as these reveals the certain knowledge that reading and writing can indeed lead to “insurrection and rebellion.” Revolution comes when one can read and understand laws that apply to and protect one group and yet arbitrarily exclude another. Rebellion comes when people, through reading, can gain a larger historical perspective and know what is fair and what is not. Insurrection comes when people can use the written word to communicate with and assemble the masses. This shows how physical force alone cannot control human beings for long but that something else must accompany it. The frightening truth that slave-owners and others throughout history have understood is that to fully control another person, you must limit their perceptions, their understanding of the world, and the influence of others—in essence you must also control their mind.

    BODY PARAGRAPH TWO FROM THE DRAFT:

    Douglass discovered that freeing his mind led to anguished torment. “As I read and contemplated the subject, behold! that very discontentment which Master Hugh had predicted would follow my learning to read had already come, to torment and sting my soul to unutterable anguish. I would at times feel that learning to read had been a curse rather than a blessing. It had given me a view of my wretched condition, without the remedy. It opened my eyes to the horrible pit, but to no ladder upon which to get out. In moments of agony, I envied my fellow-slaves for their stupidity” (84). So is ignorance bliss? No, never. To be ignorant allows others to control us. Douglass realized this and after becoming educated he joined the abolitionist movement and spent the remainder of his life fighting for the equality and rights of blacks as well as women.

    REVISIONS: The paragraph was revised so it didn’t begin with a fact. In the topic sentence, first a transition of time was added and then a “so what?’ was added that “change was set in motion.” The dropped quote was integrated in more smoothly with a phrase that introduces it and links it to the topic sentence about Douglass’s despair. The quote which was very long was separated with some commentary in between. Again the largest revision came with the added analysis at the end of the paragraph delving further into why ignorance is not bliss and the harms of this type of thinking.

    After secretly learning to read and write on his own, Douglass discovered that freeing his mind led to anguished torment as he was unable to free himself from the entrenched institutions of slavery, but change at least was set in motion. Initially, being awakened to the stark realities of his condition served to plunge Douglass into despair: “As I read and contemplated the subject, behold! that very discontentment which Master Hugh had predicted would follow my learning to read had already come, to torment and sting my soul to unutterable anguish” (84). Once Douglass’s eyes were opened, he suffered: “… I would at times feel that learning to read had been a curse rather than a blessing. It had given me a view of my wretched condition, without the remedy. It opened my eyes to the horrible pit, but to no ladder upon which to get out. In moments of agony, I envied my fellow-slaves for their stupidity” (84). So is ignorance bliss? The answer for us to live in a decent world has to be no, never. To be ignorant allows others not only to make choices for you but to limit
    your choices. Not knowing the factors and people who shape your life, enables those in power to act in their own self-interest. It also makes people unable to recognize when they are victimized by unjust situations, and if you cannot see the problem, then you can never demand or bring about change. After Douglass understood the evils of slavery, he suffered initially and even entertained thoughts of suicide, but later he escaped to the north and became an influential leader in the abolitionist movement and spent the remainder of his life fighting for the equality and rights of blacks as well as women.

    BODY PARAGRAPH THREE FROM THE DRAFT:

    Muktar Mai in her memoir In the Name of Honor published in 2006, tells her story of growing up in a small village in Pakistan where girls were not educated. Mai, was sentenced to be publically gang raped by six men in a stable with 100 of her fellow villagers outside. Mai was then expected to follow custom and commit suicide, but instead she went to the police and testified against her attackers. Because she could not read or write, the officers wrote down her account but altered what she said to absolve her attackers of guilt, so when her case went to court, she lost. In spite of this,Mai still fights. She remains an outspoken advocate for women’s rights, she is still pressing a retrial of her attackers, she continues to run the organization she started Mukhtar Mai Women's Welfare Organization (MMWWO), and even with many attempts to close it, she still runs a school she established in her village to educate girls.

    REVISIONS: The paragraph began with plot summary of a book that had not yet been introduced. A topic sentence was added that transitioned more smoothly from the discussion of Douglass to Mai and connected back to thesis about literacy and control of people. Before Mai’s horrific punishment was stated very abruptly. Now more context has been added leading up to what happened to her. Then more description of Mai’s years of struggle as well as a quote from a fellow activist was added to emphasize what Mai bravely fights against. Analysis of what Mai gained was added at the end.

    Unfortunately, when slavery was abolished, that did not end the practice of denying certain groups of people an education in order to control them, but it also did not end people’s ability to go against societal norms, educate themselves, and fight for change. Muktar Mai in her memoir In the Name of Honor published in 2006, tells her story of growing up in a small village in Pakistan where girls were not allowed to be educated. In 2002, a more powerful clan wanted to assert its power so without evidence, they accused her brother of having sexual relations with an older woman in another clan. Mai was sentenced to be publically gang raped by six men in a stable with 100 of her fellow villagers outside. Mai was then expected to follow custom and commit suicide, but instead she went to the police and testified against her attackers. Because she could not read or write, the officers wrote down her account
    but altered what she said to absolve her attackers of guilt, so when her case went to court, she lost. After that, she dedicated herself to learn to read and write so she could document her own story and navigate the complexities of the legal system. As Mai suffered death threats and battled a daunting and biased legal system, a fellow activist told her:

    It doesn’t matter what women think, because they are not allowed to think at all! They’re not allowed to learn to read and write, to find out how the world around them works. That’s why illiterate women cannot defend themselves: they know nothing about their rights, and words are put into their mouths to sabotage their revolt. But we support you! Just have courage. (46)

    After nearly 10 years of her case being tried in various courts and reaching all the way to the Supreme Court, all but one of the men were acquitted. The president of Pakistan has since admitted to restricting Mai’s movements as the publicity her case receives puts a bad light on Pakistan, and with her attackers free, her life remains in danger to this day. In spite of all this, Mai still fights. She remains an outspoken advocate for women’s rights, she is still pressing a retrial of her attackers, she continues to run the organization she started Mukhtar Mai Women's Welfare Organization (MMWWO), and she still
    runs a school she established in her village to educate girls. With literacy came a more confident and determined Mai and through literacy she has been able to rescue many abused women, educate scores of young girls, and reach out beyond her community and gain international recognition and support.

    CONCLUSION FROM THE DRAFT:

    We shouldn’t let others control us. We should fight for our rights and everyone should be allowed an equal education. No one should be denied learning to read and write. If people can’t read and write then they cannot compete equally in society and they will be taken advantage of by others.

    REVISIONS: The previous conclusion ran out of steam and was the weakest, least developed paragraph in the essay. It stayed very general with very sweeping “should” statements but no specific explanation of why this issue is important today and what we can do with this knowledge. The conclusion was the area of largest revision in the paper because the essay needed to end on a stronger more convincing note. A modern-day application was added using Jonathan Kozol’s research about the poor quality of inner-city schools in the U.S to show how large groups of people are denied an education today. Then how we can all fight this through using our own skills of literacy was added at the end so there is a clearer call to action.

    Slavery might feel very distant time wise and Pakistan might feel very far off geographically, but the issue of people being denied literacy and education is not so far removed. People are being denied education right here and right now in the United States as well, so we must all continue to be vigilant about Orwell’s warning: “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.” Those who write our history, who write our textbooks, who write our news, who write our laws, write us. In the United States, unfortunately the quality of education one receives is based on income so those living in wealthy neighborhoods get a good education but those who do not, are destined to be controlled by a wealthy elite: “Children in one set of schools are educated to be governors; children in the other set of schools are trained for being governed” (Kozol 176). Jonathan Kozol in his book Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s School documented the inequalities in education across the U.S. in inner-city schools. He repeatedly documented the high dropout rates as so many never het high school diplomas in schools that are underfunded, underequipped, and understaffed. We cannot call ourselves a democracy if the many are ruled by the few. We need to take a lesson from Frederick Douglass and Muktar Mai and use our own literacy skills to call out
    injustice and mobilize people to address it, be it large scale or small: blogging, writing letters to our political representatives, emailing our friends, reposting articles on Facebook. Ignorance leads to passivity and loss of choice. Even small efforts are empowering and can effect big change.

    AN OVERVIEW OF THE MAIN REVISIONS TO THE DRAFT:

    • The PIE paragraph approach was used in each paragraph:
      • First, the “P” (point) was missing in nearly every paragraph as most paragraphs began with facts or plot summary. Therefore topic sentences were added at the beginning of each paragraph that transitioned from the paragraph that came before, linked back to the thesis about literacy and control and forward to the main point in the paragraph.
      • Second, the “I” (information) in each paragraph was decent but dropped quotes needed to be connected to phrases that introduced and explained them and additional quotes were added to fully prove and illustrate certain points.
      • Third, the “E” (explanation) was underdeveloped in each paragraph so this was further developed throughout the essay to show why the issues raised were important and why the reader should care.
    • Additional context, transitions and explanation were added:
      • When information seemed “out of the blue” or the connections to the overall discussion were unclear, more description was added or logical transitions explaining the connection directly were added.
    • The conclusion was scrapped and completely revised:
      • The conclusion in the draft was underdeveloped, too general, and didn’t explain to the reader why control over literacy is a concern today. Outside research was added showing how the urban poor in the U.S. are denied an equal education and then what we can do individually about injustice such as this was added. The essay was about how control is taken away from us so the essay now ends on how we can regain some of that control.

    Works Cited

    Douglass, Frederick. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave.
    Mai, Muktar. In the Name of Honor.
    http://www.historyisaweapon.com/defc...eprohibit.html

    REVISIONS: The original Works Cited did not list all the references that were used in the essay. All the outside research was added and listed in alphabetical order with the second lines of each citation indented. All the book titles were also italicized. Next, the formatting for all the sources was incorrect as you cannot just list the author’s name and title of the book or just list a web link. The website http://citationmachine.net was used where you can chose to format by MLA (or other types like APA) and then plug in the information asked for based on the type of source you want to cite. Then it formats the citation for the Works Cited and for the in-text citation for you. Skyline College’s library webpage also has citation information: www.skylinecollege.edu/library/citingsources.php

    Works Cited

    Douglass, Frederick. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. New York,

    NY: Penguin Books, 1982. 81-85. Print.

    Kozol, Jonathan. Savage Inequalities: Children in America's School. New York, NY: Harper

    Perennial, 1991. 176. Print.

    Mai, Muktar. In the Name of Honor. New York, NY: Washington Square Press, 2006. 46-165. Print

    Orwell, George. 1984. New York, NY: Plume-Harcourt Brace, 1983. 30. Print.

    Rage Against the Machine, "Testify Lyrics." Metrolyrics. CBS Interactive Music Group, 2 Nov

    1999. Web. 19 Jul 2013. <www.metrolyrics.com/testify-l...e-machine.html>.

    "Slaves Are Prohibited to Read and Write by Law." History is a Weapon. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Jul 2013

    <http://www.historyisaweapon.com/defc...eprohibit.html>.


    This page titled 5.9: Revising is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Skyline English Department.

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