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Writing Revision: How to Fix Mistakes in Your Writing

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Doresa Jennings

Doresa holds a Ph.D. in Communication Studies.

Few writers can prepare documents that are free of mistakes. Learn the three general rules of self-editing and understand how to apply this process to fix writing mistakes, edit for content, adjust mechanics, and revise grammatical errors. Updated: 08/22/2021

How to Fix Mistakes in Your Writing

Picture this scenario. You are getting ready for an interview, making sure your hair is nice and neat. You are freshly showered, and your clothes are pressed and ready to go. You decide to give yourself one last look in the mirror - only to find there is a big stain on your shirt. Oh, no! You quickly change shirts, dash past the full length mirror and see you are still in slippers! Oops. That was almost a big one. Into your dress shoes and ready to head out the door, you look over your interview papers and for the first time, notice this one sentence stating: 'This interview will be taking place at a cattle ranch. Please be sure to wear jeans, a tee shirt and athletic shoes.' Quick - back to your closet, throw everything off and get into the best jeans and shirt you can find and lace up those shoes. Sweating and tired, but grateful for the last look, you are finally ready to head out the door.

I know. It seemed like a lot of work, but each of those steps mimics what happens when we are editing our own writing. In this video, we will be walking through the process of self-editing.

When it comes to editing your own writing, there are two areas where we need to focus: 1) editing for content and 2) editing for mechanics.

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  • 0:10 Fixing Mistakes
  • 1:36 Editing Content
  • 3:28 Editing Mechanics
  • 5:48 Self Editing
  • 7:25 Lesson Summary
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Editing for Content

Editing for content is the first step. In our scenario of dressing for an interview, this really mimics the last thing we did - finally reading the paper and realizing we weren't quite dressed appropriately at all. Editing for content is ensuring that you are following the very heart and directions of the writing assignment given. Editing for content means you do three specific tasks:

  1. Make sure your writing is answering the original question asked of you. It doesn't matter how well an essay or paper is written if it doesn't fit within the parameters of the assignment. Telling a person in eloquent prose how the sunset glistens on a beach doesn't quite explain the process of photosynthesis. You must take the time to ensure you are truly answering the question asked of you.
  2. Make sure your main points are in line with your thesis statement. Have you ever had a conversation with a person who seemed to be arguing with themselves? This is the equivalent of having main points that don't align or, even worse, conflict with the thesis you are putting forward in your piece.
  3. Ensure there is a proper flow in your writing. The universal mechanics of an essay include an introduction, main points or body and a conclusion - in that order. This is expected in academic writing. As you progress to more structured writing with various other headings, including a methods section and discussion, you will find the introduction, main points and then conclusion ordering continues to hold true. Your piece should flow in this order for it to be read by your audience with ease.

Editing for Mechanics

Now that we have discussed editing for content, let's discuss editing for mechanics. In our interview scenario, this is similar to our noticing a stain on our shirt or slippers on our feet. It really doesn't have to deal with our understanding of the topic, but looks do matter. If mistakes that are simple to correct, like wearing appropriate shoes, are ignored, it makes people pause and wonder just how much time and effort you spent on the content. We often hear the phrase 'don't judge a book by its cover' and while that is really nice to hear, it just simply isn't the case. In fact, there is a reason why books we find in stores and online have such pretty covers. Taking care of the mechanics allows the reader to take their time with our content and truly read what we wanted to convey.

There are three areas we are going to look at when it comes to mechanics.

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