18 Revising Your Writing

Once you’ve worked on your draft, you need to revise and edit your work. Revising will help you check if you’ve responded to the assignment instructions and clearly communicated your ideas. Revising will also help you will help you correct grammatical, punctuation, and presentation issues. When you are revising, try moving through three different stages:

We’ll look first at Checking in on the Big Picture…


Revising Stage 1 – Checking in on the Big Picture


Hiker stands on top of peak looking at three sandstone buttes in the distance
Seeking Adventure” by Jasper van der Meij on Unsplash


When you first begin revising, you should focus on the big picture. The following questions[1] can help guide you with this:

  • Do you have a clear thesis? Do you know what idea or perspective you want your reader to understand upon reading your essay?
  • Is your essay well organized?
  • Is each paragraph a building block in your essay: does each explain or support your thesis?
  • Does it need a different shape? Do parts need to be moved?
  • Do you fully explain and illustrate the main ideas of your paper?
  • Does your introduction grab the reader’s interest?
  • Does your conclusion leave the reader understanding your point of view?
  • Are you saying in your essay what you want to say?
  • What is the strength of your paper? What is its weakness?


Revising Stage 2 – The Mid-View Review


Person walking down a road with trees on either side
The south of Mexico” by Mitch Lensink on Unsplash


The second stage of revising requires that you look at your content closely at the paragraph level. It’s now time to examine each paragraph, on its own, to see where you might need to revise. The following questions[2] will guide you through the mid-view revision stage:

  • Does each paragraph contain solid, specific information, vivid description, or examples that illustrate the point you are making in the paragraph?
  • Are there are other facts, quotations, examples, or descriptions to add that can more clearly illustrate or provide evidence for the points you are making?
  • Are there sentences, words, descriptions or information that you can delete because they don’t add to the points you are making or may confuse the reader?
  • Are the paragraphs in the right order?
  • Are your paragraphs overly long? Does each paragraph explore one main idea?
  • Do you use clear transitions so the reader can follow your thinking?
  • Are any paragraphs or parts of paragraphs repetitive and need to be deleted


Take a look at the paragraph[3] below and click the hot spots to see suggestions for revision:

Black and white photograph of workspace showing laptop, with a hand typing, and mobile phone. Text reads "Try it Now! Work on the Activity Below"



Practice: Revising Paragraphs

Black and white photograph of workspace showing laptop, with a hand typing, and mobile phone. Text reads "Try it Now! Work on the Activity Below"

Review the paragraph[4] below and select the most important revision that Sophie, the student writer, should focus on in her revisions:



Revising Stage 3 – Editing Up Close


Close-up image of a purple flower with yellow stamen
Photo by Andrew Pons on Unsplash


Once you have completed your revision and feel confident in your content, it’s time to begin the editing stage of your revision and editing process. The following questions[5] will guide you through your editing:

  • Are there any grammar errors, i.e. have you been consistent in your use of tense, do your pronouns agree?
  • Have you accurately and effectively used punctuation?
  • Do you rely on strong verbs and nouns and maintain a good balance with adjectives and adverbs, using them to enhance descriptions but ensuring clear sentences?
  • Are your words as accurate as possible?
  • Do you define any technical or unusual terms you use?
  • Are there extra words or clichés in your sentences that you can delete?
  • Do you vary your sentence structure?
  • Have you accurately presented facts; have you copied quotations precisely?
  • If you’re writing an academic essay, have you tried to be objective in your evidence and tone?
  • If writing a personal essay, is the narrative voice lively and interesting?
  • Have you spellchecked your paper?
  • If you used sources, have you consistently documented all of the sources’ ideas and information using a standard documentation style?


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Academic Writing Basics Copyright © 2019 by Megan Robertson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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