Writing is revising



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1. Revision

“Writing is revising.”

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2. Even the Experts Revise

Frances Fitzgerald’s editor concerning a draft of her book Fire in the Lake: “The present material is pre first draft; it has not got to the point where an editor can do anything with it. It is so rough, so lacking in clarity, that all we can do is throw up our hands.”

Fitzgerald’s Fire in the Lake went on to win the Bancroft Prize for History, the National Book Award, and the Pulitzer Prize.



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3. “Signs of a Student Writer”

“The first version of a sentence has been allowed to stand in the final draft.”

Notice the final draft of the sample Migrant Mother essay: not one sentence in the final draft is the same as the sentence was in the earlier draft.



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4. How Long Does It Take to Write an Essay for the Class?

From start to finish, it takes most students 8 to 10 hours to write a good essay.

One student’s response: “it takes me about 2 hours to write an essay and about 6 hours to revise it.”



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5. What Do You Do When You Revise?

Revising is not proofreading: You should not write a first draft, proofread it, and turn it in as your final draft.

Revising begins with the big things: the thesis, the thesis statement, the organization, the support and development of ideas.



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6. Review the Thesis Statement



In one sentence, does the thesis statement (1) identify your subject; (2) express, specifically, the main points of your paper; and 3) identify how the main points are logically related?

Example: “The photograph depicts a family suffering from extreme poverty, but it also demonstrates the determination of a mother to do her best to care for her children and to endure through difficult times.”



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7. Putting It All Together

Thesis: The photograph depicts a family suffering from extreme poverty, but it also demonstrates the determination of a mother to do her best to care for her children and to endure through difficult times.”


  1. The mother and her children are severely impoverished.

  2. The mother in Lange’s photograph is responsible for the survival and well being of her children, and it is clear that she is doing her best to provide for her children.

  3. The responsibility of caring for her family helps the mother remain strong and determined not to be defeated during these difficult times.

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8. How Do Your Thesis Statement and Topic Sentences Look?

Copy and paste your thesis statement and each of your topic sentences at the end of your essay.

This is an outline of your essay. How does it look? What could you change to strengthen it?



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9. Revise Time

Make sure that each of your topic sentences accurately expresses the main point of the paragraph.

Put all of the main ideas from the topic sentences together into a one-sentence thesis statement.



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10. Another Example

Thesis: Mansfield's "Miss Brill" illustrates the old woman's attempt to alleviate loneliness by creating an alternate reality for herself, yet she is ultimately forced to face the self-deception for what it truly is.


  1. Miss Brill's ritual of visiting the park every Sunday helps her to cope with loneliness.

  2. Miss Brill alters her perception of reality to avoid facing unpleasant aspects of her life.

  3. A series of events leads to Miss Brill's illusion being shattered and forces her to realize the self-deception.

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12. The Rest of the Introduction

The one-sentence thesis statement should go at the end of the introduction. What do you do with the rest of the introduction?

See “Introductions”



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13. Developing Ideas within Body Paragraphs

Each body paragraph should be focused on supporting and developing the main idea or insight presented in the topic sentence.

The main idea of each paragraph should be developed with specific descriptions of parts of the painting or photograph.

Each body paragraph should be at least half of a page long (and that is a short paragraph).

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14. Using Specific Descriptions

There should be a lot of specific description in each body paragraph: many words that give readers specific things to “see.”

“Show, Don’t Tell.”

See the examples on the “Using Specific and Concrete Diction” course Web page.

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15. Description in Body Paragraphs

Struggle is a natural part of human life, and can be clearly seen in the painting of Christina.  As she sits in the field, her legs, covered in white tights, are bent awkwardly and sprawled out behind her, covered by the bottom of a pink dress leading down to her brown, old-fashioned shoes, which makes her seem as though she is unable to move her legs.  Her knees are gently bent in a way that proves she is unable to use them to crawl.  Christina is alone in the middle of the field surrounded by a sea of endless wheat, which explains that her struggle is just with herself and her own body.  Also, because she is very far away from the house and in the very middle of the field, not by a road, she looks as though she is abandoned.  The gray sky also adds to the fact that she is alone and makes the day look gloomy even though there are no clouds.  Looking through her point of view, her travels through the field may look endless, since she is so far away from the house.  Even when she finally reaches the house, there is a fence all the way around the house, which shows that once she gets to the fence, she still has obstacles in her way.  All of these elements in the painting together show Christina’s struggle with her physical condition.

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16. Description in Body Paragraphs

It is often said that power will never last. It has been proven time and time again with the fall of the Roman Empire, the collapse of the Nazis, and many other great nations that have risen only to be brought down once again. In this picture, the Colosseum has a lot of obvious wear. The building that once stood so glorious now has faded in color and is probably not quite as sturdy. The windows were well defined and showed the great architectural ability of their creators, but now they are chipping and breaking away. Still, even in the midst of the aging and decaying of a once grand building, there is still a sense of great power. While the Roman Empire did collapse, the Colosseum holds fast as a remnant of Italian power. It may be tattered in many places, but it is not in complete ruins and appears to be able to last a great while longer.

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17. Description in Body Paragraphs



The main sailboat has three boys and a father sailing in it. They look as if they are having a fun time relaxing on the boat. The dad looks as if he has a little bit of anxiety because of the storm, but the children look like they do not care a single bit. The children are nonchalant about the storm and they may think the weather is just perfect conditions for sailing. The older looking boy is steering the boat with ease and using only one hand. He has a darker colored shirt on and a life jacket with a hat. His sleeves and pants are rolled up showing his bare feet. The other two boys have hats on, too. While one of the younger boys has a dark shirt on, the other one’s is dark red or brown looking. The boys look calm and relaxed. The small boy farthest left may be taking a nap with the weather not affecting him at all. He has shoes on and a blanket around him. The father has a red shirt on and he has a beard. His face shows that he is focused on what he is doing and shows some anxiety probably about the storm that is moving towards them. The father may be a little worried, but that is the nature of how parents are usually. The father is showing the viewer that there are still times when one can enjoy activities that were done in the past.

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19. Your Body Paragraphs

How much specific description appears in the body paragraphs of your essay?

Underline all of the words in a body paragraph that present specific descriptions: these should be words that will create images in the reader’s mind of exactly what you see in the painting or photograph.



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20. Strengthening the Style and Mechanics



  • While looking at “The Walk to Paradise Garden”, you may also notice that the opening the children are walking through is roughly shaped like a heart tilting to the left.

  • If you also look at the children’s feet, you notice that they are walking uphill.

  • By looking at the people in the background of this photograph one would be able to determine that a celebration is occurring and that they are happy that the war has come to an end. By looking at the sailors on the left side of this picture [one] can see that they are smiling and clearly very happy.

  • When I first saw the children walking so closely together, I was instantly reminded of my childhood best friend.

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21. Strengthening the Style and Mechanics



  • Lastly, this picture shows its audience how society can silence a person and their ideas which make them different. This is shown through how the artist didn’t give image of this person a mouth, but instead an empty white expanse of nothingness. This idea of not having a mouth also corresponds well with the other two themes because one needs a mouth to voice their own views and opinions with their ability to speak. Therefore if a person does not have a mouth they have lost one of their ways of being different which in turn makes them blend in with the society around them.

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22. Strengthening the Style and Mechanics



  • After studying the picture and finding that the Colosseum is still as grandiose as it once was, it seems that it is not what it appeared to be at first.

  • While looking at this photograph, it is possible to ascertain friendship or companionship between the two children.

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23. Strengthening the Style and Mechanics



  • A picture can have many different meanings or interpretations. Every picture can be interpreted differently by numerous people.

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24. Strengthening the Style and Mechanics



  • Life is composed of a network of journeys, each journey containing its own lessons, its own chapter to be completed. Some of these journeys may be physical voyages, whereas others may just be emotional, or even spiritual, but all three are significant and in fact vital to one’s development as a human being. Though many obstacles lie on these paths, trying to diverge one from the goal, and trials and temptations will arise, one must persevere, always searching for the light-filled clearing at the end of the path. Then, once the clearing is reached, one can reflect on the significance of the journey itself and ponder what moral attributes were strengthened by such persistency to reach the ultimate destination.

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21. Yes, Writing is Revising!


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