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The Writing Process | 5 Steps with Examples & Tips

Published on April 24, 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on December 7, 2022.

The writing process steps

Good academic writing requires effective planning, drafting, and revision.

The writing process looks different for everyone, but there are five basic steps that will help you structure your time when writing any kind of text.

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revising an essay involves

Table of contents

Step 1: prewriting, step 2: planning and outlining, step 3: writing a first draft, step 4: redrafting and revising, step 5: editing and proofreading, frequently asked questions about the writing process.

Before you start writing, you need to decide exactly what you’ll write about and do the necessary research.

Coming up with a topic

If you have to come up with your own topic for an assignment, think of what you’ve covered in class— is there a particular area that intrigued, interested, or even confused you? Topics that left you with additional questions are perfect, as these are questions you can explore in your writing.

The scope depends on what type of text you’re writing—for example, an essay or a research paper will be less in-depth than a dissertation topic . Don’t pick anything too ambitious to cover within the word count, or too limited for you to find much to say.

Narrow down your idea to a specific argument or question. For example, an appropriate topic for an essay might be narrowed down like this:

Doing the research

Once you know your topic, it’s time to search for relevant sources and gather the information you need. This process varies according to your field of study and the scope of the assignment. It might involve:

From a writing perspective, the important thing is to take plenty of notes while you do the research. Keep track of the titles, authors, publication dates, and relevant quotations from your sources; the data you gathered; and your initial analysis or interpretation of the questions you’re addressing.

Especially in academic writing , it’s important to use a logical structure to convey information effectively. It’s far better to plan this out in advance than to try to work out your structure once you’ve already begun writing.

Creating an essay outline is a useful way to plan out your structure before you start writing. This should help you work out the main ideas you want to focus on and how you’ll organize them. The outline doesn’t have to be final—it’s okay if your structure changes throughout the writing process.

Use bullet points or numbering to make your structure clear at a glance. Even for a short text that won’t use headings, it’s useful to summarize what you’ll discuss in each paragraph.

An outline for a literary analysis essay might look something like this:

Once you have a clear idea of your structure, it’s time to produce a full first draft.

This process can be quite non-linear. For example, it’s reasonable to begin writing with the main body of the text, saving the introduction for later once you have a clearer idea of the text you’re introducing.

To give structure to your writing, use your outline as a framework. Make sure that each paragraph has a clear central focus that relates to your overall argument.

Hover over the parts of the example, from a literary analysis essay on Mansfield Park , to see how a paragraph is constructed.

The character of Mrs. Norris provides another example of the performance of morals in Mansfield Park . Early in the novel, she is described in scathing terms as one who knows “how to dictate liberality to others: but her love of money was equal to her love of directing” (p. 7). This hypocrisy does not interfere with her self-conceit as “the most liberal-minded sister and aunt in the world” (p. 7). Mrs. Norris is strongly concerned with appearing charitable, but unwilling to make any personal sacrifices to accomplish this. Instead, she stage-manages the charitable actions of others, never acknowledging that her schemes do not put her own time or money on the line. In this way, Austen again shows us a character whose morally upright behavior is fundamentally a performance—for whom the goal of doing good is less important than the goal of seeming good.

When you move onto a different topic, start a new paragraph. Use appropriate transition words and phrases to show the connections between your ideas.

The goal at this stage is to get a draft completed, not to make everything perfect as you go along. Once you have a full draft in front of you, you’ll have a clearer idea of where improvement is needed.

Give yourself a first draft deadline that leaves you a reasonable length of time to revise, edit, and proofread before the final deadline. For a longer text like a dissertation, you and your supervisor might agree on deadlines for individual chapters.

Now it’s time to look critically at your first draft and find potential areas for improvement. Redrafting means substantially adding or removing content, while revising involves making changes to structure and reformulating arguments.

Evaluating the first draft

It can be difficult to look objectively at your own writing. Your perspective might be positively or negatively biased—especially if you try to assess your work shortly after finishing it.

It’s best to leave your work alone for at least a day or two after completing the first draft. Come back after a break to evaluate it with fresh eyes; you’ll spot things you wouldn’t have otherwise.

When evaluating your writing at this stage, you’re mainly looking for larger issues such as changes to your arguments or structure. Starting with bigger concerns saves you time—there’s no point perfecting the grammar of something you end up cutting out anyway.

Right now, you’re looking for:

For example, in our paper on Mansfield Park , we might realize the argument would be stronger with more direct consideration of the protagonist Fanny Price, and decide to try to find space for this in paragraph IV.

For some assignments, you’ll receive feedback on your first draft from a supervisor or peer. Be sure to pay close attention to what they tell you, as their advice will usually give you a clearer sense of which aspects of your text need improvement.

Redrafting and revising

Once you’ve decided where changes are needed, make the big changes first, as these are likely to have knock-on effects on the rest. Depending on what your text needs, this step might involve:

You can go back and forth between writing, redrafting and revising several times until you have a final draft that you’re happy with.

Think about what changes you can realistically accomplish in the time you have. If you are running low on time, you don’t want to leave your text in a messy state halfway through redrafting, so make sure to prioritize the most important changes.

Editing focuses on local concerns like clarity and sentence structure. Proofreading involves reading the text closely to remove typos and ensure stylistic consistency.

Editing for grammar and clarity

When editing, you want to ensure your text is clear, concise, and grammatically correct. You’re looking out for:

In your initial draft, it’s common to end up with a lot of sentences that are poorly formulated. Look critically at where your meaning could be conveyed in a more effective way or in fewer words, and watch out for common sentence structure mistakes like run-on sentences and sentence fragments:

Proofreading for small mistakes and typos

When proofreading, first look out for typos in your text:

Use your word processor’s built-in spell check, but don’t expect to find 100% of issues in this way. Read through your text line by line, watching out for problem areas highlighted by the software but also for any other issues it might have missed.

For example, in the following phrase we notice several errors:

Proofreading for stylistic consistency

There are several issues in academic writing where you can choose between multiple different standards. For example:

Unless you’re given specific guidance on these issues, it’s your choice which standards you follow. The important thing is to consistently follow one standard for each issue. For example, don’t use a mixture of American and British spellings in your paper.

Additionally, you will probably be provided with specific guidelines for issues related to format (how your text is presented on the page) and citations (how you acknowledge your sources). Always follow these instructions carefully.

Revising, proofreading, and editing are different stages of the writing process .

Whether you’re publishing a blog, submitting a research paper , or even just writing an important email, there are a few techniques you can use to make sure it’s error-free:

If you want to be confident that an important text is error-free, it might be worth choosing a professional proofreading service instead.

If you’ve gone over the word limit set for your assignment, shorten your sentences and cut repetition and redundancy during the editing process. If you use a lot of long quotes , consider shortening them to just the essentials.

If you need to remove a lot of words, you may have to cut certain passages. Remember that everything in the text should be there to support your argument; look for any information that’s not essential to your point and remove it.

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Purdue Online Writing Lab Purdue OWL® College of Liberal Arts

Steps for Revising Your Paper

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Proofreading is primarily about searching your writing for errors, both grammatical and typographical, before submitting your paper for an audience (a teacher, a publisher, etc.). Use this resource to help you find and fix common errors.

When you have plenty of time to revise, use the time to work on your paper and to take breaks from writing. If you can forget about your draft for a day or two, you may return to it with a fresh outlook. During the revising process, put your writing aside at least twice—once during the first part of the process, when you are reorganizing your work, and once during the second part, when you are polishing and paying attention to details.

Use the following questions to evaluate your drafts. You can use your responses to revise your papers by reorganizing them to make your best points stand out, by adding needed information, by eliminating irrelevant information, and by clarifying sections or sentences.

Find your main point.

What are you trying to say in the paper? In other words, try to summarize your thesis, or main point, and the evidence you are using to support that point. Try to imagine that this paper belongs to someone else. Does the paper have a clear thesis? Do you know what the paper is going to be about?

Identify your readers and your purpose.

What are you trying to do in the paper? In other words, are you trying to argue with the reading, to analyze the reading, to evaluate the reading, to apply the reading to another situation, or to accomplish another goal?

Evaluate your evidence.

Does the body of your paper support your thesis? Do you offer enough evidence to support your claim? If you are using quotations from the text as evidence, did you cite them properly?

Save only the good pieces.

Do all of the ideas relate back to the thesis? Is there anything that doesn't seem to fit? If so, you either need to change your thesis to reflect the idea or cut the idea.

Tighten and clean up your language.

Do all of the ideas in the paper make sense? Are there unclear or confusing ideas or sentences? Read your paper out loud and listen for awkward pauses and unclear ideas. Cut out extra words, vagueness, and misused words.

Visit the Purdue OWL's vidcast on cutting during the revision phase for more help with this task.

Eliminate mistakes in grammar and usage.

Do you see any problems with grammar, punctuation, or spelling? If you think something is wrong, you should make a note of it, even if you don't know how to fix it. You can always talk to a Writing Lab tutor about how to correct errors.

Switch from writer-centered to reader-centered.

Try to detach yourself from what you've written; pretend that you are reviewing someone else's work. What would you say is the most successful part of your paper? Why? How could this part be made even better? What would you say is the least successful part of your paper? Why? How could this part be improved?

Writing Studio

What Is Revision?

In an effort to make our handouts more accessible, we have begun converting our PDF handouts to web pages. Download this page as a PDF: Revision handout PDF Return to Writing Studio Handouts

Revision is not merely proofreading or editing an essay. Proofreading involves making minor changes, such as putting a comma here, changing a word there, deleting part of a sentence, and so on. Revision, on the other hand, involves making more substantial changes.

Literally, it means re-seeing what you have written in order to re-examine (and possibly change and develop) what you have said or how you have said it. One might revise the argument, organization, style, or tone of one’s paper.

Below you’ll find some helpful activities to help you begin to think through and plan out revisions.

Revision Strategies

Memory draft.

Set aside what you’ve written and rewrite your essay from memory. Compare the draft of your paper to your memory draft. Does your original draft clearly reflect what you want to argue? Do you need to modify the thesis? Should you reorganize parts of your paper?

This technique helps point out what you think you are doing in comparison to what you are actually doing in a piece of writing.

Reverse Outline

Some writers find it helpful to make an outline before writing. A reverse outline, which one makes after writing a draft, can help you determine whether your paper should be reorganized. To make a reverse outline and use it to revise your paper: Read through your paper, making notes in the margins about the main point of each paragraph.

Create your reverse outline by writing those notes down on a separate piece of paper. Use your outline to do three things:

Anatomy of a Paragraph

Select different colored highlighters to represent the different elements that should be found in an argumentative essay. Make a key somewhere on the first page, noting what each color represents. You might consider attributing a color to thesis, argumentative topic sentence, evidence, analysis, and fluffy flimflam. Now, color code your essay. When you’re finished, diagnose what you see, paying attention to where you’ve placed your topic sentences, whether you’re using enough evidence, and whether you could expand or streamline your analysis.

This strategy is helpful for visual learners and authors who feel overwhelmed by the length of their draft or scope of their revision project. It also helps to illustrate the organization and development of an argument.

Unpacking an Idea

Select a certain paragraph in your essay and try to explain in more detail how the concepts or ideas fit together. Unpack the evidence for your claims by showing how it supports your topic sentence, main idea, or thesis.

This technique will help you more deliberately explain the steps in your reasoning and point out where any gaps may have occurred within it. It will help you establish how these reasons, in turn, lead to your conclusions.

Exploding a Moment

Select a certain paragraph or section from your essay and write new essays or paragraphs from that section. Through this technique, you might discover new ideas—or new connections between ideas—that you’ll want to emphasize in your paper or in a new paper in the future.

3×5 Note Card

Describe each paragraph of your draft on a separate note card. On one side of the note card, write the topic sentence; on the other, list the evidence you use to back up your topic sentence. Next, evaluate how each paragraph fits into your thesis statement.

This technique will help you look at a draft on the paragraph-level.

Writing Between the Lines

Add information between sentences and paragraphs to clarify concepts and ideas that need further explanation.

This technique helps the writer to be aware of complex concepts and to determine what needs additional explanation.

This technique helps you look at your subject from six different points of view (imagine the 6 sides of a cube and you get the idea).

Take the topic of your paper (or your thesis) and proceed through the following six steps:

Write a paragraph, page, or more about each of the six points of view on your subject.

Talk Your Paper

Tell a friend what your paper is about. Pay attention to your explanation. Are all of the ideas you describe actually in the paper? Where did you start in explaining your ideas? Does your paper match your description? Can the listener easily find all of the ideas you mention in your description?

This technique helps match up verbal explanations to written explanations. Which presents your ideas most clearly, accurately, and effectively?

Ask Someone to Read Your Paper Out Loud for You

Ask a friend to read your draft out loud to you. What do you hear? Where does your reader stumble, sound confused, or have questions? Did your reader ever get lost in your text? Did your ideas flow in a logical order and progress from paragraph to paragraph? Did the reader need more information at any point?

This technique helps a writer gain perspective on an essay by hearing first-hand the reaction of a fellow student to it.

Ask Someone without Knowledge of the Course to Read Your Paper

You can tell if your draft works by sharing it with someone unfamiliar with the context. If she can follow your ideas, your professor will be able to as well.

This technique will help you test out the clarity of your paper on those not acquainted with the course material.

Return to the Prompt

This technique may seem obvious, but once you’ve gotten going on an assignment, you may get carried away from what the instructions have asked you to do. Double check the prompt. Have you answered all of the questions (or parts of questions) thoroughly? Is there any part you may have neglected or missed?

This technique will help you keep in mind what the questions are asking and to determine whether you have addressed all of their components effectively.

Last revised: 08/2016 |  Adapted for web delivery: 03/2021

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How to Revise: A Step-by-Guide to Revising Your Writing

Matt Ellis

Revising is the stage of the writing process after the first draft where you improve what you wrote with additions, removals, corrections, and rephrasing. Typically, it is the final stage before completion and the writer’s last chance to fix any mistakes. 

Some consider revising to be the most important part of writing, even more important than creating the first draft. That’s why we want to explain how to revise drafts—so your writing can be at its best. Below, we cover how to revise effectively with a step-by-step revising plan plus a revising example so you can see how it’s done.  Give your writing extra polish Grammarly helps you communicate confidently Write with Grammarly

What is revising, and what is its purpose?

Revising is the part of editing that incorporates “big-picture” changes like altering the main topic, reorganizing the order of paragraphs, or modifying the work’s structure. Additionally, it involves detailed changes like perfecting word choice, cutting out redundancies, rephrasing, and fixing grammar and spelling mistakes. 

Why bother revising? When writing a rough draft, it’s hard to focus on every aspect of your writing all at once. Revising gives you a second chance to zoom out and catch mistakes you missed the first time, plus reading a rough draft can reveal some mistakes you hadn’t anticipated. 

No matter which type of essay you’re writing, the methods for revising an essay still tend to follow the same guidelines, covered in the next section. Narrative and fiction writing also use many of the same revision standards, but these have additional literary concerns, such as characterization, imagery, and plot. 

How to revise writing: a step-by-step guide

1 prepare to revise.

Once you’ve finished your rough draft , it’s time to get ready to revise. The revision process will be more effective if you follow a few basic steps beforehand. 

First, take a break from writing after the first draft. Taking a break after the rough draft lets your brain rest so that you can later approach your writing with fresh eyes. If you can, try sleeping on it and starting the revisions the next day. 

Hitting pause before revising gives you a chance to conduct some extra research. While we recommend doing the bulk of your research before the outline , you’ll find that actually writing the paper may reveal new questions or points of interest you hadn’t considered before and that you might want to explore through additional research.

Finally, we recommend getting someone else to read and critique your first draft for a fresh perspective. Often writers miss glaring mistakes or problems because they’re so focused on the details; having a third party review your draft without any preconceptions can help identify problems you might miss on your own.  

2 Reexamine the topic

To begin revising, take a “funnel” approach—start with the most general areas and then gradually focus more on the specifics. With those in mind, your next step should be reexamining the most general aspects of your topic. 

When writing for an assignment, you want to make sure your topic satisfies all the requirements. Often while you’re writing, topics tend to stray from what they were supposed to be. An essential part of revising is making sure that your topic stays on point from beginning to end. 

If your topic did stray, you may want to change topics to better fit what your first draft focused on. For example, let’s say your original topic was the benefits of clean energy, but during the rough draft you spent a lot of time writing about the harm of fossil fuels. You might want to change your overall topic to be a comparison paper between clean energy and fossil fuels instead of just focusing on clean energy. 

Pivoting from one topic to another is not as difficult as it may seem. Most of it, specifically rewriting your thesis statement and introduction to reflect the changes, involves things you know from learning how to start an essay . 

3 Revise the structure

After the topic, the next most-general aspect of writing is its structure. This encompasses the order in which your paper discusses its points, such as the arrangement of paragraphs or sections. 

Structure can be difficult to get exactly right in the outlining phase before you’ve actually put words down. After the rough draft is completed, you’ll be able to see firsthand how each paragraph flows into the next and how certain arguments fit before and after each other. That makes it easier to notice any structural mistakes that eluded you before. 

When you revise, take a deep look at the order in which you make your points, and see if you can rearrange them in a way that’s clearer and a more logical or poignant expression of your message. It helps to look at the topic sentences of each paragraph so you don’t get sidetracked with the details from supporting sentences. 

If reorganizing still doesn’t fix the problem, consider adding a new paragraph or section. Revising isn’t just about changing what’s already there; it’s also about adding what’s missing. Sometimes a new section can fill in the gap and make transitions between existing sections flow better. 

Likewise, if an entire paragraph or section seems superfluous or tangential, feel free to cut it completely. It’s never easy to cut something you spent effort writing, but in the grand scheme of your paper, removing weak areas can strengthen what remains. Just don’t cut anything necessary to your central argument. 

4 Polish the wording

When most people think about revising, they think about polishing the wording . For the most part, the idea of the sentence remains the same, but some of the words are changed to make the message stronger or the communication more efficient. 

We covered what exactly to change in our previous guide on self-editing tips , but in general, you want to tighten up the writing by cutting the unnecessary words and making the necessary words more potent. Here’s a quick list of the most significant red flags:

Recognizing these issues while revising takes some practice, so go as slowly as you need to make sure you catch everything. 

5 Proofread

Lastly, make sure your spelling and grammar are correct. Technical issues like these are the easiest to fix—the hard part is noticing them in the first place. When you’re done polishing the wording, give your writing one final review and pay attention to finding only errors. 

If you’re not confident in your spelling, grammar, or punctuation or just want to save time, you can always download Grammarly to check your writing mistakes for you. There’s even a free version that points out any spelling or grammar errors in your writing and suggests solutions for how to correct them. 

Once you’re done proofreading, your paper is officially finished! At least, until your next round of revisions . . . 

How to revise a paragraph: Example

Want to see precisely how to revise writing? Here’s a before-and-after example of how to revise a paragraph, with a brief explanation of why the changes were made. 

First, let’s start with an example paragraph from a rough draft. The core idea is there, but it’s not quite ready yet.  

Cheerios are a much better cereal than Frosted Flakes. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about honey-nut, multigrain, or the original flavor, Cheerios always taste delicious and are really good for your health, too. I eat Cheerios every morning. Cheerios contain your basic vitamins and minerals for the day, making them a healthy choice. Cheerios contain fiber that lowers cholesterol, too. Moreover, Cheerios can also be used for other delicious recipes like parfait or muffins. When you start you’re day with Cheerios, you never regret what you ate for breakfast! They’re also gluten-free. 

Now, here’s the paragraph after revising, with the changes in red. Below we explain the purpose of each change so you know what to look for when you revise your own work. 

Cheerios are a much better cereal than Frosted Flakes. (1) Cheerios are the best cereal on the market. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about (2) Whether it’s honey-nut, multigrain, or the (3) original flavor, Cheerios always taste delicious and are really (4) good for your health, too. I eat Cheerios every morning. (5) Cheerios contain your basic vitamins and minerals for the day, making them a healthy choice. Cheerios contain fiber that lowers cholesterol, too. (6) If you want fiber that lowers your cholesterol, Cheerios have that as well. Moreover, Cheerios can be used (7) you can use Cheerios for other delicious (8) recipes like parfait or muffins. (9) They’re also gluten-free. When you start you’re (10) your day with Cheerios, you never regret what you ate for breakfast! They’re also gluten-free.  

1 The original topic sentence did not accurately reflect what the paragraph was about. It suggested that the paragraph would be a comparison between Cheerios and Frosted Flakes but only discussed the benefits of Cheerios without mentioning Frosted Flakes at all. 

2 The original phrasing was too long and easily replaced with something shorter. 

3 For parallelism, “the” is deleted so “original flavor” matches the same construction as the other items in the series.

4 Words like “really” or “very” are often unnecessary. 

5 This entire sentence is unnecessary. 

6 The original sentence copied the same structure as the one before it, so we changed the structure. 

7 We revised this sentence to remove the passive voice. 

8 The word “delicious” appeared a few sentences before this. 

9 This sentence seemed out of order, so we moved it earlier. 

10 The usage of “you’re” was grammatically incorrect. 

Revision FAQs  

What is revising.

Revising is the stage of the writing process after the rough draft when you make the final improvements for structure, word choice, and grammar. 

Why is revising important?

It’s practically impossible to write a perfect first draft because it’s hard to focus on every aspect of writing at once. Revising allows you to catch whatever fell through the cracks the first time, plus reading a rough draft can reveal some mistakes you hadn’t anticipated. 

How do you revise your writing?

Revising is a mixture of fixing general problems (like topic and structure) and specific problems (like word choice and grammar). 

revising an essay involves

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8.4 Revising and Editing

Learning objectives.

Revising and editing are the two tasks you undertake to significantly improve your essay. Both are very important elements of the writing process. You may think that a completed first draft means little improvement is needed. However, even experienced writers need to improve their drafts and rely on peers during revising and editing. You may know that athletes miss catches, fumble balls, or overshoot goals. Dancers forget steps, turn too slowly, or miss beats. For both athletes and dancers, the more they practice, the stronger their performance will become. Web designers seek better images, a more clever design, or a more appealing background for their web pages. Writing has the same capacity to profit from improvement and revision.

Understanding the Purpose of Revising and Editing

Revising and editing allow you to examine two important aspects of your writing separately, so that you can give each task your undivided attention.

How do you get the best out of your revisions and editing? Here are some strategies that writers have developed to look at their first drafts from a fresh perspective. Try them over the course of this semester; then keep using the ones that bring results.

Many people hear the words critic , critical , and criticism and pick up only negative vibes that provoke feelings that make them blush, grumble, or shout. However, as a writer and a thinker, you need to learn to be critical of yourself in a positive way and have high expectations for your work. You also need to train your eye and trust your ability to fix what needs fixing. For this, you need to teach yourself where to look.

Creating Unity and Coherence

Following your outline closely offers you a reasonable guarantee that your writing will stay on purpose and not drift away from the controlling idea. However, when writers are rushed, are tired, or cannot find the right words, their writing may become less than they want it to be. Their writing may no longer be clear and concise, and they may be adding information that is not needed to develop the main idea.

When a piece of writing has unity , all the ideas in each paragraph and in the entire essay clearly belong and are arranged in an order that makes logical sense. When the writing has coherence , the ideas flow smoothly. The wording clearly indicates how one idea leads to another within a paragraph and from paragraph to paragraph.

Reading your writing aloud will often help you find problems with unity and coherence. Listen for the clarity and flow of your ideas. Identify places where you find yourself confused, and write a note to yourself about possible fixes.

Creating Unity

Sometimes writers get caught up in the moment and cannot resist a good digression. Even though you might enjoy such detours when you chat with friends, unplanned digressions usually harm a piece of writing.

Mariah stayed close to her outline when she drafted the three body paragraphs of her essay she tentatively titled “Digital Technology: The Newest and the Best at What Price?” But a recent shopping trip for an HDTV upset her enough that she digressed from the main topic of her third paragraph and included comments about the sales staff at the electronics store she visited. When she revised her essay, she deleted the off-topic sentences that affected the unity of the paragraph.

Read the following paragraph twice, the first time without Mariah’s changes, and the second time with them.

Nothing is more confusing to me than choosing among televisions. It confuses lots of people who want a new high-definition digital television (HDTV) with a large screen to watch sports and DVDs on. You could listen to the guys in the electronics store, but word has it they know little more than you do. They want to sell what they have in stock, not what best fits your needs. You face decisions you never had to make with the old, bulky picture-tube televisions. Screen resolution means the number of horizontal scan lines the screen can show. This resolution is often 1080p, or full HD, or 768p. The trouble is that if you have a smaller screen, 32 inches or 37 inches diagonal, you won’t be able to tell the difference with the naked eye. The 1080p televisions cost more, though, so those are what the salespeople want you to buy. They get bigger commissions. The other important decision you face as you walk around the sales floor is whether to get a plasma screen or an LCD screen. Now here the salespeople may finally give you decent info. Plasma flat-panel television screens can be much larger in diameter than their LCD rivals. Plasma screens show truer blacks and can be viewed at a wider angle than current LCD screens. But be careful and tell the salesperson you have budget constraints. Large flat-panel plasma screens are much more expensive than flat-screen LCD models. Don’t let someone make you by more television than you need!

Answer the following two questions about Mariah’s paragraph:


Please share with a classmate and compare your answers.

When you reread your writing to find revisions to make, look for each type of problem in a separate sweep. Read it straight through once to locate any problems with unity. Read it straight through a second time to find problems with coherence. You may follow this same practice during many stages of the writing process.

Writing at Work

Many companies hire copyeditors and proofreaders to help them produce the cleanest possible final drafts of large writing projects. Copyeditors are responsible for suggesting revisions and style changes; proofreaders check documents for any errors in capitalization, spelling, and punctuation that have crept in. Many times, these tasks are done on a freelance basis, with one freelancer working for a variety of clients.

Creating Coherence

Careful writers use transitions to clarify how the ideas in their sentences and paragraphs are related. These words and phrases help the writing flow smoothly. Adding transitions is not the only way to improve coherence, but they are often useful and give a mature feel to your essays. Table 8.3 “Common Transitional Words and Phrases” groups many common transitions according to their purpose.

Table 8.3 Common Transitional Words and Phrases

After Maria revised for unity, she next examined her paragraph about televisions to check for coherence. She looked for places where she needed to add a transition or perhaps reword the text to make the flow of ideas clear. In the version that follows, she has already deleted the sentences that were off topic.

Many writers make their revisions on a printed copy and then transfer them to the version on-screen. They conventionally use a small arrow called a caret (^) to show where to insert an addition or correction.

A marked up essay

1. Answer the following questions about Mariah’s revised paragraph.

2. Now return to the first draft of the essay you wrote in Section 8 “Writing Your Own First Draft” and revise it for coherence. Add transition words and phrases where they are needed, and make any other changes that are needed to improve the flow and connection between ideas.

Being Clear and Concise

Some writers are very methodical and painstaking when they write a first draft. Other writers unleash a lot of words in order to get out all that they feel they need to say. Do either of these composing styles match your style? Or is your composing style somewhere in between? No matter which description best fits you, the first draft of almost every piece of writing, no matter its author, can be made clearer and more concise.

If you have a tendency to write too much, you will need to look for unnecessary words. If you have a tendency to be vague or imprecise in your wording, you will need to find specific words to replace any overly general language.

Identifying Wordiness

Sometimes writers use too many words when fewer words will appeal more to their audience and better fit their purpose. Here are some common examples of wordiness to look for in your draft. Eliminating wordiness helps all readers, because it makes your ideas clear, direct, and straightforward.

Sentences that begin with There is or There are .

Wordy: There are two major experiments that the Biology Department sponsors.

Revised: The Biology Department sponsors two major experiments.

Sentences with unnecessary modifiers.

Wordy: Two extremely famous and well-known consumer advocates spoke eloquently in favor of the proposed important legislation.

Revised: Two well-known consumer advocates spoke in favor of the proposed legislation.

Sentences with deadwood phrases that add little to the meaning. Be judicious when you use phrases such as in terms of , with a mind to , on the subject of , as to whether or not , more or less , as far as…is concerned , and similar expressions. You can usually find a more straightforward way to state your point.

Wordy: As a world leader in the field of green technology, the company plans to focus its efforts in the area of geothermal energy.

A report as to whether or not to use geysers as an energy source is in the process of preparation.

Revised: As a world leader in green technology, the company plans to focus on geothermal energy.

A report about using geysers as an energy source is in preparation.

Sentences in the passive voice or with forms of the verb to be . Sentences with passive-voice verbs often create confusion, because the subject of the sentence does not perform an action. Sentences are clearer when the subject of the sentence performs the action and is followed by a strong verb. Use strong active-voice verbs in place of forms of to be , which can lead to wordiness. Avoid passive voice when you can.

Wordy: It might perhaps be said that using a GPS device is something that is a benefit to drivers who have a poor sense of direction.

Revised: Using a GPS device benefits drivers who have a poor sense of direction.

Sentences with constructions that can be shortened.

Wordy: The e-book reader, which is a recent invention, may become as commonplace as the cell phone.

My over-sixty uncle bought an e-book reader, and his wife bought an e-book reader, too.

Revised: The e-book reader, a recent invention, may become as commonplace as the cell phone.

My over-sixty uncle and his wife both bought e-book readers.

Now return once more to the first draft of the essay you have been revising. Check it for unnecessary words. Try making your sentences as concise as they can be.

Choosing Specific, Appropriate Words

Most college essays should be written in formal English suitable for an academic situation. Follow these principles to be sure that your word choice is appropriate. For more information about word choice, see Chapter 4 “Working with Words: Which Word Is Right?” .

Now read the revisions Mariah made to make her third paragraph clearer and more concise. She has already incorporated the changes she made to improve unity and coherence.

A marked up essay with revisions

1. Answer the following questions about Mariah’s revised paragraph:

2. Now return once more to your essay in progress. Read carefully for problems with word choice. Be sure that your draft is written in formal language and that your word choice is specific and appropriate.

Completing a Peer Review

After working so closely with a piece of writing, writers often need to step back and ask for a more objective reader. What writers most need is feedback from readers who can respond only to the words on the page. When they are ready, writers show their drafts to someone they respect and who can give an honest response about its strengths and weaknesses.

You, too, can ask a peer to read your draft when it is ready. After evaluating the feedback and assessing what is most helpful, the reader’s feedback will help you when you revise your draft. This process is called peer review .

You can work with a partner in your class and identify specific ways to strengthen each other’s essays. Although you may be uncomfortable sharing your writing at first, remember that each writer is working toward the same goal: a final draft that fits the audience and the purpose. Maintaining a positive attitude when providing feedback will put you and your partner at ease. The box that follows provides a useful framework for the peer review session.

Questions for Peer Review

Title of essay: ____________________________________________

Date: ____________________________________________

Writer’s name: ____________________________________________

Peer reviewer’s name: _________________________________________

These three points struck me as your strongest:

These places in your essay are not clear to me:

a. Where: ____________________________________________

Needs improvement because__________________________________________

b. Where: ____________________________________________

Needs improvement because ____________________________________________

c. Where: ____________________________________________

The one additional change you could make that would improve this essay significantly is ____________________________________________.

One of the reasons why word-processing programs build in a reviewing feature is that workgroups have become a common feature in many businesses. Writing is often collaborative, and the members of a workgroup and their supervisors often critique group members’ work and offer feedback that will lead to a better final product.

Exchange essays with a classmate and complete a peer review of each other’s draft in progress. Remember to give positive feedback and to be courteous and polite in your responses. Focus on providing one positive comment and one question for more information to the author.

Using Feedback Objectively

The purpose of peer feedback is to receive constructive criticism of your essay. Your peer reviewer is your first real audience, and you have the opportunity to learn what confuses and delights a reader so that you can improve your work before sharing the final draft with a wider audience (or your intended audience).

It may not be necessary to incorporate every recommendation your peer reviewer makes. However, if you start to observe a pattern in the responses you receive from peer reviewers, you might want to take that feedback into consideration in future assignments. For example, if you read consistent comments about a need for more research, then you may want to consider including more research in future assignments.

Using Feedback from Multiple Sources

You might get feedback from more than one reader as you share different stages of your revised draft. In this situation, you may receive feedback from readers who do not understand the assignment or who lack your involvement with and enthusiasm for it.

You need to evaluate the responses you receive according to two important criteria:

Then, using these standards, accept or reject revision feedback.

Work with two partners. Go back to Note 8.81 “Exercise 4” in this lesson and compare your responses to Activity A, about Mariah’s paragraph, with your partners’. Recall Mariah’s purpose for writing and her audience. Then, working individually, list where you agree and where you disagree about revision needs.

Editing Your Draft

If you have been incorporating each set of revisions as Mariah has, you have produced multiple drafts of your writing. So far, all your changes have been content changes. Perhaps with the help of peer feedback, you have made sure that you sufficiently supported your ideas. You have checked for problems with unity and coherence. You have examined your essay for word choice, revising to cut unnecessary words and to replace weak wording with specific and appropriate wording.

The next step after revising the content is editing. When you edit, you examine the surface features of your text. You examine your spelling, grammar, usage, and punctuation. You also make sure you use the proper format when creating your finished assignment.

Editing often takes time. Budgeting time into the writing process allows you to complete additional edits after revising. Editing and proofreading your writing helps you create a finished work that represents your best efforts. Here are a few more tips to remember about your readers:

The first section of this book offers a useful review of grammar, mechanics, and usage. Use it to help you eliminate major errors in your writing and refine your understanding of the conventions of language. Do not hesitate to ask for help, too, from peer tutors in your academic department or in the college’s writing lab. In the meantime, use the checklist to help you edit your writing.

Editing Your Writing

Sentence Structure


Mechanics and Usage

Be careful about relying too much on spelling checkers and grammar checkers. A spelling checker cannot recognize that you meant to write principle but wrote principal instead. A grammar checker often queries constructions that are perfectly correct. The program does not understand your meaning; it makes its check against a general set of formulas that might not apply in each instance. If you use a grammar checker, accept the suggestions that make sense, but consider why the suggestions came up.

Proofreading requires patience; it is very easy to read past a mistake. Set your paper aside for at least a few hours, if not a day or more, so your mind will rest. Some professional proofreaders read a text backward so they can concentrate on spelling and punctuation. Another helpful technique is to slowly read a paper aloud, paying attention to every word, letter, and punctuation mark.

If you need additional proofreading help, ask a reliable friend, a classmate, or a peer tutor to make a final pass on your paper to look for anything you missed.

Remember to use proper format when creating your finished assignment. Sometimes an instructor, a department, or a college will require students to follow specific instructions on titles, margins, page numbers, or the location of the writer’s name. These requirements may be more detailed and rigid for research projects and term papers, which often observe the American Psychological Association (APA) or Modern Language Association (MLA) style guides, especially when citations of sources are included.

To ensure the format is correct and follows any specific instructions, make a final check before you submit an assignment.

With the help of the checklist, edit and proofread your essay.

Key Takeaways

Writing for Success by University of Minnesota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

An Essay Revision Checklist

Guidelines for Revising a Composition

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Revision  means looking again at what we have written to see how we can improve it. Some of us start revising as soon as we begin a rough  draft —restructuring and rearranging sentences as we work out our ideas. Then we return to the draft, perhaps several times, to make further revisions.

Revision as Opportunity

Revising is an opportunity to reconsider our topic, our readers, even our purpose for writing . Taking the time to rethink our approach may encourage us to make major changes in the content and structure of our work.

As a general rule, the best time to revise is not right after you've completed a draft (although at times this is unavoidable). Instead, wait a few hours—even a day or two, if possible—in order to gain some distance from your work. This way you'll be less protective of your writing and better prepared to make changes. 

One last bit of advice: read your work aloud when you revise. You may hear problems in your writing that you can't see.

"Never think that what you've written can't be improved. You should always try to make the sentence that much better and make a scene that much clearer. Go over and over the words and reshape them as many times as is needed," (Tracy Chevalier, "Why I Write." The Guardian , 24 Nov. 2006).

Revision Checklist

Once you have finished revising your essay, you can turn your attention to the finer details of editing and proofreading your work.

Line Editing Checklist

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The Writing Process

Making expository writing less stressful, more efficient, and more enlightening, search form, step 4: revise.

revising an essay involves

"Rewriting is the essence of writing well: it's where the game is won or lost." —William Zinsser, On Writing Well

What does it really mean to revise, and why is a it a separate step from editing? Look at the parts of the word revise : The prefix re- means again or anew , and – vise comes from the same root as vision —i.e., to see. Thus revising is "re-seeing" your paper in a new way. That is why revising here refers to improving the global structure and content of your paper, its organization and ideas , not grammar, spelling, and punctuation. That comes last.

revising an essay involves

Logically, we also revise before we edit because revising will most certainly mean adding and deleting and rewriting sentences and often entire paragraphs . And there is no sense in editing text that you are going to cut or editing and then adding material and having to edit again.

revising an essay involves

Continue to step-by-step instructions for revising .

The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Revising Drafts

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

What this handout is about

This handout will motivate you to revise your drafts and give you strategies to revise effectively.

What does it mean to revise?

Revision literally means to “see again,” to look at something from a fresh, critical perspective. It is an ongoing process of rethinking the paper: reconsidering your arguments, reviewing your evidence, refining your purpose, reorganizing your presentation, reviving stale prose.

But I thought revision was just fixing the commas and spelling

Nope. That’s called proofreading. It’s an important step before turning your paper in, but if your ideas are predictable, your thesis is weak, and your organization is a mess, then proofreading will just be putting a band-aid on a bullet wound. When you finish revising, that’s the time to proofread. For more information on the subject, see our handout on proofreading .

How about if I just reword things: look for better words, avoid repetition, etc.? Is that revision?

Well, that’s a part of revision called editing. It’s another important final step in polishing your work. But if you haven’t thought through your ideas, then rephrasing them won’t make any difference.

Why is revision important?

Writing is a process of discovery, and you don’t always produce your best stuff when you first get started. So revision is a chance for you to look critically at what you have written to see:

The process

What steps should i use when i begin to revise.

Here are several things to do. But don’t try them all at one time. Instead, focus on two or three main areas during each revision session:

What are some other steps I should consider in later stages of the revision process?

Whoa! I thought I could just revise in a few minutes

Sorry. You may want to start working on your next paper early so that you have plenty of time for revising. That way you can give yourself some time to come back to look at what you’ve written with a fresh pair of eyes. It’s amazing how something that sounded brilliant the moment you wrote it can prove to be less-than-brilliant when you give it a chance to incubate.

But I don’t want to rewrite my whole paper!

Revision doesn’t necessarily mean rewriting the whole paper. Sometimes it means revising the thesis to match what you’ve discovered while writing. Sometimes it means coming up with stronger arguments to defend your position, or coming up with more vivid examples to illustrate your points. Sometimes it means shifting the order of your paper to help the reader follow your argument, or to change the emphasis of your points. Sometimes it means adding or deleting material for balance or emphasis. And then, sadly, sometimes revision does mean trashing your first draft and starting from scratch. Better that than having the teacher trash your final paper.

But I work so hard on what I write that I can’t afford to throw any of it away

If you want to be a polished writer, then you will eventually find out that you can’t afford NOT to throw stuff away. As writers, we often produce lots of material that needs to be tossed. The idea or metaphor or paragraph that I think is most wonderful and brilliant is often the very thing that confuses my reader or ruins the tone of my piece or interrupts the flow of my argument.Writers must be willing to sacrifice their favorite bits of writing for the good of the piece as a whole. In order to trim things down, though, you first have to have plenty of material on the page. One trick is not to hinder yourself while you are composing the first draft because the more you produce, the more you will have to work with when cutting time comes.

But sometimes I revise as I go

That’s OK. Since writing is a circular process, you don’t do everything in some specific order. Sometimes you write something and then tinker with it before moving on. But be warned: there are two potential problems with revising as you go. One is that if you revise only as you go along, you never get to think of the big picture. The key is still to give yourself enough time to look at the essay as a whole once you’ve finished. Another danger to revising as you go is that you may short-circuit your creativity. If you spend too much time tinkering with what is on the page, you may lose some of what hasn’t yet made it to the page. Here’s a tip: Don’t proofread as you go. You may waste time correcting the commas in a sentence that may end up being cut anyway.

How do I go about the process of revising? Any tips?

Whenever I revise, I just make things worse. I do my best work without revising

That’s a common misconception that sometimes arises from fear, sometimes from laziness. The truth is, though, that except for those rare moments of inspiration or genius when the perfect ideas expressed in the perfect words in the perfect order flow gracefully and effortlessly from the mind, all experienced writers revise their work. I wrote six drafts of this handout. Hemingway rewrote the last page of A Farewell to Arms thirty-nine times. If you’re still not convinced, re-read some of your old papers. How do they sound now? What would you revise if you had a chance?

What can get in the way of good revision strategies?

Don’t fall in love with what you have written. If you do, you will be hesitant to change it even if you know it’s not great. Start out with a working thesis, and don’t act like you’re married to it. Instead, act like you’re dating it, seeing if you’re compatible, finding out what it’s like from day to day. If a better thesis comes along, let go of the old one. Also, don’t think of revision as just rewording. It is a chance to look at the entire paper, not just isolated words and sentences.

What happens if I find that I no longer agree with my own point?

If you take revision seriously, sometimes the process will lead you to questions you cannot answer, objections or exceptions to your thesis, cases that don’t fit, loose ends or contradictions that just won’t go away. If this happens (and it will if you think long enough), then you have several choices. You could choose to ignore the loose ends and hope your reader doesn’t notice them, but that’s risky. You could change your thesis completely to fit your new understanding of the issue, or you could adjust your thesis slightly to accommodate the new ideas. Or you could simply acknowledge the contradictions and show why your main point still holds up in spite of them. Most readers know there are no easy answers, so they may be annoyed if you give them a thesis and try to claim that it is always true with no exceptions no matter what.

How do I get really good at revising?

The same way you get really good at golf, piano, or a video game—do it often. Take revision seriously, be disciplined, and set high standards for yourself. Here are three more tips:

How do I revise at the sentence level?

Read your paper out loud, sentence by sentence, and follow Peter Elbow’s advice: “Look for places where you stumble or get lost in the middle of a sentence. These are obvious awkwardness’s that need fixing. Look for places where you get distracted or even bored—where you cannot concentrate. These are places where you probably lost focus or concentration in your writing. Cut through the extra words or vagueness or digression; get back to the energy. Listen even for the tiniest jerk or stumble in your reading, the tiniest lessening of your energy or focus or concentration as you say the words . . . A sentence should be alive” (Writing with Power 135).

Practical advice for ensuring that your sentences are alive:

How can technology help?

Need some help revising? Take advantage of the revision and versioning features available in modern word processors.

Track your changes. Most word processors and writing tools include a feature that allows you to keep your changes visible until you’re ready to accept them. Using “Track Changes” mode in Word or “Suggesting” mode in Google Docs, for example, allows you to make changes without committing to them.

Compare drafts. Tools that allow you to compare multiple drafts give you the chance to visually track changes over time. Try “File History” or “Compare Documents” modes in Google Doc, Word, and Scrivener to retrieve old drafts, identify changes you’ve made over time, or help you keep a bigger picture in mind as you revise.

Works consulted

We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.

Anson, Chris M., and Robert A. Schwegler. 2010. The Longman Handbook for Writers and Readers , 6th ed. New York: Longman.

Elbow, Peter. 1998. Writing With Power: Techniques for Mastering the Writing Process . New York: Oxford University Press.

Lanham, Richard A. 2006. Revising Prose , 5th ed. New York: Pearson Longman.

Lunsford, Andrea A. 2015. The St. Martin’s Handbook , 8th ed. Boston: Bedford/St Martin’s.

Ruszkiewicz, John J., Christy Friend, Daniel Seward, and Maxine Hairston. 2010. The Scott, Foresman Handbook for Writers , 9th ed. Boston: Pearson Education.

Zinsser, William. 2001. On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction , 6th ed. New York: Quill.

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Revising & finalizing your text, the revision process.

revising an essay involves

Revising is the most important part of the writing process. Although you may feel that you’re done when you finish your draft—a well-deserved feeling of accomplishment—you still need to go back to your draft with “fresh eyes,” after you have set it aside for a short time. Revision actually means “re-seeing.” As a result of re-seeing, you may find that you need to tweak and rewrite portions of your essay draft, to make sure that what you have written is well developed, logically ordered, and clearly expressed. It’s usual to have multiple drafts of an essay, as a result of moving back and forth between writing and revising.

The act of revision asks you to go back and and analyze your draft from a reader’s instead of a writer’s perspective. Revising involves asking questions such as these: Is the thesis clearly identifiable? Does each unit of support have a topic sentence? Are the units of support logically organized, appropriate to the thesis, purpose, and audience? Are paragraphs and units of support fully developed with details, examples, and support? Is language use and sentence structure clear, varied, and correct? However, you don’t—and can’t—consider all of these questions at once. Revision is a process that’s best done in different stages, moving from “big” to “small.”

Bigger concerns tend to interrupt a reader’s understanding of the writing, and that’s why they need to be addressed first. Mid-level concerns tend to interrupt a reader’s full comprehension of ideas. Smaller concerns make the road smooth, so that your readers, like the driver, can concentrate on the content of the journey, and not the bumps in the road.

Revising Stage 1: Seeing the Big Picture

revising an essay involves

When you first begin your revision process, focus on on your essay at a global level. Analyze the overall idea structure of the essay and whether the essay’s ideas are developed enough overall to make sense to a reader. The following questions will guide you:

Another method of approach: Reverse Outline

Apply critical reading strategies to your essay draft. One really effective strategy to use is a reverse outline , in which you extract your essay’s ideas and jot them in the margins. Considering your idea structure via a reverse outline can help you see if ideas are in an appropriate order, and see if there are any idea gaps that need to be filled in.

A reverse outline can also help you evaluate your draft for content and point of view , as well as for logic , so you can identify and eliminate any inadvertent logical fallacies.

Revising Stage 2: Mid-View

revising an essay involves

The second stage of the revision process requires that you look closely at your content at the paragraph level. At this stage, you’re examining the amount and specificity of information in the paragraphs that make up each unit of support. The following questions will guide you through the mid-view revision stage:

Transitions – because they’re important and often overlooked

Transitions are linking words that show the direction of thought in writing. Transitions can show:

Consider transitions in the mid-stage of the revision process; they are the link between your essay’s big idea structure and its words, as they are bridges that bind ideas together, directional signs that help a reader follow the sequence of  ideas in your essay. Traditional places for transition words and phrases in an essay include the following:

Revising Stage 3: Editing Up Close

revising an essay involves

Once you feel confident in your idea structure and content, it’s time to focus on language, style, tone, punctuation—the smallest (but still important) items in your essay.

The following questions will guide you through your editing:

Finalizing your Text

Once you have revised your draft into more final form, finish formatting your essay. Although format is the least important aspect of revising, it’s still important that your essay be readable and use certain conventions. For essays written for college assignments:

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Writing Center

How to revise drafts, now the real work begins....

After writing the first draft of an essay, you may think much of your work is done, but actually the real work – revising – is just beginning. The good news is that by this point in the writing process you have gained some perspective and can ask yourself some questions: Did I develop my subject matter appropriately? Did my thesis change or evolve during writing? Did I communicate my ideas effectively and clearly? Would I like to revise, but feel uncertain about how to do it?

Also see the UMN Crookston Writing Center's  Revising and Editing Handout .

How to Revise

First, put your draft aside for a little while.  Time away from your essay will allow for more objective self-evaluation. When you do return to the draft, be honest with yourself; ask yourself what you really think about the paper.

Check the  focus  of the paper.  Is it appropriate to the assignment prompt? Is the topic too big or too narrow? Do you stay on track throughout the entire paper? (At this stage, you should be concerned with the large, content-related issues in the paper, not the grammar and sentence structure).

Get  feedback .  Since you already know what you’re trying to say, you aren’t always the best judge of where your draft is clear or unclear. Let another reader tell you. Then discuss aloud what you were trying to achieve. In articulating for someone else what you meant to argue, you will clarify ideas for yourself.

Think honestly about your thesis.  Do you still agree with it? Should it be modified in light of something you discovered as you wrote the paper? Does it make a sophisticated, provocative point? Or does it just say what anyone could say if given the same topic? Does your thesis generalize instead of taking a specific position? Should it be changed completely?

Examine the  balance  within your paper.  Are some parts out of proportion with others? Do you spend too much time on one trivial point and neglect a more important point? Do you give lots of details early on and then let your points get thinner by the end? Based on what you did in the previous step, restructure your argument: reorder your points and cut anything that’s irrelevant or redundant. You may want to return to your sources for additional supporting evidence.

Now that you know what you’re really arguing, work on your  introduction and conclusion . Make sure to begin your paragraphs with topic sentences, linking the idea(s) in each paragraph to those proposed in the thesis.

Proofread.  Aim for precision and economy in language. Read aloud so you can hear imperfections. (Your ear may pick up what your eye has missed). Note that this step comes LAST. There’s no point in making a sentence grammatically perfect if it’s going to be changed or deleted anyway.

As you revise your own work, keep the following in mind:

Revision means rethinking your thesis. It is unreasonable to expect to come up with the best thesis possible – one that accounts for all aspects of your topic – before beginning a draft, or even during a first draft. The best theses evolve; they are actually produced during the writing process. Successful revision involves bringing your thesis into focus—or changing it altogether.

Revision means making structural changes. Drafting is usually a process of discovering an idea or argument. Your argument will not become clearer if you only tinker with individual sentences. Successful revision involves bringing the strongest ideas to the front of the essay, reordering the main points, and cutting irrelevant sections. It also involves making the argument’s structure visible by strengthening topic sentences and transitions.

Revision takes time. Avoid shortcuts: the reward for sustained effort is an essay that is clearer, more persuasive, and more sophisticated.

Think about your purpose in writing: Does your introduction clearly state what you intend to do? Will your aims be clear to your readers?

Check the organization. Does your paper follow a pattern that makes sense? Doe the transitions move your readers smoothly from one point to the next? Do the topic sentences of each paragraph appropriately introduce what that paragraph is about? Would your paper be work better if you moved some things around?

Check your information. Are all your facts accurate? Are any of our statements misleading? Have you provided enough detail to satisfy readers’ curiosity? Have you cited all your information appropriately?

Revision doesn’t necessarily mean rewriting the whole paper. Sometimes it means revising the thesis to match what you’ve discovered while writing. Sometimes it means coming up with stronger arguments to defend your position, or coming up with more vivid examples to illustrate your points. Sometimes it means shifting the order of your paper to help the reader follow your argument, or to change the emphasis of your points. Sometimes it means adding or deleting material for balance or emphasis. And then, sadly, sometimes revision does mean trashing your first draft and starting from scratch. Better that than having the teacher trash your final paper.

Revising Sentences

Read your paper out loud, sentence by sentence, and look for places where you stumble or get lost in the middle of a sentence. These are obvious places that need fixing. Look for places where you get distracted or even bored – where you cannot concentrate. These are places where you probably lost focus or concentration in your writing. Cut through the extra words or vagueness or digression: get back to the energy.

Tips for writing good sentences:

Use forceful verbs – replace long verb phrases with a more specific verb. For example, replace “She argues for the importance of the idea” with ‘she defends the idea.” Also, try to stay in the active voice.

Look for places where you’ve used the same word or phrase twice or more in consecutive sentences and look for alternative ways to say the same thing OR for ways to combine the two sentences.

Cut as many prepositional phrases as you can without losing your meaning. For instance, the sentence “There are several examples of the issue of integrity in  Huck Finn ” would be much better this way: “ Huck Finn  repeated addresses the issue of integrity.”

Check your sentence variety. IF more than two sentences in a row start the same way (with a subject followed by a verb, for example), then try using a different sentence pattern. Also, try to mix simple sentences with compound and compound-complex sentences for variety.

Aim for precision in word choice. Don’t settle for the best word you can think of at the moment—use a thesaurus (along with a dictionary) to search for the word that says exactly what you want to say.

Look for sentences that start with “it is” or “there are” and see if you can revise them to be more active and engaging.

By Jocelyn Rolling, English Instructor Last edited October 2016 by Allison Haas, M.A.

The encyclopedia for writers, researchers, and knowledge workers

Revision: pic of a chrysalis transforming into a butterfly

Revision is a process of metamorphosis. Just as the butterfly transforms itself -- from egg, larva, pupa, to adult -- so can the writer transform a weak first draft of a text. Photo Source: This image is adapted from Butterfly and Chrysalises by Julia Folsom. CC SA 2.9

Synonyms – Related Terms

In workplace and school settings , people use a variety of terms to describe revision or the act of revising , including

On occasion, students or inexperienced writers may conflate revision with editing and proofreading . However, subject matter experts in writing studies do not use these terms interchangeably. Rather, they distinguish these intellectual strategies by noting their different foci:

a focus on the global perspective :

a focus on the local perspective


a focus on a last chance to catch any errors , such as

Related Concepts: Academic Writing Prose Style ; Authority (in Speech and Writing) ; Critical Literacy ; Interpretation, Interpretative Frameworks ; Professional Writing Prose Style ; Rhetorical Analysis

The only kind of writing is rewriting Earnest Hemingway

What is Revision?

1. revision refers to a critical step in the writing process.

Typically, the act of writing – the act of composing – isn’t a process of translating what’s already perfectly formed in one’s mind. Instead, most people need to engage in revision to determine what they need to say and how they need to say it. In other words, unlike editing, which is focused on conforming to standard written English and other discourse conventions, revision is an act of invention and critical reasoning.

In writing studies , revision refers to one of the four most important steps in the writing process . While there are many models of composing , the writing process is often described as having four steps:

Case studies and interviews of writers @ work offer overwhelming evidence that revision is a major preoccupation of writers during composing . When revising , writers pause to reread what they’ve written and they engage in critique of their own work. Meaning finds form in language when writers engage in critical dialogue with their texts .

Research has found that experienced writers tend to revise their work more frequently and extensively than inexperienced student writers (Beason, 1993; Graham & Perin, 2007; Hayes et al., 1987; Patchan et al., 2011; Strobl, 2019). For example, James Hall, an experienced poet, reported revising his poems over two hundred times, whereas James Michener, an accomplished novelist, rewrote his work six or seven times (Beason, 1993).

2. Revision refers to an act of metamorphosis

Just as a caterpillar undergoes metamorphosis to become a butterfly, revision allows a written work to evolve and reach its full potential. For writers , revision is an act of discovery. It’s a recursive process that empowers writers to discover what they want to say:

From an empirical perspective , this idea that revision is a metamorphic process can be traced back to Nancy Sommers’ (1980) research on the revision strategies of twenty student writers enrolled at Boston University or the University of Oklahoma and twenty professional writers. Using case study and textual research methods , Sommers found that students tended to view revision to be an act of rewording for brevity as opposed to making semantic changes:

“The aim of revision according to the students’ own description is therefore to clean up speech; the redundancy of speech is unnecessary in writing, their logic suggests, because writing, unlike speech, can be reread. Thus one student said, “Redoing means cleaning up the paper and crossing out…When revising, they primarily ask themselves: can I find a better word or phrase? A more impressive, not so cliched, or less hum-drum word? Am I repeating the same word or phrase too often? They approach the revision process with what could be labeled as a “thesaurus philosophy of writing” (p. 382)

In contrast, Sommers found that experienced writers perceive the revision process to be an act of discovery, “…a repeated process of beginning over again, starting out new-that the students failed to have” (p. 387). Rather than being focused on diction or word-level errors, they question the unity and rhetoricity (particular audience awareness) of their texts.

By comparing the writing processes of students and experienced writers, Sommers change the conversation in writing studies regarding what revision is and how it should be taught. Since then, numerous other studies have supported her contention that that revision should be viewed as a recursive and evolving process rather than a linear sequence of corrections. For example, more recently, Smith and Brown (2020) conducted a study on the metamorphic nature of revision by examining its transformative effects on the quality of written work. They posited that viewing revision as an act of metamorphosis allows writers to experience a sense of renewal, thus leading to improved writing. Their findings revealed that participants who embraced the metamorphic perspective produced texts with greater clarity , coherence , unity , and depth compared to those who approached revision as mere editing .

In a related study, Johnson et al. (2021) explored the psychological aspects of viewing revision as metamorphosis. They observed that participants who considered revision as a process of transformation exhibited enhanced motivation, creativity, and willingness to experiment with new ideas. This research underscores the importance of mindset in shaping the revision process and suggests that embracing a metamorphic perspective may foster positive attitudes toward revision.

To become a butterfly, a caterpillar has to pupa has to melt its body to soup, becoming something entirely different. Similarly, revision is much more than editing a text so that it meets the conventions of standard written English . Instead, revision is a metamorphosis –it’s a transformative process.

3. Revision refers to an intuitive, creative, and nonlinguistic practices

Traditionally, revision has been viewed as a primarily linguistic endeavor, focused on the correction of grammar , syntax , and style . However, recent scholarship has shed light on the importance of considering revision as an intuitive, creative, and nonlinguistic practice.

Interviews and case studies of writers @ work repeatedly illustrate that writers perceive revision to be an artistic, creative process that is deeply shaped by inchoate, preverbal feelings and intuition. In “Understanding Composing,” Sondra Sondra Perl , a professor of English and subject matter expert in  Writing Studies , theorizes that  writers, speakers, and knowledge workers begin writing only after they have  a felt sense  of what they want to say:

“When writers are given a topic , the topic itself evokes a felt sense in them. This topic calls forth images, words, ideas, and vague fuzzy feelings that are anchored in the writer’s body. What is elicited, then, is not solely the product of a mind but of a mind alive in a living, sensing body” (p. 365).

Felt sense refers to a preverbal, holistic understanding of a subject or issue that emerges from an individual’s bodily sensations and experiences. Perl argues that tapping into this felt sense can guide writers through the revision process, leading to deeper insights and more authentic expression. By attending to their felt sense , writers can access a rich source of information that might otherwise remain unexplored, resulting in more engaging and meaningful writing.

More specifically, Perl observed that when writers reread little bits of discourse they often return to “some key word or item called up by the topic” (365) and that they return “to feelings or nonverbalized perceptions that surround the words, or to what the words already present evoke in the writer” (365). While comparing this activity, which she labels “felt sense” to Vygotsky’s conception of “inner speech” or the feeling of “inspiration.” Perl suggests that writers listen “to one’s inner reflections . . . and bodily sensations . . . . There is less a ‘figuring out’ an answer and more ‘waiting’ to see what forms . . . Once a felt sense forms, we match words to it” (366-67)

revising an essay involves

Strategies for Incorporating Intuitive, Creative, Nonlinguistic Practices in Revision

4. Revision refers to the process of engaging in critical thinking and reasoning to review, rethink and revise a written work.

When engaging in the process of revision , writers employ critical thinking and reasoning skills to analyze their work and to make necessary changes to improve its clarity and overall quality. Writers engage in rhetorical reasoning , which involves analyzing their work from an audience perspective . This process enables them to evaluate the appropriateness of their tone ,  voice  and  persona . They also engage in rhetorical reasoning to assess whether they have accounted for their audience’s expectations regarding the preferred writing style:

Writers also use logic to evaluate the coherence and flow of their arguments , ensuring that their ideas are well developed and presented in a clear and organized manner .

Why Does Revision Matter?

Rewriting is the essence of writing well: it’s where the game is won or lost William Zinsser (2006)
1. Revision is an extremely important part of the writing process

Revision is an essential step in the writing process . Revision is so important to achieving brevity , clarity , flow , inclusivity , simplicity , and unity that writers often spend a huge amount of time revising. This is why Donald Murray once quipped that “writing is revising”:

“Writing is revising, and the writer’s craft is largely a matter of knowing how to discover what you have to say, develop, and clarify it, each requiring the craft of revision” (Murray 2003, p. 24).

Writers in both workplace and school contexts may revise a document twenty, thirty, even fifty times before submitting it for publication.

2. Revision improves the quality of writing

Revision empowers writers to improve the clarity of their communications . Research by Flower, L., & Hayes, J. R. (1981), Sommers (1980) and Faigley and Witte (1981) highlights how revision allows writers to rethink and refine their style , leading to clearer , more concise , engaging writing.

3. Revision encourages critical thinking

Revising a piece of writing requires the writer to evaluate their own work and make decisions about its rhetoricity (especially audience awareness ), content , and style . Revision involves engaging in critical analysis — what experts in writing studies call rhetorical analysis — This process encourages critical thinking, as it pushes writers to assess the effectiveness of their arguments, consider counterarguments , and adapt their work to better meet the needs of their audience. Engaging in this level of critical analysis will help you become a more thoughtful and persuasive writer.

4. Revision helps writers establish a consistent and appropriate voice, tone, persona, and style

Writers engage in revision to establish a consistent and appropriate voice , tone , and persona . Through multiple revisions, writers can experiment with different personas , voices and tones to create a more engaging and coherent piece (Elbow, 1999). More recently, Fitzgerald and Ianetta (2016) explored the connection between revision and the development of an authentic writer’s persona. Their research suggested that engaging in revision encourages writers to reflect on their own voice and perspective , leading to the creation of a more genuine and relatable persona . This process helps writers maintain a consistent tone and style throughout their work, ultimately improving the overall quality of their text .

Review of Helpful Guides to Revision @ Writing Commons

As discussed above, revision is an act of both reasoning and intuition. Thus, there’s no single recipe for engaging in revision processes. Different rhetorical situations will call for different composing strategies . Even so, there are consistent, major intellectual processes that professional writers use to bring their rough drafts to fruition.

Revision Strategies – How to Revise

Written by Joseph M. Moxley , this guide to revision is based on research and scholarship in writing studies , especially qualitative interviews and case studies of writers @ work .This essay outlines a five-step approach to revising a document:

Working Through Revision: Rethink, Revise, Reflect

Written by Megan McIntyre , the Director of Rhetoric at the University of Arkansas, this articple provides a 5-step approach to developing a revision plan and working with a teacher to improve a draft:

FAQs on Revision

Revision refers to the process of critically evaluating and refining a written text by making changes to its content , organization , style , and clarity to improve its overall quality and effectiveness. A step in the writing process , revision refers to writers’ use of creative, intuitive processes and critical, cognitive processes to refine their understanding of what they want to say and how they want to say it .

Why is Revision Important?

Revision is important because it allows writers to enhance the clarity and coherence of their work, refine their ideas, and improve overall text quality, leading to more effective communication and better reader engagement (Hayes & Flower, 1980; Sommers, 1980).

When Do Writers Revise?

When facing an exigency, a call to write , most people need to revise a message multiple times before it says what they want it to say and says it in a way that they feel is most appropriate given the rhetorical situation , especially the target audience .

What determines how many times a writer needs to revise a text?

There are many factors that effect how many revisions you may need to give to a document, such as

Should R evision, Editing, and Proofreading be Separate Processes that Are Completed Sequentially?

Writers may engage in revising , editing , and proofreading processes all at the same time, especially when under deadline. However, in general practice writers first revise , then edit , and finally proofread . The problem with mixing editing or proofreading into revision processes is that you may end up editing a paragraph for brevity , simplicity , clarity , and unity and then later decide the whole thing needs to be scratched because the audience already knows about that information .

What Does a Teacher Mean by Revision?

When teachers ask you to revise a text, that means they want a major revision. They want you to do much more than change a few words around or fix the edits they’ve marked. A major revision goes beyond editing : When writers are engaged in a substantive revision, that means everything is possible–even the idea of trashing the entire document and starting all over again.

Works Cited

Berthoff, A. E. (1981). The making of meaning: Metaphors, models, and maxims for writing teachers. Boynton/Cook Publishers.

Elbow, P. (1999). Everyone Can Write: Essays Toward a Hopeful Theory of Writing and Teaching Writing. Oxford University Press.

Faigley, L., & Witte, S. (1981). Analyzing Revision. College Composition and Communication, 32(4), 400-414.

Fitzgerald, J., & Ianetta, M. (2016). The Oxford guide for writing tutors: Practice and research. Oxford University Press.

Flower, L., & Hayes, J. R. (1981). A Cognitive Process Theory of Writing. College Composition and Communication, 32(4), 365-387.

Graham, S., & Perin, D. (2007). Writing next: Effective strategies to improve writing of adolescents in middle and high schools. Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Johnson, T., Parker, S., & Yang, X. (2021). The psychological impact of viewing revision as metamorphosis: A study on motivation and creativity in writing. Journal of Educational Psychology, 112(4), 875-894.

Hayes, J. R., & Flower, L. S. (1980). Identifying the organization of writing processes. In L. W. Gregg & E. R. Steinberg (Eds.), Cognitive processes in writing (pp. 3-30). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Hemingway, E. (2000). A moveable feast. Vintage Classics.

Murray, D. (2003). The craft of revision (5th ed.). Wadsworth.

Patchan, M. M., Schunn, C. D., & Clark, R. J. (2011). Writing in natural sciences: Understanding the effects of different types of reviewers on the writing quality of preservice teachers. Journal of Writing Research, 3(2), 141-166.

Smith, J., & Brown, L. (2020). Revision as metamorphosis: A new perspective on the transformative potential of re-examining written work. Composition Studies, 48(2), 45-62.

Sommers, N. (1980). Revision Strategies of Student Writers and Experienced Adult Writers. College Composition and Communication, 31(4), 378-388.

Strobl, C. (2019). Effects of process-oriented writing instruction on the quality of EFL learners’ argumentative essays. Journal of Second Language Writing, 44, 1-1

Zinsser, W. (2006). On writing well (30th ed.). HarperCollins.

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How Is Proofreading Different From Revising?

How Is Proofreading Different From Revising?

3-minute read

You might think proofreading and revising an essay or any other document are the same thing, but they aren’t! Read on to learn their key differences.

What Is the Revision Process?

After you complete a first draft of a document, it’s time to start the revision process. This involves polishing your work until it’s ready for submission. You are focusing on the overall content and big picture of the work and making sure that what you’ve written aligns with your key purpose and meaning. Revision involves:

●  Modifying and/or refining your arguments and ideas.

●  Adding more information to sections that need further support (e.g. examples, data, and subpoints).

●  Cutting unnecessary or irrelevant sections of text (e.g. anything that could distract from your main points or sounds repetitive).

●  Moving paragraphs and sections around for better flow and structure.

●  Analyzing your arguments and supporting information to make sure they align with each other and make sense.

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Depending on how rough your first draft is, revision can sometimes take just as long or longer than the writing process. It might involve several passes through the document. Once you’re satisfied with the content and structure, then you can start proofreading.

What Is Proofreading?

Proofreading involves making surface-level changes , sentence by sentence. If you are changing the meaning or content of the writing, then you’re not proofreading – you’re still revising! It’s important to get all your revisions out of the way first so that you don’t waste time proofreading text that might not be included in the final copy.

Proofreading includes fixing spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors; rewording sentences to make them clearer and more concise; analyzing word choice; ensuring consistency with stylistic choices; sharpening the tone; and making sure all referencing is correct. This process can be slow, but overall you’ll be making less dramatic changes than during revision. Click to read more on what proofreading does .

Summary: Revising and Proofreading

When thinking about the differences between revising and proofreading, remember these key points:

If your paper or essay has been revised and you’re ready for proofreading, why not send it our way? Our expert proofreaders will polish your work until it’s shiny and ready for submission – whether you’re an academic, professional, or creative, or you fall somewhere in between. Try our service out for free !

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Four Crucial Things to Consider When Revising an Essay

The prospect of revising an essay probably doesn’t fill you with joy.

But it’s incredible how many students rely on the first draft of their essay and fail to invest time refining and perfecting it.

Here’s a fundamental truth: Absolutely nobody produces writing that is perfect the first time around.

In fact, the most established scholars will tell you that the first draft of any essay, thesis, or dissertation doesn’t matter at all; the real writing starts during the revision process.

And it is for this reason you should never submit an essay that hasn’t been through a thorough revision process.

But what exactly does that involve?

Before we delve into the specifics of what you need to take into consideration when revising an essay, it’s important you understand there is a fundamental difference between proofreading an essay and revising an essay.

Proofreading involves reviewing the text for minor grammatical, punctuation, and spelling mistakes. However, revision isn’t about identifying and correcting errors; it’s about making the essay much, much better.

The Differences Between Revising, Editing, and Proofreading an Essay

Before you submit your essay, you thoroughly revise it, then edit it, then proofread it. Here are the main issues you will be concerned with during each stage of the process:

Essay Revising

Essay revising is performed at the holistic essay level.

Your main question during the essay revision stage should be: Does the essay meet the requirements of the assignment?

Essay Editing

Essay editing is performed at the sentence and paragraph level.

Your main question during the essay revision stage should be: Do the sentences flow well and lead the reader through a structured argument that is clear and consistent?

Essay Proofreading

Essay proofreading is performed at the sentence and word level

Your main question during the proofreading stage is: Is the final draft free of punctuation, spelling, and grammatical errors?

For more comprehensive details of the essay editing process, check out our in-depth guide to editing an essay .

If you want to learn more about what proofreading involves, read our comprehensive guide to proofreading .

At Vappingo, our professional essay editors perform revision and editing at the same time. They then pass through the document a second time to proofread it for any remaining minor errors. Our process is very distinct, and is as follows:

Vappingo three-step editing and essay revision

The rest of this article will cover the aspects our editors consider during the combined editing and revising process.

Revising an Essay in Four Simple Steps

Now we’re clear on why revising an essay is important, let’s take a look at the four things you need to take into consideration when you do so.

Four Things to Consider When Revising an Essay

Essay revision: Four things to take into consideration

Structure and Organization

Your essay needs to be effectively structured, clear, and easy to understand. The flow of the argument should gradually lead the reader from the introduction to the conclusion in a logical and systematic manner. The writing process is, by its nature, chaotic. You may find that the draft version of your essay contains some sections that present a stream of conscious as opposed to a planned and structured argument. Your top priority during the revision process is to refine that draft to ensure your essay has a clear beginning, middle, and end.

Questions to Ask Yourself When Revising the Structure of Your Essay:

Language and Formatting

Far too many students completely misunderstand the importance of ensuring the formatting of the essay is meticulously revised according to academic standards such as APA. You may have written the perfect essay; however, if you do not ensure that the references and citations are formatted according to your university’s guidelines, the font and styling are appropriate, and the tables and figures are presented effectively, you will lose valuable grades. When it comes to essays, language use can have a significant impact on the final result. It’s not merely a case of putting a stream of words together to put your argument forward; it’s about ensuring you have used the right words. Using effective transitions, the correct terminology, and varied terminology can help you take your essay to the next level.

Things to look for when revising the language of an essay

As you go through the process of revising your essay, make sure it does not contain any of the following:

Questions to Ask When Revising the Language and Format of Your Essay

Coherence, content, and analysis

When an essay is coherent, the main ideas flow effortlessly, and the reader is left with no uncertainty about how the paragraphs are linked. The most effective essay writers are those who use transitions to efficiently clarify how the ideas they are presenting in the distinct sentences and paragraphs are linked. In addition to enhancing the flow of your essay, refining the transitions during the essay revision process will help to take your writing to a superior level, and you will come across more measured, sophisticated, and scholarly.

In terms of the content and analysis, you should be asking yourself if the key facts, data, and arguments you have put forward are compelling, relevant, and concise. Make sure every single claim you make is fully supported by indisputable evidence.

Useful Transitions to Add When Revising an Essay

Essay transitions cheat sheet

You can read more about essay transitions in our essay transitions cheatsheet.

Questions to ask when revising the coherence, content, and analysis of your essay:

Every essay should achieve its underlying purpose. Whether you were trying to persuade the reader to prescribe to your point of view, inform the reader about the findings of a study, explain the process of research, or present a specific analysis, while revising an essay, you should verify that you have achieved that purpose. Ask yourself whether the reader would be able to summarize your main points using just a couple of sentences. Have you responded to the question properly? Have you covered all the main points of the prompt?

Questions you should ask yourself when revising the purpose of an essay

If you cover all four aspects described above while revising your essay, you will significantly improve the final paper and, subsequently, your grade.

Here are all the main points to consider in a quick and simple essay revision checklist. Simply click on the image below to download the PDF.

Essay Revision Checklist

Essay revision checklist free

Key Takeaways:

For more help, see our free essay editing checklist .

Haven’t got the time, inclination or patience to revise your essay? Get an expert to do it for you.

Vappingo’s editing services include substantive revisions that cover all the aspects outlined above. In addition to checking and amending the structure, organization, language, formatting, coherence, and purpose of your essay, we’ll proofread it and correct any spelling, punctuation, typography, and grammatical errors. It’s quick and simple, and surprisingly affordable. Check out our editing and proofreading rates now.

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