Rewriting is the essence of writing well—where the game is won or lost.
—William Zinsser


The meaning of “revise”, according to the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, is “to change something, such as a book or an estimate, in order to correct or improve it”. (Hornby) In this essay we will mainly talk about “revising” as one of the most important steps of writing. To the writers, the words on the page should never be finished and each of them can be changed or rearranged. Meanwhile, “revising” is more than just fixing the commas and spelling, which can be called “proofreading”. Revision is global, taking a look at your ideas and the way they are arranged; proofreading is polishing, one spot at a time. That's why revision should come before proofreading: why polish what you might be changing anyway? (Handley& Oaks) In addition, revising is different from editing which is another important final step of polishing your work. “But if you haven't thought through your ideas, then rephrasing them won't make any difference”. (Abels)


  • Background
  • Importance
  • Skills
  • Steps
  • Tips
  • Example
  • Reference
  • External Links


Most students consider the job of writing done when they complete a first draft. However, the professional writers usually treat the first draft as the start of the writing process--“When a draft is completed, the job of writing can begin”.(Murray, 161-165) According to Peter F. Drucker, the first draft should be regarded as “the zero draft”, after which he can start counting. Most writers agree that the first draft, and all of those followed are chances to discover what they have to say and how best they can say it. The writer has to develop a special kind of reading skill to criticize their own drafts in order to produce a progression.


Almost no one can produce a masterpiece at one sitting. Therefore, revision is a method which can help you to refine your work. In the process of revising, the writer can make his expression more concise and clear as well as to sharpen his own writing style. According to research, professional writers spend 25% of their time revising manuscripts, yet secondary school students devote less than 1% to editing and revising. (Mark,70) Students need to learn techniques for revising papers so as to improve their papers and get a higher grade.

Special Kind of Reading Skill

As we have mentioned above, writers are required to develop a special kind of reading skill while doing the revision. That is to say, writers must learn to be their own best enemy—detach themselves from their own pages so as to apply both caring and craft to their own work. John Ciardi, the poet, adds, “The last act of the writing must be to become one’s own reader. It is, I suppose, a schizophrenic process, to begin passionately and to end critically, to begin hot and to end cold; and more important, to be passion-hot and critic-cold at the same time.” Meanwhile, writers cannot be overly critical, regard everything is dreadful, tear up page after page. They must read critically but constructively. (Murray, 161-165)

Steps for Revising your paper

  • Wait awhile before you start to “re-see” your work. This allows you return to your work with a fresh outlook. Ask yourself what you really think about the paper.The Roman poet Horace thought one should wait nine years, but it’s a little too much for us, several days or even hours may do. (Abels)
  • Focus on the large issue in the paper, not the words or sentences. Try to check your topic to make sure that it is appropriate for the assignment, and ensure that you stay on track through the whole paper.
  • Think honestly about and summarize your thesis. Does it still make much sense to you? Should it be modified in light of something you discovered as you wrote the paper? (Abels) Avoid a general thesis instead of a specific one.
  • Look at your introduction to see if it state clearly what you intend to do. Check your conclusion to make sure it tie the paper together smoothly and end on a stimulating note. (Abels)
  • Be sure of your information in the paper is accurate and sufficient to construct a readable piece of writing. “Each piece of specific information must carry the reader toward meaning”. (Murray, 161-165) Meanwhile, the writer should make sure that the information he delivered satisfy the curiosity of the audience(including the manner and formality).
  • Examine the structure, development and dimension. Focus on the logic and the proportion through the whole page. Make sure that you spend enough time on the important points rather than those trivial ones, and “the transitions move your reader smoothly from one point to another” (Abels).
  • Use the “special kind of skill”—to be your own audience. Read aloud to yourself to “hear” if it sounds right. Pretend it is someone else’s work and ask questions, then make sure you can find the answer in the paper.

More tips from

  • Work from hardcopy; it's easier on the eyes. Also, problems that seem invisible on the screen somehow tend to show up better on paper.
  • Another tip is to read the paper out loud. That's one way to see how well things flow.
  • Remember all those questions listed above? Don't try to tackle all of them in one draft. Pick a few "agendas" for each draft so that you won't go mad trying to see all at once if you've done everything.
  • Ask lots of questions and don't flinch from answering them truthfully. For example, ask if there are opposing viewpoints that you haven't considered yet.


The following picture shows the third draft and sixth draft of E. B. White’s one-paragraph comment on the first moon walk. His main points are undelined.
"In Draft 6, White gets right to the point. He states the problem he's addressing--"the moon is a poor place for flags"--in his third sentence."
"In draft 3, he does not suggest this until the sentence that begins "Yet", and never directly; it is the sum of the large amount of underlined material."
The revision make White's work more concise and direct, and let him present his idea in the beginning.

The example is retrieved from:


  1. Murray, Donald M. "The Maker’s Eye: Revising Your Own Manuscripts.” Language Awareness: Readings for College Writers. Ed. by Paul Eschholz, Alfred Rosa, and Virginia Clark. 8 ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2000: 161-165.
  2. Albert Sidney Hornby. Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary. Oxford: Oxford University Press Elt; 7th edition, 2005. Print.
  3. Elaine, Handley. Susan, Oaks. “Steps in Writing a Research Paper.” Web. 21 May, 2011. <>
  4. Kimberly, Abels. “Revising draft.” The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 21 May, 2011. <>
  5. Christiansen, Mark. “The Importance of Revision in Writing Composition.” Education Digest; Oct, 90. Vol. 56 Issue 2, p70. Web. 21 May, 2011. <>

External Links
  • More steps for revising your writing from the Purdue OWL.
  • Some questions you might ask in the process of revising.