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Revising Your Essay: sub-module 3 of 3 of academic writing under types of writing hub

Revision means to ‘see again’. It is the opportunity to look critically at what you have written and make sure that you are expressing your ideas clearly. Revising your writing means looking at the structure and overall format, editing the spelling and grammar, and proofreading to catch remaining errors and polish the writing.


  • Look at your ideas critically.Ask yourself: "What could I add, delete, move, or change to make my writing most effective in communicating my ideas to my readers?"
  • Add examples and evidence.These additions can make your ideas clearer and your points stronger.
  • Delete unnecessary information.Remove information if it is irrelevant, off topic, or repetitive.
  • Move information so that it has the maximum effect.For example, you might want to put your strongest point just before your conclusion.
  • Rewrite or make changes to improve clarity.Will your ideas be clear to your reader? If not, you may want to make some changes, or rewrite portions.

Study Tools

What to Consider When Reviewing the Content of Your Writing

Higher-Order and Lower-Order Concerns

There are three stages to revising your writing: Revision, Editing, and Proofreading. Often these stages can be referred to as Higher-Order and Lower-Order concerns. The Revision stage addresses Higher-Order concerns, which should be addressed first. Lower-Order concerns are addressed in Editing and Proofreading stages.

Revision is focused on improving your ideas, not the mechanics of your paper.

Revision leads naturally to editing. Find a quiet space and remove yourself from distractions. Print off a draft of your writing since it is best to edit on paper than on the computer. Be prepared to make notes in the margins with your changes. Focus on structure and order of ideas at this stage.

Watch this video to learn about the Higher-Order and Lower-Order concerns for revising your writing. The video explains what you should be looking for as you revise, edit, and proofread what you have written.

Revision is the stage at which you look critically at what you have written and make sure that you are expressing your ideas clearly. Revising your writing means looking at the structure and overall format. Below you can discover some techniques to help you evaluate how clearly you express your ideas. There is also a revision checklist to help you cover everything. See the following information below:

Learn to Change Your Perspective from Writer to Reader

Writing an essay is hard work. It involves a lot of planning of your ideas and structure, writing in drafts and then reviewing and editing your writing once it is completed. This can involve going back and forth through your writing many times to make sure the final product is perfect.

Often times, this process of writing can cause writers to get absorbed into their own essay to the point that they lose focus of the bigger picture: Who am I writing for?

Remember, the first approach to writing anything is to answer the following questions: What is my purpose for writing? Who is my audience?

Switching From Writer to Reader Triangle

The writer can become so interested in the process of writing that they forget another important aspect of writing: The Reader. The revision stage allows for the writer to take a step back and allow for some time between writing and revising in order to analyze the writing more as a reader and less as the writer.

Take a step back from your writing. Maybe give yourself a day or two after you’ve finished writing before you take a look at it as a reader. Follow a revision checklist or try out a concept called “Reverse Outlining”. Also try reading backwards starting with the last sentence and correcting your essay one sentence at a time. You will notice a difference!

Learn How to Use Reverse Outlining

Revision Checklist

  • Are my introduction and my conclusion strong enough to attract and engage my readers, and to provide a sense of closure at the end?
  • If it’s an argumentative essay, do I have a strong, clear thesis statement?
  • Do my supporting paragraphs really support my thesis statement? If not, the essay may not withstand a critical reading.
  • Do I have enough credible supporting evidence, or do I need to add more factual evidence, examples, or discussion to convince or engage my readers?
  • Are my supporting paragraphs arranged so that they build logically to the conclusion?
  • Do I start strong and do I end strong?
  • Would the impact of my paper be stronger if I changed the order of the paragraphs? Some writers save their strongest points for the end.
  • Is there anything that I should delete from my paper because it is not relevant to the purpose of my paper or is inconsistent with the points that I make?
  • Upon reflection, am I happy with what I have to say?
  • Do I believe what I have said?
  • Can I defend my position and points of support if I am challenged to do so?

When you begin to edit, you are moving from focusing on your ideas and structure to focusing on the sentences and words in your writing. Now is the time to pay attention to sentence structure and grammar. Use the following information for help with this process:

  • Grammar and Punctuation: Review information on Sentence error correction and more.
  • Editing Checklist: Use the checklist below to make sure you cover everything in the editing stage.

Editing Checklist

  • Have I read a hard copy of my essay?
  • Have I identified my thesis statement?
  • Have I evaluated my thesis statement? (Does it have a point? Is it opinionated? Is it referred to and proven in the essay? Can you tell what the essay is about from the thesis statement?)
  • Does each main paragraph have a topic sentence?
  • Is the essay coherent?
  • Is there an introduction and a conclusion?
  • Am I within the length requirements for the essay?
  • Do I primarily use active voice?
  • Have I edited out repetition?
  • Have I answered the question that was posed in my assignment?
  • Has someone else read my essay?

The Proofreading Process

Watch this video to learn about Proofreading and what you should look for when you are giving your essay a last look. You can also use the Proofreading checklist below to make sure you don't miss anything.

During the Proofreading stage you should look for spelling errors and give your essay a check for small errors.

Proofreading Checklist

  • Have I looked for mistakes without relying on a spellchecker?
  • Have I proofread a hard copy of my essay?
  • Have I read my essay aloud?
  • Have I read every word instead of skimming?
  • Have I broken sentences down to verify things such as subject-verb agreement?
  • Have I verified that I use plural nouns if I am referring to more than one of something?
  • Have I made sure I have capitalized where it is necessary?
  • Have I read my paper backwards?
  • Do my essay and list of references fit the guidelines of the relevant style guide (MLA, APA, etc.)?
  • Has someone else read my essay?