The Writing Center


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Revision tends to be divided into two categories, changes that alter the meaning of a text and changes that leave meaning intact. Think of how many changes you can make to a piece of writing.

Since there are so many things a writer can do to a text and, often, so little time, it makes sense to make those changes that will make the meaning of your writing more clear to a reader. There are, of course, lots of ways to figure out how to revise a particular piece of writing; every writer is different. What follows is a method that works, either on a whole paper or on a paragraph.

  1. Finish a draft or at least part of a draft before you consider revising--otherwise you may never get anything finished.

  2. Reread your draft and decide what issues you need to focus on. Always start with the most serious meaning-blocking issues and work down; always make notes on the draft that you read, and consider getting another reader's opinion--maybe even a Writing Center tutor's opinion.

    Levels to consider:

  3. ocus on a single issue.
  4. Maintaining your focus, talk or write through potential solutions to places where communication breaks down; often problems and solutions are easier to find with the help of an objective reader (e.g., another writer, a Writing Center tutor, or your instructor).
  5. Sketch in solutions and write them up.
  6. Repeat steps 1 through 5 as often as necessary.

Revision Checklist

Words like thesis, organization, paragraph, coherence, and comma splice, don't exist just to make your life miserable. All of these terms define the effects of a piece of writing. That is, a paper with a well-defined thesis lets a reader know where it's going; a well-organized paper is one that enables a reader to get from beginning to end without getting lost. Your handbook or a Writing Center tutor can help you describe the effects of your writing (probably using terms like those listed above), but only you can decide to make your writing more meaningful or effective. A revision checklist like the following one can help you write a better paper, but only if you understand what makes effective writing and are willing to make changes.

Check your draft for the following devices:




  • topic sentences
  • examples
  • warrants
  • transitional words


  • complete sentences
  • sentence variety
  • transitional words


Checking for these devices is one way of making sure that your paper sticks to and develops a single idea. Of course, a list cannot replace your commitment to communicating with an audience. If you are not trying to affect your reader with an idea or two, perfect structure and grammar will only go so far.

Revision Exercise

Look at a piece of writing that you are revising. Work through each of the steps, starting at the top and moving down the list. Make sure that you determine carefully where communication breaks down and how you can go about reestablishing it. Sketch in a solution before setting off on a re-write.

To get back to the bottom, you go back to the top of the slide . . .
Where did the President say that? OR On to the next step
Back to the process
Want to talk to a tutor about it?

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