HUNTER COLLEGE READING/WRITING CENTER
THE WRITING PROCESS
Revision: Revision Guidelines
Revising is not merely correcting spelling errors, checking subject-verb agreement, and inserting commas. Though proofreading is part of the revision process, far more important is reading your draft to consider whether or not you have formulated an effective thesis, whether or not you have adequately supported your thesis, whether or not your writing is shaped so that your reader is able to follow the development of your thesis. This aspect of revision--rethinking and reshaping your writing--is the most significant aspect of the revision process. In fact, you should expect to engage in this kind of revision repeatedly as you write because you will develop new insights as you compose your draft.
As you discover your message, clarify your ideas, and find your form, you may turn to a second kind of revision: a close examination of your paragraphs. Is the intention of each paragraph in its connection to your thesis clear? Is each paragraph sufficiently developed to serve its function in the writing? Does any paragraph contain irrelevant information?
Considering your paragraphs will lead you to examine your sentences. Is each sentence clear? Does sentence structure reveal relationships among your ideas? Are there words you can eliminate to tighten your sentences? Do your sentences have variety of length and structure? After these several cycles of revision, you are ready to proofread for correctness.
So you see that revising is an essential part of the writing process--rarely does any writer sit down and produce a finished piece of work in one draft. Revising is not a punishment invented by English teachers; it is a process which demands that you see your writing as a reader will see it so that you can shape your writing for a reader. Some techniques follow to guide you in your revision process.
Kenneth Bruffee has developed a series of critiques which you can use to examine your writing. Here are guidelines from two of Bruffee's three types of critiques. Use them to test your draft.
- State your essay's main point. Ask yourself if your thesis expresses this point clearly.
- Examine each paragraph to check its connection to the thesis. First, paraphrase in one sentence the information that the paragraph contains, that is, what it says. Second, explain the function that the paragraph plays in developing the thesis, that is, what it does. Paragraphs may describe, narrate, list, explain, exemplify, compare, contrast, trace, analyze, synthesize, hypothesize, give a history, project the future, list reasons.
Consider your essay in terms of the following criteria:
- Unity: Does everything in your essay relate to your thesis?
- Coherence: Do paragraphs follow one another in a clear order? Have you used transitions between paragraphs? within paragraphs?
- Development: Are your points fully explained?
- Style: Are your ideas clearly expressed? Are they simply expressed, without unnecessary words, big words where smaller ones would do, or confusing word order?
- Mechanics: Is your essay in correct, edited English?
Erika Lindemann offers a series of questions grouped into categories which suggest the various concerns to which writers attend as they revise.
Subject, Purpose, Audience
- What's the most important thing I want to say about my subject?
- Who am I writing this paper for? What would my reader want to know about the subject? What does my reader already know?
- Why do I think the subject is worth writing about?
- What verb explains what I'm trying to do in this paper? (tell a story, compare X and Y, describe, explain)
- Does my first paragraph answer questions 1-4? If not, why not?
- How many specific points do I make about my subject? Did I overlap or repeat any points? Did I leave any points out or add some that aren't relevant to the main idea?
- How many paragraphs did I use to talk about each point?
- Why did I talk about them in this order? Should the order be changed?
- How did I get from one point to the next? What signposts did I give the reader?
Ask these questions about each paragraph.
- What job is this paragraph supposed to do? How does it relate to the paragraph before it and after it?
- What's the topic idea? Will my reader have trouble finding it?
- How many sentences did it take to develop the topic idea?
- Can I substitute better examples, reasons or details?
- How well does the paragraph hold together? When I read the paragraphs out loud, does it flow smoothly?
- How many levels of generality does it have?
- Are the sentences different lengths and types?
- Do I need transitions?
Ask these questions about each sentence.
- Which sentences do I like the most? the least?
- Can my reader "see" what I'm saying? What words could I substitute for abstractions like "people," "thing," "aspect?"
- Are there extra words in this sentence?
- Can I combine this sentence with another one?
- Can I add adjectives and adverbs or find a more lively verb?
Things to Check Last
- Did I check spelling and punctuation? What words do I usually misspell? What punctuation problems have I had in previous papers?
- How does my paper end? Did I keep the promises I made to my reader at the beginning of the paper?
- When I read the assignment again, do I find anything I missed?
- What do I like best about this paper? What do I need to work on in my next paper?
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