Revising & Editing Basics


A corrected paper on a table

Many students often try to lump revising and editing into one, but they are really two separate activities. Revising is about your content while editing is about sentence-level issues and typos. It’s important to remember to allow yourself time to complete both parts of this process carefully.

Revision is about seeing your writing again. Revising is an important step in the writing process, because it enables you to look at your writing more objectively, from a reader’s view. Set your writing aside for a time. Then go back to it and work from big to small as you ask and answer revising questions.

Basic Big Revision Questions—Ask These First:

  • Are there places that are not clear?
  • Are there places that need more information?
  • Are there places that need less information, because the information seems to diverge too much from your main point?
  • Does some of the information need to be re-ordered in order to make sense to a reader who may not have much background on this topic?

As you see, these basic revision questions concern themselves with the amount, clarity, and order of information. That’s what the revision process is all about—making sure that your concepts and supporting information are presented in the clearest, most logical way for most readers to understand.

Once you deal with the big things (amount and order of information), then you can move to the small things—the language, grammar, spelling, and punctuation.


Once you have your content the way you want it and have completed your revisions, it’s time to think about editing your paper. When you edit, you are looking for issues with sentence structure, spelling, punctuation, capitalization, etc. And, when you edit, it’s important to realize that it’s difficult to catch all of these errors in one editing pass. A thorough editing process is one that involves several editing passes. Research on student writing indicates that most of the errors in college essays are related to careless editing. With that in mind, it’s important to take steps to ensure you are engaging in a good editing process.

Questions to Consider When You Edit

  • Is the language clear and easy to read and understand?  Are difficult terms defined?
  • Is the sentence structure clear and easy to understand?
  • Are the sentences grammatically correct?
  • Have I proofread and checked for typos and misspellings?
  • What errors might my spell checker and grammar checker have missed?

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