Strategies for Revising Writing Over Multiple Drafts

Instructor: Angela Janovsky

Angela has taught middle and high school English, Business English and Speech for nine years. She has a bachelor's degree in psychology and has earned her teaching license.

Revision is perhaps the most important stage of the writing process. But what does it mean to revise? This lesson discusses revision goals and strategies for revising multiple drafts.

What is Revision?

You have spent a week or more researching and creating the rough draft for an essay. The next step is crucial to producing a successful paper; now you must revise. In terms of the writing process, revision means to alter or make changes to the draft. Many believe revision means simply correctly any mechanical or grammatical errors. That is called editing, which corrects errors, but does not really alter the writing. Think of editing as just one step on writing process ladder. When you alter the content itself, which are your ideas and details, you are doing the more complicated aspects of revision. This lesson will bypass the editing aspect of revision and focus on strategies for revising over multiple rough drafts.

Revision Strategies

As previously mentioned, the larger picture of revision goes beyond the simple mechanical errors. It is best to save those smaller aspects for the very end. First, analyze your ideas and overall essence of the paper.

The first strategy to do so consists of analyzing the organization of the paper. Does it flow from idea to idea? Are there any parts that don't seem to fit? Look over your organization and decide if any sentences or whole paragraphs need to move. In addition, if your ideas don't transition smoothly, you will have a choppy or illogical paper that sends a cloudy message. Revise by adding transitional sentence, reordering and moving certain parts for clarity and flow.

Next, look at the first draft of your thesis, which is the statement of the main idea of the whole essay. If your thesis is too vague or makes claims that you do not address in the body of the essay, then you need to revise that thesis. The following examples show a weak thesis versus a strong one.

  • A zombie attack would be the worst thing to happen in our world.
  • Although the bubonic plague devastated the globe, a zombie outbreak in the present day would be so much worse due to our dependence on technology and the interconnection of society.

The second, stronger thesis leads the reader into what the rest of the paper will be about. Revise your thesis to make it stronger. Don't be afraid to change it completely after the essay is written. Writing is a fluid process and your ideas or opinions might change throughout.

However, in the apocalypse, not all zombies will be on crutches

Another aspect of revision to consider is adding information. Adding transitions might be addressed during the organization phase, but you also need to look closer at the facts and details in your rough draft. Does your essay provide support for your main argument? If you are unsure if you have actually proven your thesis, you will need to add information. At the same time, you may also have unnecessary information that should be deleted. Any parts that either contradict your main idea or are not relevant should be deleted. Another aspect of this stage is to look at your word choice, which refers to the specific words you use in your writing. You want to be as precise as possible, but still keep your reader's attention. One way to do so is to reduce repetition. Any words you notice are used multiple times should be replaced with synonyms or deleted altogether. Furthermore, if your ideas seem to be repeating themselves, then you need to delete or rewrite some sentences, or restructure the paragraphs.

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