February 10, 2014
The Value of Revision
by: Morgan Pruitt
Revision is difficult because it is often one of the most neglected steps to the process of writing. Perhaps, because it is misunderstood, the mystery of how to revise continues to confound new and (sometimes) even experienced writers. Revision is simple in terms of description: it means rethinking your writing to find gaps and fill them, ask new questions and answer them, and discover stronger arguments and use them. It means taking your conservative text to a rock concert and throwing it into the mosh pit. Once you have an idea (invention/brainstorming) and have written the text (drafting), you begin revising your writing. Changing
words phrases is only a small part of revision, and those changes are so small that they often become valuable only after you have reassessed your original writing. At its core, revision requires the writer to address issues that he or she might be avoiding, ignoring, forgetting, or assuming. What is so fun about this particular step is that there are so many different ways to revise. The following University Writing Center consultants share their revision strategies:
“My goal in a paper is to be convincing in getting my point across. So, when I revise, I focus on ‘clarity.’ This means…logical conclusions, order of paragraphs, clarifying assumptions, and evidence (usually a literary text). If I can afford myself some time/space between writing my first draft and revising, I can usually recognize more areas in need of revision.”
“I read back through what I’ve written, decide what’s important and what’s tangential (or not even remotely connected), and build an outline based off my main/important ideas. From there, I incorporate research or expand on points that don’t have enough support. Once I’ve explained things clearly, I go back through and try to improve my diction or replace words that don’t quite reflect what I want them to.”
“I come back to the paper…read it aloud. I snag a friend, ask them to go over it, and get their feedback and impression of the work.”
A few other ways to revise are to change the form of your writing. If you are writing an essay, try writing it as a play or a poem. The change in form encourages you to think about what you have written and what you can write, including dialogue and descriptive language. For academic papers, taking the opposite viewpoint allows you to see arguments you may have overlooked or ignored in order to make your point. If you are writing about how great skiing is, you can revise by presenting arguments for why skiing might not be so great.
Ultimately, revision looks different for every piece of writing and for every writer, but it is an absolutely necessity to write a better text and to become a better writer. These strategies are great places to start your revisions. Happy writing (and revising)!