Skills to Develop
- Identify major areas of concern in the draft essay during revising
- Use peer reviews and checklists to assist revising
- Revise your paper to improve organization and cohesion
- Determine an appropriate style and tone for your paper
- Revise to ensure that your tone is consistent
- Revise 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 that 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 practise, 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.
You should revise and edit in stages: do not expect to catch everything in one go. If each time you review your essay you focus on a different aspect of construction, you will be more likely to catch any mistakes or identify any issues. Throughout this chapter, you will see a number of checklists containing specific things to look for with each revision. For example, you will first look at how the overall paper and your ideas are organized.
In the second section of this chapter, you will focus more on editing: correcting the mechanical issues. Also at the end of the chapter, you will see a comprehensive but more general list of things you should be looking for.
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 throughout the writing process; 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?
For many people, the words critic, critical, and criticism provoke only negative 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. To do this, you need to teach yourself where to look.
Revising Your Paper: Organization, Cohesion, and Unity
When writing a research paper, it is easy to become overly focused on editorial details, such as the proper format for bibliographical entries. These details do matter. However, before you begin to address them, it is important to spend time reviewing and revising the content of the paper.
A good research paper is both organized and cohesive. Organization means that your argument flows logically from one point to the next. Cohesion means that the elements of your paper work together smoothly and naturally. In a cohesive research paper, information from research is seamlessly integrated with the writer’s ideas.
Revise to Improve Organization
When you revise to improve organization, you look at the flow of ideas throughout the essay as a whole and within individual paragraphs. You check to see that your essay moves logically from the introduction to the body paragraphs to the conclusion, and that each section reinforces your thesis. Use Checklist 12.1: Revise for Organization to help you.
Checklist 12.1: Revise for Organization
At the essay level
Does my introduction proceed clearly from the opening to the thesis?
Does each body paragraph have a clear main idea that relates to the thesis?
Do the main ideas in the body paragraphs flow in a logical order? Is each paragraph connected to the one before it?
Do I need to add or revise topic sentences or transitions to make the overall flow of ideas clearer?
Does my conclusion summarize my main ideas and revisit my thesis?
At the paragraph level
Does the topic sentence clearly state the main idea?
Do the details in the paragraph relate to the main idea?
Do I need to recast any sentences or add transitions to improve the flow of sentences?
Jorge reread his draft paragraph by paragraph. As he read, he highlighted the main idea of each paragraph so he could see whether his ideas proceeded in a logical order. For the most part, the flow of ideas was clear. However, he did notice that one paragraph did not have a clear main idea. It interrupted the flow of the writing. During revision, Jorge added a topic sentence that clearly connected the paragraph to the one that had preceded it. He also added transitions to improve the flow of ideas from sentence to sentence.
Read the following paragraphs twice, the first time without Jorge’s changes, and the second time with them.
Follow these steps to begin revising your paper’s overall organization.
Print out a hard copy of your paper. (You will use this for multiple self-practice exercises in this chapter.)
Read your paper paragraph by paragraph. Highlight your thesis and the topic sentence of each paragraph.
Using the thesis and topic sentences as starting points, outline the ideas you presented—just as you would do if you were outlining a chapter in a textbook. Do not look at the outline you created during prewriting. You may write in the margins of your draft or create a formal outline on a separate sheet of paper.
Next, reread your paper more slowly, looking for how ideas flow from sentence to sentence. Identify places where adding a transition or recasting a sentence would make the ideas flow more logically.
Review the topics on your outline. Is there a logical flow of ideas? Identify any places where you may need to reorganize ideas.
Begin to revise your paper to improve organization. Start with any major issues, such as needing to move an entire paragraph. Then proceed to minor revisions, such as adding a transitional phrase or tweaking a topic sentence so it connects ideas more clearly.
Optional collaboration: Please share your paper with a classmate. Repeat the six steps and take notes on a separate piece of paper. Share and compare notes.
Writers choose transitions carefully to show the relationships between ideas—for instance, to make a comparison or elaborate on a point with examples. Make sure your transitions suit your purpose and avoid overusing the same ones.
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. Earlier chapters have discussed using transitions for specific purposes in the planning of your writing. Table 12.1: Common Transitional Words and Phrases groups many common transitions according to their purpose.
|Transitions That Show Sequence or Time
|as soon as
|first, second, third
|in the first place
|Transitions That Show Position
|at the bottom
|at the top
|to the left, to the right, to the side
|Transitions That Show a Conclusion
|in the final analysis
|Transitions That Continue a Line of Thought
|besides the fact
|following this idea further
|in the same way
|considering…, it is clear that
|Transitions That Change a Line of Thought
|on the contrary
|on the other hand
|Transitions That Show Importance
|Transitions That Introduce the Final Thoughts in a Paragraph or Essay
|most of all
|least of all
|last of all
|All Purpose Transitions to Open Paragraphs or to Connect Ideas Inside Paragraphs
|at this point
|it is true
|in this situation
|no one denies
|to be sure
|Transitions that Introduce Examples
|Transitions That Clarify the Order of Events or Steps
|first, second, third
|generally, furthermore, finally
|in the first place, also, last
|in the first place, furthermore, finally
|in the first place, likewise, lastly
When Mariah (who you were introduced to in Chapters 5 and 6) revised her essay for unity, she 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.
Answer the following questions about Mariah’s revised paragraph.
Do you agree with the transitions and other changes that Mariah made to her paragraph? Which would you keep and which were unnecessary? Explain.
What transition words or phrases did Mariah add to her paragraph? Why did she choose each one?
What effect does adding additional sentences have on the coherence of the paragraph? Explain. When you read both versions aloud, which version has a more logical flow of ideas? Explain.