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Revising Your Writing: sub-module 1 of 3 of revising your writing

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. You can also download the Higher-Order and Lower-Order concerns video transcript.

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?

There are three main types of grammatically correct sentences: simple sentences, compound sentences, and complex sentences. When a sentence is not constructed correctly, it can sometimes be known as a run-on sentence. Read more about each type of sentence below:

A simple sentence consists of one independent clause, which means that it normally has a single subject and a single verb (although it can have compound subjects or verbs), and expressing a complete thought.

  • E.g. Frank bought his books at the campus store.

Sentences fall into four types based on their functions or the jobs that they do.

Declarative Sentences are used to communicate information or make statements.
  • E.g. Going to college just might be the wisest decision you’ve made.
Interrogative Sentences are used to ask questions.
  • E.g. Did you finish your lab report?
Imperative Sentences are used to give orders or directives.
  • E.g. This examination is now over. Complete your sentence and stop writing.
Exclamatory Sentences take declarative sentences one step further: They make statements which are charged with emotion. The signal that the sentence is exclamatory is the exclamation point at the end!
  • E.g. I can’t believe that I got an A!

You can combine simple sentences to create compound sentences.

A compound sentence consists of two simple sentences (independent clauses) that are joined by a comma followed by a coordinating conjunction (FANBOYS= for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so).


  • Frank bought his books at the campus bookstore, but Jenny bought hers at Octopus Books.[The conjunction but signals a contrast]
  • She is a good researcher and he is a strong writer, so it makes sense for them to collaborate.[This sentence illustrates addition and consequence.]

Complex sentences consist of at least one independent clause and one dependent clause. A dependent clause contains a subject and a verb, but does not express a complete thought.

If the dependent clause appears first, it is followed by a comma. There is no comma when the independent clause is followed by a dependent clause.


  • When his class ended, Pierre bought his books at the campus bookstore.
  • Pierre bought his books at the campus bookstore when his class ended.

Complex sentences show relationships between the independent clause and the dependent clause, such as time or cause and effect.


  • Cause and effect: Because she actually studied for the midterm exam, she did better than she had on the in-class quizzes.
  • Time: When his class ended, Pierre bought his books at the campus bookstore.

A run-on sentence is a sentence in which two or more independent clauses are joined without either a semi-colon or a comma with a coordinating conjunction (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so). There are two types of run-on sentences fused sentences and comma splices.

A fused sentence happens when independent clauses are merged without any punctuation or coordinating conjunctions.

  • E.g. The boy is sad he is crying.

A comma splice occurs when two or more independent clauses are joined only by a comma.

  • E.g. The boy is sad, he is crying.

There are several ways to correct a run-on sentence:

  • Break the run-on sentence into two separate sentences. E.g. The boy is sad. He is crying.
  • Join the two clauses with a comma and a coordinating conjunction (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so). E.g. The boy is sad, so he is crying.
  • Join the two clauses with a semi-colon. E.g. The boy is sad; he is crying.
  • Join the two clauses with a semi-colon and a conjunctive adverb. E.g. The boy is sad; therefore, he is crying.
  • Change one of the two independent clauses into a dependent clause. E.g. The boy is crying because he is sad.

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