Revising, Editing, and Proofreading
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:
Revising, editing, and proofreading are important skills both in college and your career. You could write a well-edited and error-free paper that earns a failing grade because it was totally wrong for the assignment. Many professors will refuse to read your papers if they have too many errors—these papers may earn an automatic "zero." Likewise, a study revealed that most employers who are hiring will throw away any resumeA brief written history of a person's education, work, and volunteer experience, submitted for the purpose of obtaining a job. and cover letterA letter that is sent along with a resume that provides context and more information for the reader. that has three or more errors. These could be major revision errors like applying for the incorrect position or smaller proofreading errors, like misspelling and typos.
Review the following email from a student to her teacher and consider how careful revision, editing, and proofreading would improve the email and the writer's success with the teacher.
Hey Mr. Smith -
I want to know why I got the grade I did on my paper. You said we could write over any topic we wanted and the one I chose was one I know a lot about. Can you tell me why I didn't do so good? I want to get into a good college and so I know my writing has to be better, u know? What should I do?
Let's use the checklist to edit this email:
There isn't an assignment in this case.
Hailey's purpose for writing initially seems to be to learn why she received a certain grade on her assignment. However, as you read through her email, you can see that she has another purpose—to learn how she can improve her writing for future assignments. This should be edited to make her purpose more clear.
The purpose of Hailey's email is to understand her grade and improve her writing, so only she can check for accuracy.
Hailey does not tell her teacher which paper she is referring to. If they've had multiple papers already this term, then her teacher may not be sure which one it is.
Hailey's toneThe feeling or attitude that a writer expresses toward a topic. The words the writer chooses express this tone. Examples of tones can include: objective, biased, humorous, optimistic, and cynical, among many others. is too casual or conversational at times in her email. For example, she begins with the slang "Hey Mr. Smith" and uses "u" in place of "you." This could make the email difficult to understand.
Hailey's tone is argumentative and casual, which could lead Mr. Smith to misread the purpose of the email.
Using shortened versions of words, such as "u" in place of "you," can make sentences unclear. When writing emails, it is important to spell out all words.
Hailey's audience for this email is her teacher, which means that this should be more formal than a typical email to a friend or relative. Her email should be edited to make it sound less casual and more professional.
Hailey's tone in this email is rather combative, or argumentative. You can read this in her first sentence, "I want to know why I got the grade I did on my paper." To the audience, this sounds like Hailey is demanding to know why her paper did not receive a good grade. It sounds as if she is questioning the teacher's review of her work. Hailey's teacher will probably not be encouraged to continue reading Hailey's email or be persuaded to help her when this sort of tone is used.
Put yourself in the professor's place. You already know that the email seems to question how he graded the paper, but Hailey also states that she wants help improving her writing. Is the email asking for help or is it simply asking for a better grade?
There are many run-on sentences.
Now, let's see how to address some of the issues with Hailey's email. Notice the revisions that have been marked in the revised email below:
Hey Mr. Smith, I want to know why I got the grade I did on my paper. I reviewed your comments on my summary-response paper, and I have a few questions I would like to ask you. You said we could write over any topic we wanted and the one I chose was one I know a lot about. Can you tell me why I didn’t do so good? I can see that I made mistakes, and I would like to learn how to correct them. Are you available to meet with me this week to go over it together? I want to get into a good college and so I know my writing has to be better, u know? What should I do?
This edit of Hailey's email has given it a more professional tone. Her teacher, Mr. Smith, will no longer receive a combative or angry tone, but instead, he will read this email as one coming from a student concerned about her grade and one who wants to improve. Unlike the previous email, this one should receive a more positive response from Mr. Smith.
Read the following example of a student's scholarship essay. The student is applying for a $1,000 scholarship from a local community group that recognizes volunteerism. The directions stated that students should write a brief statement (250 words maximum) about how volunteer experiences have shaped them. After you've read it, respond to the editing questions posed in the Lesson. Finally, create a sample revised version.
This scholarship will help me in many ways and that is why I should receive it. I have volunteered at different places while in high school and each place has taught me something new about myself. I know that volunteering is important to our communities because it helps others. I know for sure it has helped me.
Overall, the student did write a statement, but it doesn’t seem to answer how the volunteer experience shaped her. It is 35 words in length, so it is within the requirements; however, since 250 words is the maximum, the scholarship committee may expect a longer statement than the one that the student wrote.
Yes, the author's purpose is to explain why she should receive the scholarship; however, the author did not develop this enough so she does not achieve her purpose. The author should include a statement at the beginning telling the reader exactly what the author is writing about and why.
It is difficult to tell if the information is accurate because the writer did not support her statements with examples or facts.
Yes, the directions asked the author to write about volunteering experiences and how they have shaped her. The author did not include enough information to accomplish this.
The information is clear, but the author did not include enough detail for the reader to understand what she meant.
The reader will not misread the information because there is not enough written.
No, the sentences seem grammatically correct and clear. However, the whole piece needs to include more detail so that the author's experiences become clear.
The author uses a respectful tone in that she does not insult the readers.
The word choices are appropriate, but the author does not develop the ideas enough.
The audience will have many questions after reading this: Where has the author volunteered? What did the author do at these places? How long has she been volunteering? What specifically did she learn? How did these experiences shape her?
There is a run-on sentence.
Based on my experiences as a volunteer in my hometown, I believe that I have met the qualifications for this scholarship. For the past four years while I've been in high school, I have volunteered at several places, and each one has shaped who I am today. For example, in ninth grade, I volunteered at our local hospital. My job was to read newspapers to the patients who could not do so themselves. This experience taught me that giving freely of my time could brighten up a day for someone else. Another volunteer experience I had was during eleventh grade. I volunteered at an elementary school where I helped third graders with their math skills. This taught me patience and the value of spending time with young people one-on-one. With both of these experiences, I learned the importance of spending time with others. I also learned that it is not about what you do, but instead, it is about how you do it. Giving of ourselves shows others that we care, and I believe that caring is contagious. When we do good for one person, then that person may do good for others.
Do you typically revise, edit, or proofread your writing before sending it off or turning it in? Why or why not?
I usually try to at least proofread my papers before turning them in, but I rarely proofread or edit text messages and emails. I proofread papers for school so that I can get a better grade, but I should probably proofread my emails, too, so that I sound more professional.
How do you think your writing would improve if you used the editing techniques in this lesson?
I think I would sound more professional and I wouldn't have to explain my emails and text messages to my friends as much. I might also get better grades on my papers!
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