One great way to help you with revision is to try something called the post-draft outline. Here’s how it works: Outline your paper, jotting down your thesis statement and the topic sentences in each of your paragraphs. See if this skeleton of your paper reveals a clear, logical flow of ideas and organization. If not, you know you need to make some changes. Having this visual representation of what you have actually written in your essay is a great help when you are trying to revise effectively.
It’s important to remember that a good editing process takes time. You can’t edit well in one big editing pass. You should be prepared to spend the time it will take to edit in several passes and use strategies that will you slow yourself down and edit thoroughly.
Read your paper aloud.
Reading aloud gives you the opportunity to both see and hear what you have written—and it slows your eyes down so you’re more likely to catch errors and see what you have actually written, not what you think you wrote. It’s also helpful to have someone else read your paper aloud so you can listen to how well it flows.
Read your paper backwards.
Start with the last sentence. Read it first. Then, read the second-to-the-last sentence. Continue this process for your whole essay. This strategy really slows you down and helps you see each sentence on its own, which is key to effective editing.
Review the Grammar Essentials Area
Review the Grammar Essentials area for known struggles you have with grammar, punctuation, and other errors. Then, with that information fresh in your mind, edit your paper just looking for those known issues. For example, if you know you have struggles with commas, review the information on commas in the Excelsior OWL, and, then, immediately edit your essay with special attention to commas. With the rules fresh in your mind, you’re more likely to catch any errors.
A Tip for Both Revising and Editing
Finally, a good tip for both revision and editing is to use the resources available to you for feedback and help. If you’re on a campus with a writing center, take advantage of it. If your online college offers an online writing tutorial service, submit your essay to that service for feedback. And, take advantage of in-class peer reviews. Your peers understand the writing assignment you’re working on and can provide helpful reader feedback.
Seek help when you need it, and ask questions of your professor. A good revision and editing process involves using all of the resources available to you.