Writing with style

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Stage 3: Revising

What is revision?

Take time off:
Revision works best when you have some time to let your writing sit. You will be better able to look at your writing with a reader’s eye if you can put it aside for a day or two before working on it again.

If drafting is for the writer, revision is for the reader. During revision you consider your writing from your audience’s point of view. In fact, to revise means literally to “re-see” or “re-look” at your writing. When you revise, you are looking at the parts of your document and making sure that each part works together to make a coherent whole. You may need to change the order of your information, expand on certain sections, or cut details in others. Often, you will need to go back to the drafting stage and re-work parts of your paper. Revising is NOT editing! Save the spelling, grammar, and sentence fixes for later.

Most writers find it helpful to have someone else read their writing at this stage. A reader who is unfamiliar with your document can help you identify which parts are working and which parts are still unclear.
Revising for Audience:

  • Is the level of detail appropriate for your audience (not too general or too specific)?

  • Are your ideas presented in a logical order that will be evident to the reader?

  • Do you use clear transitions to help the reader follow your train of thought?

  • Are your sentences clear and specific? Do you say what you mean, and mean what you say?

  • Is your tone and style appropriate for your audience?

Revising for Purpose:

  • Is your purpose clearly stated for the reader?

  • Do you clearly maintain that purpose throughout the document?

  • Does all of your supporting information clearly relate to your purpose?

  • Do you organize your ideas to best fulfill your purpose?

Revising for Form:

  • Do you maintain a balance among your points, developing each to the same extent?

NOTE: Stages 1-3 are not independent steps but rather stages within a cyclical process. Good writers move back and forth between planning, drafting, and revising many times during the course of creating a single document.


Computers aren’t perfect.
While spell-check and grammar-check programs are helpful to identify errors, they are not foolproof. Spell-check programs will not catch mistakes where you have used the wrong word, for example. Grammar-check programs may help identify fragments and run-ons, but sometimes the corrections they advise are simply wrong.

tage 4: Editing

While revision focuses mainly on making your content clear for your reader, editing focuses on making your document meet the conventions of standard written English. During the editing stage, check the following:

  • grammar

  • sentence structure

  • word choice

  • punctuation

  • capitalization

  • spelling

  • citation and document format

See the sections on Solving Writing Problems, Mechanics, and MLA Format for specifics.

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