The Best Methods of Revising an Essay

Take the time to revise your work before you turn it in.
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Revising your essay is a multi-faceted process. Often, students confuse revising with proofreading. Although looking for errors is part of the revision process, revising also involves checking the paper for organization, revising the writing style for clarity, and making sure that the essay is appropriate for the audience. Every author has their own preferred method for revising their work; however, a few methods of revision are more successful than others.

1 Put the Draft Down and Revisit It Later

When you are immersed in the writing process, it can be difficult to find grammatical errors, problems with organization, or other faults in your work. As a result, many authors find it beneficial to avoid revising as they are writing and instead to write the entire rough draft and to set it aside for two or three days. When you revisit the paper, you will have created distance between yourself and the essay, allowing you to critically evaluate your writing and enabling you to find and correct errors more easily.

2 Peer Critiques

Composition instructors often incorporate the use of peer critiques as part of the revision process. Your colleagues can often identify and correct errors in your writing or problems with your logic or organization more quickly than you can. In addition, professional writers and workers who write as part of their job often have a peer read over their work before they submit it. As a result, peer critiques foster good work habits.

3 Move from The General to The Specific

Another strategy for revising is to move from general, or large-scale issues, to smaller issues. This method of revision goes over the essay in several passes. First, for example, you might read the paper to critique your strategy toward the audience. Then, you might evaluate the organization of your paper. Third, look at the use of sources. Fourth, revise each sentence for clarity. Finally, read the paper carefully to look for errors in grammar and syntax. This general to specific strategy can save time because you are addressing the largest issues first. There is no point finding and correcting all of the grammatical errors if you have to rewrite the entire paper because of problems with the strategy toward the audience.

4 Read The Paper Out Loud

Another proven strategy for revising an essay is to read the entire paper out loud to yourself. Work slowly, reading the paper sentence by sentence. This strategy often helps writers who have problems with grammatical errors and awkward phrasing because the ear can sometimes catch these errors more quickly than the eye. In addition, reading out loud forces you to slow down and consider each sentence. Some writers prefer to read each sentence starting at the end of the essay and work toward the beginning. Taking the sentences out of context in this manner helps some writers focus on each sentence.

Natalie Smith is a technical writing professor specializing in medical writing localization and food writing. Her work has been published in technical journals, on several prominent cooking and nutrition websites, as well as books and conference proceedings. Smith has won two international research awards for her scholarship in intercultural medical writing, and holds a PhD in technical communication and rhetoric.