Revising, Editing, and Proofreading

Learning Objective:

  • Revise, edit, and proofread your writing to make it more effective.

Writing is not a "one and done" activity. Instead, it is a process where you often have to repeat the same steps over and over again whether you are idea gathering, outliningA preliminary plan for a piece of a writing, often in the form of a list. It should include a topic, audience, purpose, thesis statement, and main and supporting points. , or drafting. After you've written at least one rough draftThe first version of a writing that will undergo rewriting, additions, and editing before it becomes the final draft. of your paperAn academic essay that usually includes research and citations., you are ready to reviseThe process of making changes to a work by editing and proofreading it to improve, correct, and increase clarity., editThe process of improving a writing by reviewing content and making changes that affect its overall meaning and clarity., and proofreadThe process of carefully searching a writing draft for mistakes at the sentence- and word-level in order to correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation mistakes. it. Depending on the paper, you might go through these stages many times before you have a final draftThe last version of a writing that has been revised, edited, and proofread. suitable to turn in. This lesson will introduce you to revising, editing, and proofreading.

Of the three, revising is arguably the most difficult and important step. Revising is more than making sure everything is spelled and punctuatedTo use punctuation marks in a text. correctly. It involves a total "re-visioning" of your paper. Does the paper address the assignment? Does your evidence support the points that you want to make? Is your main ideaThe most important or central thought of a reading selection. It also includes what the author wants the reader to understand about the topic he or she has chosen to write about. clear? Addressing these issues may require you to rewrite large portions of your paper. In fact, you may decide that you need to start entirely from scratch. Try to not become too attached to your writing. Many students who have spent a lot of time writing their rough drafts are unwilling to start anew and, as a result, try to unsuccessfully add sentencesA group of words, phrases, or clauses that expresses a complete thought. A complete sentence has these characteristics: a capitalized first word, a subject and a predicate, and end punctuation, such as a period (.), question mark (?), or exclamation mark (!)., quotesTo use the exact words of someone else in a writing. Quotes are indicted in a writing using quotation marks and attributive phrases., or evidenceFacts, statistics, or expert testimony that supports a claim. into their revised version. Revising requires cutting material, if necessary, for the good of the essayA short piece of writing that focuses on at least one main idea. Some essays are also focused on the author's unique point of view, making them personal or autobiographical, while others are focused on a particular literary, scientific, or political subject. .

You can edit your work a bit as you revise, but editing is really what you do once you've revised your paper. Editing is the process where you evaluate the style of your paper. Instead of issues of right and wrong, you need to consider what will make your paper good, better, and best. When you edit, you need to look at your word choice, your choice in sentence constructionThe grammatical structure of words and punctuation in a sentence. and variety, voiceThe two styles of writing—active and passive—that compare the relationship between the subject and the verb in a sentence. In the active voice, the action described by the verb is done by the subject. In the passive voice, the action described by the verb is being done to the subject. , transitionsTying two events, passages, or pieces of information together in a smooth way. In writing, transitions are sometimes called links., and any other elements.

Again, you can proofread while you write. If you see a typoA small mistake in spelling or punctuation that is usually caused by mistyping. or misspelled word as you develop your rough draft, go ahead and fix it. However, proofreading is the very last step in the writing process that even the best writers must employ before they turn their work in. Proofreading is only concerned about correctness. Fix any and all grammarA set of rules about how words are used in a particular language., punctuation, and spelling errors. Additionally, this is when you correct any typos and formatting errors, including marginsThe outer edges of a document that do not contain writing or images., fontsA set of letters, numbers, and punctuation marks that are the same style. Examples: Times New Roman and Arial are fonts., spacingThe area between words, titles, and paragraphs., citationsA reference within a text to an outside source of ideas, quotes, or information. Citations can be placed within sentences or in a separate works cited or reference section, as specified by the style guide in use., headersInformation that appears at the very top of a page and may appear on subsequent pages of a work., headingsInformation that appears at the top of a paper, before the main body of writing, that includes the title and other information about a work., works cited pagesAn alphabetized list of publication information about the sources used in an MLA-formatted essay or research paper., etc. This is a good time to read your paper aloud or have someone read it to you; this will enable you to hear the errors in your paper.

The processes of revising and editing involve reviewing content and making changes that affect the overall meaning and clarity of a piece. Proofreading, on the other hand, involves making corrections to grammar and punctuation at the sentence level. When you think of revising, think of applying changes to thoughts and ideas and how those are connected; when you think of editing, think of addressing elements that remove any awkwardness; and when you think of proofreading, think of checking that words are spelled correctly and that all the punctuation marks are in the right place.

Writers should use the following checklist of questions when revising, proofreading, and editing: