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:

  • if it’s really worth saying,
  • if it says what you wanted to say, and
  • if a reader will understand what you’re saying.

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:

  • Wait awhile after you’ve finished a draft before looking at it again. The Roman poet Horace thought one should wait nine years, but that’s a bit much. A day—a few hours even—will work. When you do return to the draft, be honest with yourself, and don’t be lazy. Ask yourself what you really think about the paper.
  • As The Scott, Foresman Handbook for Writers puts it, “THINK BIG, don’t tinker” (61). At this stage, you should be concerned with the large issues in the paper, not the commas.
  • Check the focus of the paper: Is it appropriate to the assignment? Is the topic too big or too narrow? Do you stay on track through the entire paper?
  • 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 altogether? For more information visit our handout on thesis statements .
  • Think about your purpose in writing: Does your introduction state clearly what you intend to do? Will your aims be clear to your readers?

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

  • 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 detail early on and then let your points get thinner by the end?
  • Check that you have kept your promises to your readers: Does your paper follow through on what the thesis promises? Do you support all the claims in your thesis? Are the tone and formality of the language appropriate for your audience?
  • Check the organization: Does your paper follow a pattern that makes sense? Do 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 work better if you moved some things around? For more information visit our handout on reorganizing drafts.
  • Check your information: Are all your facts accurate? Are any of your statements misleading? Have you provided enough detail to satisfy readers’ curiosity? Have you cited all your information appropriately?
  • Check your conclusion: Does the last paragraph tie the paper together smoothly and end on a stimulating note, or does the paper just die a slow, redundant, lame, or abrupt death?

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?

  • Work from a printed copy; it’s easier on the eyes. Also, problems that seem invisible on the screen somehow tend to show up better on paper.
  • Another tip is to read the paper out loud. That’s one way to see how well things flow.
  • Remember all those questions listed above? Don’t try to tackle all of them in one draft. Pick a few “agendas” for each draft so that you won’t go mad trying to see, all at once, if you’ve done everything.
  • Ask lots of questions and don’t flinch from answering them truthfully. For example, ask if there are opposing viewpoints that you haven’t considered yet.

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:

  • The more you produce, the more you can cut.
  • The more you can imagine yourself as a reader looking at this for the first time, the easier it will be to spot potential problems.
  • The more you demand of yourself in terms of clarity and elegance, the more clear and elegant your writing will be.

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:

  • 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.”
  • 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 following sentence, “There are several examples of the issue of integrity in Huck Finn,” would be much better this way, “Huck Finn repeatedly 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.
  • 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.
  • For more information, please visit our handouts on word choice and style .

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.

You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute the source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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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?

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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.

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8.4 Revising and Editing

Learning objectives.

  • Identify major areas of concern in the draft essay during revising and editing.
  • Use peer reviews and editing checklists to assist revising and editing.
  • Revise and edit the first draft of your essay and produce a final draft.

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.

  • When you revise , you take a second look at your ideas. You might add, cut, move, or change information in order to make your ideas clearer, more accurate, more interesting, or more convincing.
  • When you edit , you take a second look at how you expressed your ideas. You add or change words. You fix any problems in grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure. You improve your writing style. You make your essay into a polished, mature piece of writing, the end product of your best efforts.

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.

  • Take a break. You are proud of what you wrote, but you might be too close to it to make changes. Set aside your writing for a few hours or even a day until you can look at it objectively.
  • Ask someone you trust for feedback and constructive criticism.
  • Pretend you are one of your readers. Are you satisfied or dissatisfied? Why?
  • Use the resources that your college provides. Find out where your school’s writing lab is located and ask about the assistance they provide online and in person.

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.

  • Now start to revise the first draft of the essay you wrote in Section 8 “Writing Your Own First Draft” . Reread it to find any statements that affect the unity of your writing. Decide how best to revise.

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?” .

  • Avoid slang. Find alternatives to bummer , kewl , and rad .
  • Avoid language that is overly casual. Write about “men and women” rather than “girls and guys” unless you are trying to create a specific effect. A formal tone calls for formal language.
  • Avoid contractions. Use do not in place of don’t , I am in place of I’m , have not in place of haven’t , and so on. Contractions are considered casual speech.
  • Avoid clichés. Overused expressions such as green with envy , face the music , better late than never , and similar expressions are empty of meaning and may not appeal to your audience.
  • Be careful when you use words that sound alike but have different meanings. Some examples are allusion/illusion , complement/compliment , council/counsel , concurrent/consecutive , founder/flounder , and historic/historical . When in doubt, check a dictionary.
  • Choose words with the connotations you want. Choosing a word for its connotations is as important in formal essay writing as it is in all kinds of writing. Compare the positive connotations of the word proud and the negative connotations of arrogant and conceited .
  • Use specific words rather than overly general words. Find synonyms for thing , people , nice , good , bad , interesting , and other vague words. Or use specific details to make your exact meaning clear.

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: _________________________________________

  • This essay is about____________________________________________.
  • Your main points in this essay are____________________________________________.
  • What I most liked about this essay is____________________________________________.

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:

  • Determine if the feedback supports the purpose of the assignment.
  • Determine if the suggested revisions are appropriate to the audience.

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:

  • Readers do not notice correct spelling, but they do notice misspellings.
  • Readers look past your sentences to get to your ideas—unless the sentences are awkward, poorly constructed, and frustrating to read.
  • Readers notice when every sentence has the same rhythm as every other sentence, with no variety.
  • Readers do not cheer when you use there , their , and they’re correctly, but they notice when you do not.
  • Readers will notice the care with which you handled your assignment and your attention to detail in the delivery of an error-free document..

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

  • Are some sentences actually sentence fragments?
  • Are some sentences run-on sentences? How can I correct them?
  • Do some sentences need conjunctions between independent clauses?
  • Does every verb agree with its subject?
  • Is every verb in the correct tense?
  • Are tense forms, especially for irregular verbs, written correctly?
  • Have I used subject, object, and possessive personal pronouns correctly?
  • Have I used who and whom correctly?
  • Is the antecedent of every pronoun clear?
  • Do all personal pronouns agree with their antecedents?
  • Have I used the correct comparative and superlative forms of adjectives and adverbs?
  • Is it clear which word a participial phrase modifies, or is it a dangling modifier?

Sentence Structure

  • Are all my sentences simple sentences, or do I vary my sentence structure?
  • Have I chosen the best coordinating or subordinating conjunctions to join clauses?
  • Have I created long, overpacked sentences that should be shortened for clarity?
  • Do I see any mistakes in parallel structure?


  • Does every sentence end with the correct end punctuation?
  • Can I justify the use of every exclamation point?
  • Have I used apostrophes correctly to write all singular and plural possessive forms?
  • Have I used quotation marks correctly?

Mechanics and Usage

  • Can I find any spelling errors? How can I correct them?
  • Have I used capital letters where they are needed?
  • Have I written abbreviations, where allowed, correctly?
  • Can I find any errors in the use of commonly confused words, such as to / too / two ?

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

  • Revising and editing are the stages of the writing process in which you improve your work before producing a final draft.
  • During revising, you add, cut, move, or change information in order to improve content.
  • During editing, you take a second look at the words and sentences you used to express your ideas and fix any problems in grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure.
  • Unity in writing means that all the ideas in each paragraph and in the entire essay clearly belong together and are arranged in an order that makes logical sense.
  • Coherence in writing means that the writer’s wording clearly indicates how one idea leads to another within a paragraph and between paragraphs.
  • Transitional words and phrases effectively make writing more coherent.
  • Writing should be clear and concise, with no unnecessary words.
  • Effective formal writing uses specific, appropriate words and avoids slang, contractions, clichés, and overly general words.
  • Peer reviews, done properly, can give writers objective feedback about their writing. It is the writer’s responsibility to evaluate the results of peer reviews and incorporate only useful feedback.
  • Remember to budget time for careful editing and proofreading. Use all available resources, including editing checklists, peer editing, and your institution’s writing lab, to improve your editing skills.

Writing for Success Copyright © 2015 by University of Minnesota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

Academic Writing Success

Academic Revising 101: The Essential Essay Revision Checklist

by Suzanne Davis | Feb 8, 2018 | Academic Writing Skills , Writing Essays and Papers

What do you do after you write the first draft of your essay?

You should feel proud because you just finished the hard work of taking ideas and information and writing the first draft.  It’s the hardest obstacle to overcome. But you still need to revise and shape it into a great final essay.  I created an essay revision checklist to guide you through the entire revising process.

Revision is key the to great writing.  Author E.B. White stated, “The best writing is rewriting.”  So, get excited about revising because you’re taking your writing and making it your best writing.

The Essay Revision Process

When you finish a first draft take a break.  Wait a few hours or if possible a day.  You will come back to your writing with a fresh pair of eyes.   Then go back to your essay and launch into revising it.

In this post, I show you a three-phase revision process that has some overlap with editing.   But, I focus on revising because it includes deeper changes to ideas and information in your essay.

The essay revision checklist here has three sections:  content, organization, and clarity.  Go through each section separately.  Move on from one section to the next when you’ve completed everything in a section.

The Essay Revision Checklist

Revising the content of an essay.

Content is the substance of your essay.  It’s the topic, main ideas and supporting reasons that connect back to your thesis statement.   If you don’t have strong content your essay is a group of fluffy words.

Checklist for Good Essay Content

  • Content reveals the purpose of your essay or paper.
  • There is a complex and supportable thesis statement.
  • The main ideas support the thesis statement.
  • There are supporting details for each of the main ideas.
  • There is evidence to support the main ideas and thesis statement.

Keep revising the essay until you can check off each of these elements.

Revising the Organization of an Essay

Essays are organized into 3 basic parts: the introduction, body, and conclusion.

The introduction has a hook, overview of the topic or description of the situation, and the thesis statement. The body contains the ideas and details that support the thesis statement.  It’s the heart of your essay content.   The conclusion summarizes the thesis statement and describes the significance of it.

Checklist for Good Essay Organization

  • The introduction starts with a hook.  A hook is a sentence or a few sentences that capture your reader’s interest.  Read, “7 Sensational Types of Essays Hooks” and see different hooks you can use in your writing.
  • The introduction has an overview of the topic that leads to the thesis statement.
  • The body of the essay is organized so that the main ideas follow the sequence of things stated in your thesis .  For example, if your thesis statement lists three causes of something: Cause A, Cause B, and Cause C.  The first part of your essay examines Cause A.  The second part examines Cause B etc.
  • The conclusion reviews the thesis statement and points out something significant about it. It shows some importance to your field, to people in general, to life, history, etc. Why does your thesis matter?

Revising Your Essay for Clarity

Clarity means that your ideas, sentences, and words are easy to understand.  Clarity is the window through which the reader sees your meaning.  If your essay is unclear, the content of your essay is confusing.

When you revise your essay for clarity analyze the ideas, sentences, and words in your writing.  I’ve included in this checklist the common problems I see in essays.

Checklist for Essay Clarity

  • There is subject-verb agreement throughout the essay.  A singular subject has a singular verb tense. Plural subjects have plural verb tenses.  An example of a singular subject and singular verb tense is: He drinks hot coffee .  A plural subject with a plural verb tense is: They drink ice tea.
  • There is good sentence flow . Fix any run-ons, incomplete sentences, short choppy sentences or just very long sentences. Make sure you have sentence variety in your essay.  Not all your sentences are short, and not all sentences are long.  Mix it up.
  • There are no unclear or confusing words or phrases .   Don’t overuse academic vocabulary or the thesaurus.  Use words and phrases you understand .
  • The Point of View (POV) (1 st person, 2 nd person or 3 rd person) is consistent and appropriate for the essay.   Most academic essays are written from the 3 rd person (he, she, they, it,) POV.  Usually, narrative essays and descriptive essays use the 1 st person (I, me, we, us,) POV.   Rarely is an essay written from the 2 nd person (you, your) POV.
  • The pronouns agree in number and person .   For information on pronoun agreement, see Purdue OWL, “Using Pronouns Clearly.”
  • T he punctuation is correct .

After the Revision Process

When you’re done with the checklist, get another person to read your essay.  Ask that person for suggestions.  This could be a classmate, a peer tutor, or a private tutor (in-person or online).

Your professor might offer to help you during office hours. Professors are busy, so check to see if they offer that kind of assistance.  Writing professors usually do.  Professors of other subjects will tell you to go to a tutor.

Next, edit and proofread for grammar and spelling mistakes.   Don’t just use a spell checker/ grammar checker or Grammarly.  Read your essay aloud and listen for mistakes.  When you read aloud you read slower and see more punctuation problems.  You also notice missing words.

Another great tip is to read your paper from the last sentence all the way back to the first sentence.  This way you’re not focusing on the content and how things fit together.  You see each sentence individually.  It’s easier to find grammar mistakes when you focus on one sentence at a time.

I teach students this 3-part revision process because it highlights the key elements of an academic essay.  It helps you analyze content, organize content, and make your essay clear to the reader.   This essay revision checklist will help you change your first draft into a strong piece of academic writing.

Are you revising an academic paper? Then download your free copy of The Roadmap to Revising Academic Writing and Handing in a Great Final Paper! Each section has a list of questions that will help you revise the content, organization, and clarity of an academic paper.    Sign-up at the form above and get your free guide now!

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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:

  • See whether each paragraph plays a role in supporting your thesis.
  • Look for unnecessary repetition of ideas.
  • Compare your reverse outline with your draft to see whether the sentences in each paragraph are related to the main point of that paragraph, per the reverse outline. This technique is helpful in reconsidering the organization and coherence of an essay. By figuring out what each paragraph contributes to your paper, you will be able to see where each fits best within it.

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:

  • Describe it.
  • Compare it.
  • Associate it with something else you know.
  • Analyze it (meaning break it into parts).
  • Apply it to a situation with which you are familiar.
  • Argue for or against it.

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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Table of Contents

Collaboration, information literacy, writing process, working through revision: rethink, revise, reflect.

  • CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 by Megan McIntyre - University of Arkansas

what is a revision plan for an essay

Revision is what happens after you’ve written something; this might mean you have a full draft or a paragraph or two. It’s an opportunity for you to revisit your work, rethink your approach, and make changes to your text so that your work better fits the task you were given or your goals for writing in the first place. In what follows, I lay out some definitions for revision and then offer five steps that can help you revise your work in thoughtful but manageable ways. These steps are most helpful when you have a section or the full piece drafted but can also be helpful at most any step of the writing process.

Revision is your chance to revisit your work and rethink how you’ve approached the writing situation (whether a writing assignment for a class, an article for your school’s student paper, or a brief document, like a memo, for your job or internship). Revising a draft means reviewing what you’ve already written and (often with the help of feedback from a teacher, supervisor, colleague, or peer) making changes, usually significant, to the text you’ve written. 

As Joseph M. Moxley lays out in his “ Revision: Questions to Consider ,” there are a few key areas where you might make revisions:

  • The purpose, focus, or thesis of your text
  • The evidence or support you use
  • The organization or order of information
  • The formatting, style, or layout of your text

Revision might also involve making smaller changes, though that’s often called “ editing ,” which focuses on sentence-level changes to grammar, style, word choice, and/or punctuation. Polished texts tend to undergo both revision and editing at various stages of the writing process.

Five Steps for Making Substantive but Manageable Revisions

Now that we know what revision is, let’s talk about how to do it. As an experienced writer and a long-time writing teacher, I’ve found that there are five key steps for successfully revising my work. First, I solicit feedback. In some classes, feedback may be a required part of the writing process (like when your teacher requires you to submit a draft so that they can offer you suggestions). Even if it’s not, though, you can reach out for feedback from your professors, supervisors, or peers; you might also make an appointment at your university’s writing center. Once I have feedback from trusted sources, I need to interpret that feedback (step two) and translate it into concrete plans for revision (step three). Next (step four), I need to make changes to the text itself. Below, I’ll share some strategies for doing this work, including creating a reverse outline, focusing on the thesis or main idea, reading only for evidence, examining introductions and conclusions, and reading aloud for flow, connection, and clarity of ideas. Finally (step 5), I reflect on the changes I’ve made by revisiting the feedback I received and articulating how my revisions respond to that feedback and improve my work.

Step 1: Ask for Feedback

When feedback is already part of your class , you won’t really have to ask for feedback, but it can still be useful to think about the kind of feedback that you most want: are you struggling with making sure your essay makes a specific point and that point is clear to the reader? If so, this may mean that feedback about your main idea (sometimes called a thesis ) could be helpful. Or would you like feedback about your evidence (the sources you chose, how you used quotations or paraphrased the work you cited, the details you selected, or whether there’s enough support for the claims you make)? Would you like to know how well the reader (whether your professor or a peer) could follow the organization ? Articulating the kind of feedback you want can help your reader focus their attention; it can also help you re-read your own work with a critical eye.

When you want to ask your professor or supervisor for feedback , consider some of the same questions as above, and ask your professor/supervisor directly. The more specific you are about the kind of feedback you want, the easier it will be for your reader to figure out how to help. Be cognizant, though, of the time you’re asking your reader to spend, and give them enough turnaround time to actually give you useful feedback prior to the deadline. For instance, if you want feedback about the organization of a five-page paper, a week may not be enough time, given your professor’s other responsibilities. If, though, you want feedback on a smaller section like your introduction, conclusion, main idea, or a single paragraph in the paper, a week may be enough time. Professors may also have different practices for giving feedback; for example, some may ask you to meet them during office hours to talk through your draft or questions while others may be happy to provide written feedback via email. Always check your syllabus and/or the assignment to see if there’s information about the best way to proceed.

If you decided to reach out for feedback, here’s a template that might be helpful:

Dear Professor [professor’s last name],

My name is [your name], and I’m a student in [name of class]. I was hoping you might have time to give me some feedback on [name of the assignment]. Specifically, I was hoping you would read [part of paper] and give me feedback on my [particular issue; for example, you might ask about use of sources, the organization of the paragraph, or the paragraph’s connection back to the main idea of the text] .

When you visit the writing center : here, too, you might consider asking some of the same questions above: would feedback about your main idea be helpful? Or would you like feedback about your evidence? Would you like to know how well the reader could follow the organization? Many writing center consultations involve reading your paper aloud with the writing consultant, but for longer papers, you may not have time to review the entire text. What part of the paper do you want to focus on first? One other tip: bring the assignment itself and any feedback you’ve already received with you to your writing center appointment. Your consultant can help you review both the assignment and previous feedback and help you make a plan for revision.

Step 2: Interpret Feedback : Once you’ve asked for feedback, you’ll need to (1) figure out what it means, (2) make a plan about how to incorporate the feedback, and (3) make changes to your text. Feedback might do some or all of the following things: tell you how your text is working well, ask questions meant to lead to revision or point out areas that aren’t working, and give you advice for how to make changes to the text. Let’s look at examples of each of these and think about how we might translate those into a to-do list of sorts.

Look for information about what’s already working : generous readers often want writers to know what their text does well, and instructors might begin their feedback by telling students what’s already working. This positive feedback shouldn’t just make us feel good about our work. (Though, we should; writing is hard work!) This positive feedback can also give us a blueprint for how to revise sections that aren’t working as well. Let’s look at an example

what is a revision plan for an essay

Here, the instructor tells the writer that the first sentences of this paragraph “offer a clear, specific idea of what the paragraph will cover.” These kinds of “topic sentences” help readers more easily follow an idea or argument, and this piece of positive feedback means we have a clear idea of how to do that work well, so we might ask ourselves, “how well do the opening sentences of my other paragraphs prepare the reader for the content of the paragraph?”If the answer is “not that well,” consider using the topic sentence your reviewer commented on as a model for revision.

Look for information about what’s not working: Feedback will often also point to places in your text that are not quite working. This may take the form of questions that ask for additional information (e.g., “What evidence do you have to support that?” or “How do you know that?”), express confusion (e.g., “As a reader, I’m not sure I follow the order of information in this paragraph.”), or point to places that need specific revisions or additions (e.g., “This paragraph feels disconnected to me. It needs a transition that connects it to the paragraph before it.”). Each of these questions or comments could lead to a specific revision. For example, if my reader asks, “How do you know that?,” it likely means that I need to add additional evidence, detail, and/or context to make it clear how I came to a particular conclusion. I’ll want to make sure to note these questions as I’m drafting my revision plan in the step below.

Look for advice about how to make changes or which changes to make: Sometimes, like with the last example above (“This paragraph feels disconnected to me. It needs a transition that connects it to the paragraph before it.”), your reader will also tell you what kind of changes to make. In this case, adding a transitional sentence or idea will help solve the problem the reader identifies (the lack of connection between paragraphs and ideas). 

Step 3: Translate Feedback into a Concrete Revision Plan

List changes in order of importance or impact: Once you have gotten feedback and spent some time thinking about what that feedback means, you’ll need to make a plan for addressing the feedback. In a separate document, make a list of the feedback you’ve gotten; then, put it in order according to which piece of feedback might lead to revisions that will have the most significant impact on the draft. Let’s think about an example: on a recent draft of an article I wrote, the reviewers gave me three pieces of feedback:

  • Add additional evidence to the first section of the text
  • Reorder the paragraphs in the final section so that the sections are better connected to one another
  • Use fewer contractions throughout

Now, it might be tempting to do the final thing (“use fewer contractions throughout”) first; after all, this is the easiest and most straightforward piece of feedback to implement. But, is that the best place to start? Probably not. First of all, adding evidence and changing the organization of a section may mean deleting sentences that contain contractions or adding new sentences with contractions. That is to say, taking on the first two pieces of feedback may change my plan for responding to that third piece of feedback. And secondly, if I have a very limited time to make the requested revisions, spending time on those first two pieces of feedback will likely have the greatest impact on my draft. They require more work on my part, but they also lead to more significant and impactful revisions to my text.

Decide if there’s feedback that you disagree with and/or don’t plan to incorporate. All feedback is useful because it helps us as writers understand how readers interpret our work, but just because all feedback is useful doesn’t mean we have to implement every piece of feedback we get. If there are suggestions for revision with which you disagree, it’s important for you to articulate (both to yourself and, if possible, to your professor or supervisor) why you disagree and/or why you aren’t planning to make the suggested changes. Let’s think through an example: when I was in graduate school, I wrote a final paper about teaching for one of my theory classes. Throughout the paper, I used “I.” During peer review, one of my peers commented that the use of “I” undercut my authority and credibility and that I should change everything to third person. I disagreed: I think using “I” in that paper gave me more credibility because it allowed me to make clear that my claims were based both on the sources I was using as evidence and on my own experiences. I didn’t stop using “I,” and when asked by my professor why, I told her exactly what I just wrote here: using “I” was an important part of my approach to this topic, and I thought it enhanced my credibility. Sometimes, feedback asks us to make changes that go against the goals or purposes we have for our writing, and when that happens, it sometimes makes sense to decide against incorporating that feedback. The key is to know why you’re making such a choice and to be able to articulate that reason to others.

Share your plan with your professor/supervisor: At this point in the process (when you’ve received specific feedback but haven’t started making changes to your text) it might be a good idea to send a brief email or have a brief conversation with the person who gave you the assignment to see if your plan for revisions also make sense to them. If there are changes suggested by your readers that you’re not planning to incorporate, this is also a good time to articulate that to your professor and discuss why you don’t plan to make those particular changes. Your professor or supervisor might also have some additional suggestions for how to make changes that could be helpful as you begin to make revisions.

Step 4: Make Changes

In many of the examples above, there are specific, concrete changes that flow naturally from the feedback I received. But sometimes, feedback is more general or applies to a large section of a text. In those cases, you might need some additional strategies for figuring out which specific changes you want to make and how to make those changes. Here are few strategies that might be helpful at this point in the process: 

Create a reverse outline: Creating a reverse outline allows you to see the main ideas of each of your paragraphs and think about the overall organization of your text. To create a reverse outline, you’ll need a full draft of your text. Next to each paragraph, add a word or phrase that conveys the main topic of the paragraph. (If you find yourself wanting to write multiple words/phrases, that’s often an indication that the paragraph in question should be more than one paragraph.) Once you’ve done this for each paragraph, make a list of these words and phrases in order. Are there similar words or phrases in different sections of your text? Do you need to move paragraphs around to make sure similar ideas are close to one another? Does the order of ideas make sense to you? Is there an important idea missing?

Focus on the thesis or main idea: Focusing on your main idea allows you to ensure that the text serves the purpose you intended or makes the argument you intended. Start by highlighting or underlining your main idea. Does the section you underlined adequately capture what you intended your main idea to be? Are there things missing? 

Next, look at each paragraph. Does each of your paragraphs move your reader closer to understanding that main idea? Are there ideas covered by paragraphs or sections that don’t show up in your main idea? If so, should you revise your main idea to represent these ideas? Or, if there are sections that don’t help to advance your readers’ understanding of the main idea, should you remove these sections?

Review your evidence: Each of your paragraphs needs evidence. Different kinds of text use different kinds of evidence. Sometimes, evidence takes the form of quotes, paraphrases, or ideas from scholarly or expert sources. Other times, evidence takes the form of specific details or narratives. Thinking about your purpose for writing (and, if there’s an assignment involved, the specific requirements of the assignment), what kinds of evidence does your text need? Do each of your paragraphs have adequate evidence to support the main idea or purpose of that paragraph?

Examine introductions and conclusions : Introductions and conclusions give writers a chance to clearly communicate their purposes, so it’s always a great idea to review these two sections as you make revisions. Does your introduction help the reader understand both your topic and your purpose for writing about it? Does your conclusion make clear what you wanted your reader to understand? Making changes to introductions and conclusions can make a big difference to your reader’s overall experience of your text.

Step 5: Reflect on the Changes You’ve Made

So now you’re done, right? You’ve solicited feedback, interpreted the comments you received, and made changes to your work. What’s left? The answer is reflection. Reflection asks us to look back on the process that allowed us to compose and revise our texts and think about how that process and the changes we’ve made might help us compose differently in the future.Taking time to reflect allows you to think through how the feedback you received on this piece of writing might change your writing process moving forward. What have you learned about your strengths as a writer? What have you learned about your challenges? What have you learned about how to address those challenges? Answering these questions will allow you to more easily apply what you’ve learned writing this specific document to other writing contexts.

Revisit feedback: Once you’ve made changes to your text, it’s a good idea to return to the feedback and consider if there’s anything in that feedback you haven’t yet responded to. Did the feedback include a suggested revision you decided not to make? Are there additional changes that the feedback encourages? If you’ve chosen not to implement any of the suggested changes, how would you justify that decision?

Articulate how the changes you made address that feedback : Finally, it can be useful to take a few minutes to articulate how the revisions you made address the feedback you received. What changes did you actually make to your text? And for each of those changes, what piece of feedback were you responding to? These notes might be helpful as you work on future drafts of this project and/or future writing projects.

Reflect on (and write a little about) how this process of writing, feedback, and revision might change your process moving forward. This is your chance to take a few notes about how you might approach another writing situation differently because of what you’ve learned about yourself as a writer. What has this process taught you about your strengths? What has it taught you about your challenges? How will you approach those challenges differently based on what you learned here?

Brevity – Say More with Less

Brevity – Say More with Less

Clarity (in Speech and Writing)

Clarity (in Speech and Writing)

Coherence – How to Achieve Coherence in Writing

Coherence – How to Achieve Coherence in Writing


Flow – How to Create Flow in Writing

Inclusivity – Inclusive Language

Inclusivity – Inclusive Language


The Elements of Style – The DNA of Powerful Writing


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Revising and Editing

What is revision.

Once you have reached the point that you have a full rough draft, take some time to step away from the essay to get a newer and better perspective. Then begin revising.

Revising means reexamining and rethinking what you’ve written in earlier drafts. The process of revision is more cyclical than it is linear, but any revision process should have clear steps that help you focus on different elements of your writing.

A successful revision process should involve:

  • Adding and deleting ideas extensively
  • Rearranging ideas, paragraphs, sentences, phrases, and words
  • Rewriting paragraphs and sentences for more variety, better flow, and more precise word choices

Keep in mind that successful revision is rarely accomplished quickly and easily. It is typical that you will work through the process of revising three or four rough drafts before you are finally satisfied and ready to call your essay finished.

Developing a Process for Revising

Just as writing is a deeply personal and individualized act, so is revising. This chapter, along with advice from your professors and classmates, can help you identify and develop skills for revising your writing. But in order for the shape and style of your revision process to ultimately prove useful to you, then your methods for revising must become uniquely your own. This means you might take bits and pieces of the advice in this chapter, and then mix that together to formulate your specific process for revising. Also keep in mind that as you evolve as a writer, and as you write across different genres, your revision process will likewise change. What is most important is that you view revision as a continual practice that you are committed to developing and refining over time.

A Top-Down Approach to Revising

It can be tempting to focus most of your revision efforts on the small stuff happening in your sentences. But this approach will usually lead to more work, especially if you end up realizing that perfectly edited paragraphs later need to be cut because they no longer fit with your overall purpose or structure.

Instead, you should use a top-down approach for revising. Doing so helps you address larger issues before focusing on smaller issues.

  • Revise for overall meaning and structure. Your essay should develop a central point clearly and logically. The purpose, tone, and point-of-view of your essay should be suited for your audience and line up with your professor’s instructions.
  • Revise for paragraph development. Check that your paragraphs are logically ordered, unified, and specific.
  • Revise sentence structure. Make sure your sentences remain consistent with your overall tone, are varied in type and length, and state your ideas effectively and efficiently.
  • Revise for word choices. You should strive to use specific rather than general terms, should rely on strong verbs, and should only use necessary modifiers.

Other Useful Strategies for Revising

Self-questioning. Just as we use questions to help us brainstorm and define our ideas, we can use question to revise and review our writing. The below questions can help you consider multiple levels and aspects of your writing.

  • Voice: Does it sound like a real human being wrote this draft? Does your introduction project a clear sense of your purpose? Honestly, would someone other than your paid instructor or classmates read beyond the first paragraph of this essay?
  • Audience: Does your writing use specific strategies or ideas to draw in a specific set of readers? Do you address the same audience throughout the essay? If you don’t, are you being intentional about shifting from one audience to another, and is that intention clear in your writing?
  • Message: Are your main points strong and clear? Do you have ample support for each of them? Do your supporting details clearly support your main points?
  • Tone: Are you using the proper tone for the genre of writing, and for your purpose and intended audience? Is your language too casual or not professional enough? Or does it come off as overly formal and stiff? Does your tone stay consistent throughout the draft?
  • Attitude: Does your stance toward the topic stay consistent throughout the draft? If it doesn’t, do you explain the cause of the transformation in your attitude?
  • Reception: Is your goal or intent for writing clear? How is this essay likely to be received by another reader? What kind of motivation, ideas, or emotions will this draft draw out of your readers? What will your readers do, think, or feel immediately after finishing this essay?

Reverse Outlining. In reverse outlining, you read through your rough draft so that you can identify the topic of each paragraph. This way, you can determine if each paragraph has a clear focus and if each paragraph fits the overall organization of your essay.

Reading Aloud. The act of reading your essay aloud allows you to hear it in the way a reader will. This also forces you to slow down and pay attention to all the words in your rough draft, helping you notice where your writing is clear and effective, or where your writing is unclear or ineffective. As a general rule, poorly structured sections or sentences are hard to read out loud, indicating you might need to rework those parts of your draft.

Getting Peer Feedback. No one becomes a good writer in a vacuum. Sometimes writing is done for ourselves, but, more often, writing is done to connect to others, to share thoughts, and to communicate something others need to know. Once you have a full rough draft, it’s important for you to get an understanding of how well your writing works for readers. Showing the writing to someone else is essential. You might do this in a writers’ circle or just with a friend who is good with words and giving feedback. If possible, it’s best to show your writing to several people to get more than one opinion. Receiving feedback helps you discover the strengths in your writing as well as areas that may be improved.

Getting Feedback from a Tutor. Tutoring is an effective way for you to receive knowledgeable one-on-one feedback about your writing. It can also be an effective way to help manage time. Once you have a rough draft, you should seek the advice of the college’s writing tutors. They can quickly help you identify weaknesses in your writing and then discuss options for improvement.

What is Editing?

Editing is part of revising. If most of the revision process encourages you to consider how elements of your draft work together, editing is when you start to focus on isolated issues of grammar, mechanics, punctuation, spelling, and typos.

Remember that it is extremely important not to focus on editing too early in the writing process. If you write one sentence or paragraph and immediately begin to edit it, your overall progress will be slowed. This is why you should revise thoroughly first, and then edit and proofread your essays toward the end of your writing process.

What To Look for While Editing Your Writing

Grammar refers to the way people use language rules and how words are used in a certain order to form phrases and clauses that relay a meaning for readers. The term syntax (the art of sentence structure) goes hand in hand with grammar.

It’s important to note that, since you use language every day, you already have internalized essential grammar rules. Whether you believe it or not, you already know a great deal about how English grammar works, even if you can’t identify many grammar concepts by name. Most college writers struggle with only one or two main grammar issues, like how to correctly use a comma or semicolon. Once you master these issues, you can confidently edit your own work.

For help with understanding the rules and concepts of English grammar, check out the Purdue OWL: Grammar Guide .

Mechanics and Punctuation

Mechanics are established rules within a language system, and sometimes include the individual decisions that writers make regarding the use of capitalization, underlining, italicizing, numbers versus numerals, the placement of specific punctuation marks, and how all this differs throughout English-speaking countries. For example, many mechanics and punctuation rules differ between American English and British English.

Punctuation refers to the symbols you use to help readers understand and process the information you wish to convey through the sentences you write. Somewhat like the notes within a piece of music help musicians move quickly or slowly through a composition, punctuation marks are used to control the flow and rhythm of your writing.

For help with understanding the rules and concepts of English grammar, check out the Purdue OWL: Mechanics Guide and the Purdue OWL: Punctuation Guide .

Other Key Issues to Look Out for While Editing

Precision of Words. In early parts of the drafting process, it’s common to use generic words that do not accurately capture our intended message. Once you reach the editing phase, you should be on the lookout for any generic word choices that can be changed to become more precise. One of the overall goals in academic writing, and in most forms of writing, is to use specific language and terms as often as possible.

Unnecessary Words. In addition to striving to be as precise as possible in your use of language, you should also try to remove any unnecessary words. Many students believe that words like  really , very , just , and so on add an something important to their writing. However, words like these are overused and should be given special consideration. Each word in your writing should feel necessary to both you and your readers, and anything less than necessary should be removed or rewritten.

Repetition of Words and Phrases. The unintentional repetition of words and phrases is one of the most common oversights we make in our writing. We all have our go-to words and phrases—ones that come naturally to us as we speak and when we write. Because of this, you need to diligently check your writing for overuse of words and phrases. One of the best ways to do this is to read aloud while you edit. Doing so will allow you to hear and more easily notice the repetitions. Along with reading aloud, you can also use the search function in programs like Microsoft Word and Google Docs to quickly locate words and phrases you know you tend to repeat.

Spelling. We all have words that give us trouble as we write, even if we have learned how to spell those words. While spell-checkers can help us most of the time, they are not always correct, and it’s our responsibility to recognize which words we commonly misspell and edit our drafts to find spelling mistakes. Many of the words we misspell look or sound like other words, and for help identifying those words you should check out the Purdue OWL’s Common Words that Sound Alike .

Sources Used to Create this Chapter

Parts of this chapter were remixed from:

  • Let’s Get Writing by Elizabeth Browning et. al., which was published under a CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0 license.
  • English Composition by Ann Inoshita et. al., which was published under a CC-BY 4.0 license.
  • English Composition I  by Kimberly Miller-Davis, which was published under a CC-BY 4.0 license.

Starting the Journey: An Intro to College Writing Copyright © by Leonard Owens III; Tim Bishop; and Scott Ortolano is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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what is a revision plan for an essay

3 Steps for Creating an Effective Revision Plan

The most effective first step for revision is to get organised with a solid plan of action. But, how do we go about planning our revision? In this article, we’ll look at three tips for creating an effective yet flexible revision plan such as, scoping your subject, understanding exam requirements, and implementing retrospective revision timetables.

what is a revision plan for an essay

Planning your revision can be an overwhelming task. You might feel the need to delay revision until you have created a timetable, or spend more time carefully crafting the perfect plan rather than starting your revision. Naturally, when planning out your timetable, you might worry about how much time is enough for revision, or how you can cover all your subjects and balance them well. It’s hard to predict what topics we may struggle with and how much time we will have available. In this article, we’ll look at three steps for planning your revision in a way that is both flexible and effective, focusing on the quality of your knowledge, in contrast to the amount of time you spend revising. 

Scope Your Subject

This is the first and most important step of the process! To grasp both the bigger picture and the finer details of your subject, you need to understand the outline by scoping your subject . By identifying the core topics, you can begin to draw connections between the material you’re learning. This is particularly useful when studying a wide variety of modules that may link together, or a large subject that has many interlinked sub-topics. 

A good way to assess your current understanding of the subject outline is to draw up a mindmap, or list from memory - this engages your ability to actively recall information. You can start with the core subject and break it down into subtopics. After, you can use your specification or textbook to flesh out your outline, adding in missed out topics, sub-topics or correcting any mislabelled information. 

This might sound simple but by actively working through your specification, you will begin to understand which topics have the most content, or hold the most importance. You’ll also start to understand how confident you are with the subject’s content; certain topics might have interested you during lectures, while others made no sense. This outline of content can guide your revision process and as we’ll discuss later, this scope of your subject can essentially become your revision timetable. 

A few practical ways to implement scoping your subject include creating a simple bullet pointed list, with indents for subtopics. You can do this in Notion, Word, Google Docs or a spreadsheet and add tick boxes to track your progress. Similarly, you can use this structure to begin organising revision materials. You can create pages or folders in note-taking apps based on each topic and store any resources you’ll need access to. This gives you easy and organised access to material during the revision process, and will help you identify if you need better resources, or will need to create some active recall based revision material, such as question lists or flashcards.

Understand Exam Requirements

For our exam revision to be the most effective, we need to have a good understanding of the assessment method and criteria. How will your knowledge be tested? This can guide the revision techniques you use, and how you make sense of the information. For example:

  • For an essay-based exam, your ability to craft a well-written and critical argument under a time constraint, is just as important as understanding and memorising the theoretical concepts.
  • Alternatively, for technical subjects, you might find it’s better to spend revision time engaged in problem solving. This would test your ability to apply formulae or concepts from memory, and help you to fill in the gaps when you struggle. 

Likewise, by understanding your assessment method and criteria, you’ll be able to pinpoint what is testable knowledge. Some content might have been given for context, and research examples that were given might need to be replaced with your own examples, to show the breadth of your learning. This way, you can avoid wasting time revising material that is not directly beneficial to your exam method. 

Ideally, the best way to understand your assessment method is to use past papers, and if this is unavailable, perhaps exam feedback from the last examination period. Alternatively, improve your general skills, for example, you might not have any example questions, but you can practise your essay writing skills, or use previous assignments as a guide for effective essay writing. 

The Retrospective Revision Timetable

As we mentioned earlier, one of the most difficult aspects of planning your revision can be organising your time. A fixed timetable can easily start to go off track, and leave you feeling demotivated or overwhelmed. An unexpected event might pop up. You might realise one topic needs more attention than another. This is why a retrospective revision timetable is ideal for getting started with minimal planning, and allows you to revise with flexibility. After scoping your subject, this outline can now become your retrospective revision timetable. This method of planning focuses on what you have achieved, rather than focusing on the future goals of what you hope to achieve. 

For this timetable, you have a list of topics for one particular subject. Each time you revise the topic, you write the date of revision and use colour coding to indicate how well this session went. Preferably, revision sessions should involve some guide of ‘active’ study methods that require you to recall information from memory. This creates a visual representation of how well you understand and remember the topics, making it easier to identify areas of weakness. Ideally, when you start this process, input your list of topics, and identify how confident you currently are, this will highlight areas of importance and provide a starting point.

This method focuses on the quality of your revision, and allows you to work backwards, focusing on what you don’t know. By having a complete overview of your progress, you can switch between topics with ease. For example, if you mark a topic ‘red’, leave some time before going back. Instead, take a break and come back to study a topic that is marked ‘amber’ or ‘green’. This is known as interleaving , and is known for improving your ability to retain information. Be intentional when switching subjects, and careful not to confuse this with multitasking. 

A retrospective timetable can also make it easier to implement spaced repetition . This method is about leaving ‘spaces’ between your revision, and recalling information at various intervals. You aim to recall information just as your brain begins to forget it. These intervals are based on the forgetting curve that highlights how we forget information overtime. As you’re already noting the dates of revision, you can then use the concept of spaced repetition to guide when you should next revise the topic. You can automate this in some way using a spreadsheet or tools like Notion. Alternatively, you can set reminders in your phone once you have revised a topic. 

Finally, while we don’t want to make use of rigid timetables, we can still use time management techniques to implement our retrospective revision timetables. Time blocking can be a good way to ensure you always have time set aside for studying, and these sessions can be guided simply by the colour coded topics on your timetable. Similarly, you can use pomodoro timers, or focus apps to ensure you’re able to have a quality revision session and are engaged in deep work. 

  • Scope your subject to understand the structure of the content you’ll be learning, and how familiar you are with it.
  • Check your exam methods and assessment criteria to guide your revision, and ensure you’re able to convey your knowledge in an effective and relevant way. 
  • Implement a retrospective revision timetable paired with time management techniques, which makes it easier to engage in other study techniques, such as interleaving, spaced repetition and active recall.

what is a revision plan for an essay

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revision (composition)

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

  • An Introduction to Punctuation
  • Ph.D., Rhetoric and English, University of Georgia
  • M.A., Modern English and American Literature, University of Leicester
  • B.A., English, State University of New York

In composition , revision is the process of rereading a text and making changes (in content, organization , sentence structures , and word choice ) to improve it.

During the revision stage of the writing process , writers may add, remove, move and substitute text (the ARMS treatment). "[T]hey have opportunities to think about whether their text communicates effectively to an audience , to improve the quality of their prose , and even to reconsider their content and perspective and potentially transform their own understanding" (Charles MacArthur in Best Practices in Writing Instruction , 2013).

"Leon approved of revision," says Lee Child in his novel Persuader (2003). "He approved of it big time. Mainly because revision was about thinking, and he figured thinking never hurt anybody." See the Observations and Recommendations below. Also see:

  • Revision Checklist
  • Writers on Rewriting
  • Audience Analysis Checklist
  • The Best Time to Stop Rewriting: Russell Baker on the Perils of Obsessive Revision
  • Campaign to Cut the Clutter: Zinsser's Brackets
  • Collaborative Writing and Peer Response
  • Common Revision Symbols and Abbreviations
  • The Invisible Mark of Punctuation: The Paragraph Break
  • Revising an Argument Essay
  • Revising a Place Description
  • Revision and Editing Checklist for a Critical Essay
  • Two Versions of "Kidnapped by Movies," by Susan Sontag
  • Writers on Writing: Ten Tips for Finding the Right Words
  • Writing Portfolio
  • The Writing Process

Etymology From the Latin, "to visit again, to look at again"  

Observations and Recommendations

  • "Rewriting is the essence of writing well: it's where the game is won or lost." (William Zinsser, On Writing Well . 2006)
  • " [R]evision begins with the large view and proceeds from the outside in, from overall structure to paragraphs and finally sentences and words, toward ever more intricate levels of detail. In other words, there's no sense in revising a sentence to a hard shining beauty if the passage including that sentence will have to be cut." (Philip Gerard, Creative Nonfiction: Researching and Crafting Stories of Real Life . Story Press, 1996)
  • "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 ." (Donald M. Murray, The Craft of Revision , 5th ed. Wadsworth, 2003)
  • Fixing the Mess " Revision is a grand term for the frantic process of fixing the mess. . . . I just keep reading the story, first on the tube, then in paper form, usually standing up at a file cabinet far from my desk, tinkering and tinkering, shifting paragraphs around, throwing out words, shortening sentences, worrying and fretting, checking spelling and job titles and numbers." (David Mehegan, quoted by Donald M. Murray in Writing to Deadline . Heinemann, 2000)
  • Two Kinds of Rewriting "[T]here are at least two kinds of rewriting. The first is trying to fix what you've already written, but doing this can keep you from facing up to the second kind, from figuring out the essential thing you're trying to do and looking for better ways to tell your story. If [F. Scott] Fitzgerald had been advising a young writer and not himself he might have said, 'Rewrite from principle,' or 'Don't just push the same old stuff around. Throw it away and start over.'" (Tracy Kidder and Richard Todd, Good Prose: The Art of Nonfiction . Random House, 2013)
  • A Form of Self-Forgiveness "I like to think of revision as a form of self-forgiveness: you can allow yourself mistakes and shortcomings in your writing because you know you're coming back later to improve it. Revision is the way you cope with bad luck that made your writing less than excellent this morning. Revision is the hope you hold out for yourself to make something beautiful tomorrow though you didn't quite manage it today. Revision is democracy's literary method, the tool that allows an ordinary person to aspire to extraordinary achievement." (David Huddle, The Writing Habit . Peregrine Smith, 1991)
  • Peer Revising "Peer revising is a common feature of writing-process classrooms, and it is often recommended as a way of providing student writers with an audience of readers who can respond to their writing, identify strengths and and problems, and recommend improvements. Students may learn from serving in roles of both author and editor . The critical reading required as an editor can contribute to learning how to evaluate writing. Peer revising is most effective when it is combined with instruction based on evaluation criteria or revising strategies." (Charles A. MacArthur, "Best Practices in Teaching Evaluation and Revision." Best Practices in Writing Instruction , ed. by Steve Graham, Charles A. MacArthur, and Jill Fitzgerald. Guilford Press, 2007)
  • Revising Out Loud "You will find, to your delight, that reading your own work aloud, even silently, is the most astonishingly easy and reliable method that there is for achieving economy in prose, efficiency of description, and narrative effect as well." (George V. Higgins, On Writing . Henry Holt, 1990)
  • Writers on Revising - "We have discovered that writing allows even a stupid person to seem halfway intelligent, if only that person will write the same thought over and over again, improving it just a little bit each time. It is a lot like inflating a blimp with a bicycle pump. Anybody can do it. All it takes is time." (Kurt Vonnegut, Palm Sunday: An Autobiographical Collage . Random House, 1981) - "Beginning writers everywhere might take a lesson from [Lafcadio] Hearn's working method: when he thought he was finished with a piece, he put it in his desk drawer for a time, then took it out to revise it, then returned it to the drawer, a process that continued until he had exactly what he wanted." (Francine Prose, "Serene Japan." Smithsonian , September 2009) - "An excellent rule for writers is this: Condense your article to the last possible point consistent with clearness. Then cut off its head and tail, and serve up the remains with the sauce of good humor." (C.A.S. Dwight, "The Religious Press." The Editor , 1897) - " Revision is one of the exquisite pleasures of writing.” (Bernard Malamud, Talking Horse: Bernard Malamud on Life and Work , ed. by Alan Cheuse and Nichola Delbanco. Columbia University Press, 1996) - "I rewrite a great deal. I'm always fiddling, always changing something. I'll write a few words--then I'll change them. I add. I subtract. I work and fiddle and keep working and fiddling, and I only stop at the deadline." (Ellen Goodman) - "I'm not a very good writer, but I'm an excellent rewriter." (James Michener) - "Writing is like everything else: the more you do it the better you get. Don't try to perfect as you go along, just get to the end of the damn thing. Accept imperfections. Get it finished and then you can go back. If you try to polish every sentence there's a chance you'll never get past the first chapter." (Iain Banks) - " Revision is very important to me. I just can't abide some things that I write. I look at them the next day and they're terrible. They don't make sense, or they're awkward, or they're not to the point--so I have to revise, cut, shape. Sometimes I throw the whole thing away and start from scratch." (William Kennedy) - "Successful writing takes great exertion, and multiple revisions , refinement, retooling--until it looks as if it didn't take any effort at all." (Dinty W. Moore, The Mindful Writer . Wisdom Publications, 2012)
  • Jacques Barzun on the Pleasures of Revision "Rewriting is called revision in the literary and publishing trade because it springs from re-viewing , that is to say, looking at your copy again--and again and again. When you have learned to look at your own words with critical detachment, you will find that rereading a piece five or six times in a row will each time bring to light fresh spots of trouble. The trouble is sometimes elementary: you wonder how you can have written it as a pronoun referring to a plural subject. The slip is easily corrected. At other times you have written yourself into a corner, the exit from which is not at once apparent. Your words down there seem to preclude the necessary repairs up here--because of repetition, syntax, logic, or some other obstacle. Nothing comes to mind as reconciling sense with sound and with clarity in both places. In such a fix you may have to start farther back and pursue a different line altogether. The sharper your judgment, the more trouble you will find. That is why exacting writers are known to have rewritten a famous paragraph or chapter six or seven times. It then looked right to them, because every demand of their art had been met, every flaw removed, down to the slightest. "You and I are far from that stage of mastery, but we are none the less obliged to do some rewriting beyond the intensive correction of bad spots. For in the act of revising on the small scale one comes upon gaps in thought and--what is as bad--real or apparent repetitions or intrusions, sometimes called backstitching . Both are occasions for surgery. In the first case you must write a new fragment and insert it so that its beginning and end fit what precedes and follows. In the second case you must lift the intruding passage and transfer or eliminate it. Simple arithmetic shows you that there are then three and not two sutures to be made before the page shows a smooth surface. If you have never performed this sort of work in writing, you must take it from me that it affords pleasure and satisfaction, both. (Jacques Barzun, Simple and Direct: A Rhetoric for Writers , 4th ed. Harper Perennial, 2001)
  • John McPhee on the End of Revision "People often ask how I know when I'm done--not just when I've come to the end, but in all the drafts and revisions and substitutions of one word for another how do I know there is no more to do? When am I done? I just know. I'm lucky that way. What I know is that I can't do any better; someone else might do better, but that's all I can do; so I call it done." (John McPhee, "Structure." The New Yorker , January 14, 2013)

Pronunciation: re-VIZH-en

  • How Do You Edit an Essay?
  • Explore and Evaluate Your Writing Process
  • An Essay Revision Checklist
  • 10 Tips for Finding the Right Words
  • The Drafting Stage of the Writing Process
  • How to Write a Letter of Complaint
  • A Writing Portfolio Can Help You Perfect Your Writing Skills
  • Focusing in Composition
  • The Basic Characteristics of Effective Writing
  • Writing a Lead or Lede to an Article
  • Prewriting for Composition
  • The Five Steps of Writing an Essay
  • 12 Writers Discuss Writing
  • The Difference Between an Article and an Essay
  • Sentence Length
  • What E.B. White Has to Say About Writing

Revising an Argumentative Paper

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You’ve written a full draft of an argumentative paper. You’ve figured out what you’re generally saying and have put together one way to say it. But you’re not done. The best writing is revised writing, and you want to re–view, re–see, re–consider your argument to make sure that it’s as strong as possible. You’ll come back to smaller issues later (e.g., Is your language compelling? Are your paragraphs clearly and seamlessly connected? Are any of your sentences confusing?). But before you get into the details of phrases and punctuation, you need to focus on making sure your argument is as strong and persuasive as it can be. This page provides you with eight specific strategies for how to take on the important challenge of revising an argument.

  • Give yourself time.
  • Outline your argumentative claims and evidence.
  • Analyze your argument’s assumptions.
  • Revise with your audience in mind.
  • Be your own most critical reader.
  • Look for dissonance.
  • Try “provocative revision.”
  • Ask others to look critically at your argument.

1. Give yourself time.

The best way to begin re–seeing your argument is first to stop seeing it. Set your paper aside for a weekend, a day, or even a couple of hours. Of course, this will require you to have started your writing process well before your paper is due. But giving yourself this time allows you to refresh your perspective and separate yourself from your initial ideas and organization. When you return to your paper, try to approach your argument as a tough, critical reader. Reread it carefully. Maybe even read it out loud to hear it in a fresh way. Let the distance you created inform how you now see the paper differently.

2. Outline your argumentative claims and evidence.

This strategy combines the structure of a reverse outline with elements of argument that philosopher Stephen Toulmin detailed in his influential book The Uses of Argument . As you’re rereading your work, have a blank piece of paper or a new document next to you and write out:

  • Your main claim (your thesis statement).
  • Your sub–claims (the smaller claims that contribute to the larger claim).
  • All the evidence you use to back up each of your claims.

Detailing these core elements of your argument helps you see its basic structure and assess whether or not your argument is convincing. This will also help you consider whether the most crucial elements of the argument are supported by the evidence and if they are logically sequenced to build upon each other.

what is a revision plan for an essay

In what follows we’ve provided a full example of what this kind of outline can look like. In this example, we’ve broken down the key argumentative claims and kinds of supporting evidence that Derek Thompson develops in his July/August 2015 Atlantic feature “ A World Without Work. ” This is a provocative and fascinating article, and we highly recommend it.

Charted Argumentative Claims and Evidence “ A World Without Work ” by Derek Thompson ( The Atlantic , July/August 2015) Main claim : Machines are making workers obsolete, and while this has the potential to disrupt and seriously damage American society, if handled strategically through governmental guidance, it also has the potential of helping us to live more communal, creative, and empathetic lives. Sub–claim : The disappearance of work would radically change the United States. Evidence: personal experience and observation Sub–claim : This is because work functions as something of an unofficial religion to Americans. Sub–claim : Technology has always guided the U.S. labor force. Evidence: historical examples Sub–claim: But now technology may be taking over our jobs. Sub–claim : However, the possibility that technology will take over our jobs isn’t anything new, nor is the fear that this possibility generates. Evidence: historical examples Sub–claim : So far, that fear hasn’t been justified, but it may now be because: 1. Businesses don’t require people to work like they used to. Evidence: statistics 2. More and more men and youths are unemployed. Evidence: statistics 3. Computer technology is advancing in majorly sophisticated ways. Evidence: historical examples and expert opinions Counter–argument: But technology has been radically advancing for 300 years and people aren’t out of work yet. Refutation: The same was once said about the horse. It was a key economic player; technology was built around it until technology began to surpass it. This parallels what will happen with retail workers, cashiers, food service employees, and office clerks. Evidence:: an academic study Counter–argument: But technology creates jobs too. Refutation: Yes, but not as quickly as it takes them away. Evidence: statistics Sub–claim : There are three overlapping visions of what the world might look like without work: 1. Consumption —People will not work and instead devote their freedom to leisure. Sub–claim : People don’t like their jobs. Evidence: polling data Sub–claim : But they need them. Evidence: expert insight Sub–claim : People might be happier if they didn’t have to work. Evidence: expert insight Counter–argument: But unemployed people don’t tend to be socially productive. Evidence: survey data Sub–claim : Americans feel guilty if they aren’t working. Evidence: statistics and academic studies Sub–claim : Future leisure activities may be nourishing enough to stave off this guilt. 2. Communal creativity —People will not work and will build productive, artistic, engaging communities outside the workplace. Sub–claim: This could be a good alternative to work. Evidence: personal experience and observation 3. Contingency —People will not work one big job like they used to and so will fight to regain their sense of productivity by piecing together small jobs. Evidence: personal experience and observation. Sub–claim : The internet facilitates gig work culture. Evidence: examples of internet-facilitated gig employment Sub–claim : No matter the form the labor force decline takes, it would require government support/intervention in regards to the issues of taxes and income distribution. Sub–claim : Productive things governments could do: • Local governments should create more and more ambitious community centers to respond to unemployment’s loneliness and its diminishment of community pride. • Government should create more small business incubators. Evidence: This worked in Youngstown. • Governments should encourage job sharing. Evidence: This worked for Germany. Counter–argument: Some jobs can’t be shared, and job sharing doesn’t fix the problem in the long term. Given this counter argument: • Governments should heavily tax the owners of capital and cut checks to all adults. Counter–argument: The capital owners would push against this, and this wouldn’t provide an alternative to the social function work plays. Refutation: Government should pay people to do something instead of nothing via an online job–posting board open up to governments, NGOs, and the like. • Governments should incentivize school by paying people to study. Sub–claim : There is a difference between jobs, careers, and calling, and a fulfilled life is lived in pursuit of a calling. Evidence: personal experience and observations

Some of the possible, revision-informing questions that this kind of outline can raise are:

  • Are all the claims thoroughly supported by evidence?
  • What kinds of evidence are used across the whole argument? Is the nature of the evidence appropriate given your context, purpose, and audience?
  • How are the sub–claims related to each other? How do they build off of each other and work together to logically further the larger claim?
  • Do any of your claims need to be qualified in order to be made more precise?
  • Where and how are counter–arguments raised? Are they fully and fairly addressed?

For more information about the Toulmin Method, we recommend John Ramage, John Bean, and June Johnson’s book Written Arguments: A Rhetoric with Readings.

3. Analyze your argument’s assumptions.

In building arguments we make assumptions either explicitly or implicitly that connect our evidence to our claims. For example, in “A World Without Work,” as Thompson makes claims about the way technology will change the future of work, he is assuming that computer technology will keep advancing in major and surprising ways. This assumption helps him connect the evidence he provides about technology’s historical precedents to his claims about the future of work. Many of us would agree that it is reasonable to assume that technological advancement will continue, but it’s still important to recognize this as an assumption underlying his argument.

To identify your assumptions, return to the claims and evidence that you outlined in response to recommendation #2. Ask yourself, “What assumptions am I making about this piece of evidence in order to connect this evidence to this claim?” Write down those assumptions, and then ask yourself, “Are these assumptions reasonable? Are they acknowledged in my argument? If not, do they need to be?”

Often you will not overtly acknowledge your assumptions, and that can be fine. But especially if your readers don’t share certain beliefs, values, or knowledge, you can’t guarantee that they will just go along with the assumptions you make. In these situations, it can be valuable to clearly account for some of your assumptions within your paper and maybe even rationalize them by providing additional evidence. For example, if Thompson were writing his article for an audience skeptical that technology will continue advancing, he might choose to identify openly why he is convinced that humanity’s progression towards more complex innovation won’t stop.

4. Revise with your audience in mind.

We touched on this in the previous recommendation, but it’s important enough to expand on it further. Just as you should think about what your readers know, believe, and value as you consider the kinds of assumptions you make in your argument, you should also think about your audience in relationship to the kind of evidence you use. Given who will read your paper, what kind of argumentative support will they find to be the most persuasive? Are these readers who are compelled by numbers and data? Would they be interested by a personal narrative? Would they expect you to draw from certain key scholars in their field or avoid popular press sources or only look to scholarship that has been published in the past ten years? Return to your argument and think about how your readers might respond to it and its supporting evidence.

5. Be your own most critical reader.

Sometimes writing handbooks call this being the devil’s advocate. It is about intentionally pushing against your own ideas. Reread your draft while embracing a skeptical attitude. Ask questions like, “Is that really true?” and, “Where’s the proof?” Be as hard on your argument as you can be, and then let your criticisms inform what you need to expand on, clarify, and eliminate.

This kind of reading can also help you think about how you might incorporate or strengthen a counter–argument. By focusing on possible criticisms to your argument, you might encounter some that are particularly compelling that you’ll need to include in your paper. Sometimes the best way to revise with criticism in mind is to face that criticism head on, fairly explain what it is and why it’s important to consider, and then rationalize why your argument still holds even in light of this other perspective.

6. Look for dissonance.

In her influential 1980 article about how expert and novice writers revise differently, writing studies scholar Nancy Sommers claims that “at the heart of revision is the process by which writers recognize and resolve the dissonance they sense in their writing” (385). In this case, dissonance can be understood as the tension that exists between what you want your text to be, do, or sound like and what is actually on the page. One strategy for re–seeing your argument is to seek out the places where you feel dissonance within your argument—that is, substantive differences between what, in your mind, you want to be arguing, and what is actually in your draft.

A key to strengthening a paper through considering dissonance is to look critically—really critically—at your draft. Read through your paper with an eye towards content, assertions, or logical leaps that you feel uncertain about, that make you squirm a little bit, or that just don’t line up as nicely as you’d like. Some possible sources of dissonance might include:

  • logical steps that are missing
  • questions a skeptical reader might raise that are left unanswered
  • examples that don’t actually connect to what you’re arguing
  • pieces of evidence that contradict each other
  • sources you read but aren’t mentioning because they disagree with you

Once you’ve identified dissonance within your paper, you have to decide what to do with it. Sometimes it’s tempting to take the easy way out and just delete the idea, claim, or section that is generating this sense of dissonance—to remove what seems to be causing the trouble. But don’t limit yourself to what is easy. Perhaps you need to add material or qualify something to make your argumentative claim more nuanced or more contextualized.

Even if the dissonance isn’t easily resolved, it’s still important to recognize. In fact, sometimes you can factor that recognition into how you revise; maybe your revision can involve considering how certain concepts or ideas don’t easily fit but are still important in some way. Maybe your revision can involve openly acknowledging and justifying the dissonance.

Sommers claims that whether expert writers are substituting, adding, deleting, or reordering material in response to dissonance, what they are really doing is locating and creating new meaning. Let your recognition of dissonance within your argument lead you through a process of discovery.

7. Try “provocative revision.”

Composition and writing center scholar Toby Fulwiler wrote in 1992 about the benefits of what he calls “provocative revision.” He says this kind of revision can take four forms. As you think about revising your argument, consider adopting one of these four strategies.

a. Limiting

As Fulwiler writes, “Generalization is death to good writing. Limiting is the cure for generality” (191). Generalization often takes the form of sweeping introduction statements (e.g., “Since the beginning of time, development has struggled against destruction.”), but arguments can be too general as well. Look back at your paper and ask yourself, “Is my argument ever not grounded in specifics? Is my evidence connected to a particular time, place, community, and circumstance?” If your claims are too broad, you may need to limit your scope and zoom in to the particular.

Inserting new content is a particularly common revision strategy. But when your focus is on revising an argument, make sure your addition of another source, another example, a more detailed description, or a closer analysis is in direct service to strengthening the argument. Adding material may be one way to respond to dissonance. It also can be useful for offering clarifications or for making previously implicit assumptions explicit. But adding isn’t just a matter of dropping new content into a paragraph. Adding something new in one place will probably influence other parts of the paper, so be prepared to make other additions to seamlessly weave together your new ideas.

c. Switching

For Fulwiler, switching is about radically altering the voice or tone of a text—changing from the first–person perspective to a third–person perspective or switching from an earnest appeal to a sarcastic critique. When it comes to revising your argument, it might not make sense to make any of these switches, but imaging what your argument might sound like coming from a very different voice might be generative. For example, how would Thompson’s “A World Without Work,” be altered if it was written from the voice and perspective of an unemployed steel mill worker or someone running for public office in Ohio or a mechanical robotics engineer? Re–visioning how your argument might come across if the primary voice, tone, and perspective was switched might help you think about how someone disinclined to agree with your ideas might approach your text and open additional avenues for revision.

d. Transforming

According to Fulwiler, transformation is about altering the genre and/or modality of a text—revising an expository essay into a letter to the editor, turning a persuasive research paper into a ballad. If you’re writing in response to a specific assignment, you may not have the chance to transform your argument in this way. But, as with switching, even reflecting on the possibilities of a genre or modality transformation can be useful in helping you think differently about your argument. If Thompson has been writing a commencement address instead of an article, how would “A World Without Work” need to change? How would he need to alter his focus and approach if it was a policy paper or a short documentary? Imagining your argument in a completely different context can help you to rethink how you are presenting your argument and engaging with your audience.

8. Ask others to look critically at your argument.

Sometimes the best thing you can do to figure out how your argument could improve is to get a second opinion. Of course, if you are a currently enrolled student at UW–Madison, you are welcome to make an appointment to talk with a tutor at our main center or stop by one of our satellite locations. But you have other ways to access quality feedback from other readers. You may want to ask someone else in your class, a roommate, or a friend to read through your paper with an eye towards how the argument could be improved. Be sure to provide your reader with specific questions to guide his or her attention towards specific parts of your argument (e.g., “How convincing do you find the connection I make between the claims on page 3 and the evidence on page 4?” “What would clarify further the causal relationship I’m suggesting between the first and second sub-argument?”). Be ready to listen graciously and critically to any recommendations these readers provide.

Works Cited

Fulwiler, Toby. “Provocative Revision.” Writing Center Journal, vol. 12, no. 2, 1992, pp. 190-204.

Ramage, John D., John C. Bean, and June Johnson. Writing Arguments: A Rhetoric with Readings, 8th ed., Longman, 2010.

Sommers, Nancy. “Revision Strategies of Student Writers and Experienced Adult Writers.” College Composition and Communication, vol. 31, no. 4, 1980, pp. 378-88.

Thompson, Derek. “A World Without Work.” The Atlantic, July/August 2015, Accessed 11 July 2017.

Toulmin, Stephen. The Uses of Argument. Updated ed., Cambridge University Press, 2003.

what is a revision plan for an essay

Writing Process and Structure

This is an accordion element with a series of buttons that open and close related content panels.

Getting Started with Your Paper

Interpreting Writing Assignments from Your Courses

Generating Ideas for Your Paper

Creating an Argument

Thesis vs. Purpose Statements

Developing a Thesis Statement

Architecture of Arguments

Working with Sources

Quoting and Paraphrasing Sources

Using Literary Quotations

Citing Sources in Your Paper

Drafting Your Paper



Developing Strategic Transitions


Revising Your Paper

Peer Reviews

Reverse Outlines

Revision Strategies for Longer Projects

Finishing Your Paper

Twelve Common Errors: An Editing Checklist

How to Proofread your Paper

Writing Collaboratively

Collaborative and Group Writing

what is a revision plan for an essay


5 Steps to Creating an Effective Exam Revision Plan

Whether you’ve got an exam around the corner or you’ve got a few months to prepare, creating an effective exam revision plan is the very first step you need to take on your journey to kick-butt exam grades.

In this blog post you’ll discover the simple 5-step process I use to plan for my exams. Implement these steps and you’ll feel a lot more confident moving forward in your exam revision.


How to Actually START Your Essay

Workbook + video training to take you from procrastination and overwhelm to understanding your question and mapping out your ideas with momentum. Easier, faster essay writing (and higher grades) await.

Start Your Essay

1. How long do you have to revise?

The first step to creating an effective exam revision plan is working out how long you actually have to revise.

So work back from your exam date to identify how many weeks there are until the big day, then write this at the top of a piece of paper.

Now it’s no use knowing how many weeks you have left if you don’t also know how busy those weeks already are.

So then note down any remaining studying commitments you have between now and your exam e.g. assignments, tutorials, group projects…etc.

Then, I want you to do this for the rest of your life. Add headings for your other commitments, such as personal, work…etc. Write down any events or responsibilities that will take up your time before your exam.

Now you’re starting to build the picture needed to create your exam revision plan.

2. What do you need to revise?

The second step is to do some exam investigation and find out what your exam is about.

Will it cover everything you’ve learned in the year or module, or will it be focused on specific topics?

You can find this out by asking your tutor, talking to your university, or looking in your module handbook.

Once you’ve got a general idea of what might come up I want you to get specific and create an exam concept map.

Depending on the amount of content you need to revise, take one or a few sheets of paper and create some exam concept mindmaps.

Exam revision plan concept map

Draw a bubble in the middle and write in it your exam title.

Then using the guidance from your tutor, university or handbook, start mapping out all the topics and concepts you need to revise. Try to dig deep and get specific here so you end up with mindmaps containing individual theories, concepts and models.

You want to create a one-stop resource for you to keep coming back to throughout your revision.

3. What is your current understanding?

The third step to creating a kick-butt exam revision plan is to determine how well you know the concepts already.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of just rereading the stuff you know over and over, because it makes you feel calmer and more prepared.

But it’s important to focus the majority of your revision time on the theories you’re less confident with, so you can improve your understanding and recall in the exam.

Now don’t panic if you feel like you know nothing. If you have an effective, smart revision system in place you WILL be able to learn the concepts needed to pass well.

Completing this step means you’ll know how much time you need to dedicate to revision. You’ll be able to spend less time revising for an exam where you feel confident about most concepts, than for an exam where you’re lacking understanding in a lot of areas.

Take the mindmap or mindmaps you’ve created and identify your confidence level right now for each element.

So if you were given an exam question about a topic, would you feel: - you could give a good answer - you could give some details but you may miss some - you have no idea whatsoever.

Either colour code your mindmaps or create lists so you can see your confidence levels easily and prep for the next stage in creating an exam revision plan.

4. Plan your weeks and days

So you’ve worked out: how long you have to revise; your other commitments; what you need to learn; and how well you know each concept.

Now it’s time to start creating your exam revision plan.

Print out some of my weekly planners and start scheduling revision sessions. Add in your existing work, personal and studying commitments then find spaces to add in time for revision.

It’s important to physically book these sessions in because ‘if it doesn’t get scheduled, it doesn’t get done’.

Then take your concept maps and work out what you want to revise and when. This will help you stay on track and dedicate enough time to each area you need to revise.

Don’t worry about these plans being ‘perfect’ – as things always change. Crises will come up but it’s helpful to start off organised and with an idea of the topics you need to cover each week.

Then, if you want to break it down further you can. At the beginning of each week, split your weekly plan into daily plans and use my study session planner to list your priorities for each day’s revision session.

Complete these 4 steps and you’ll be almost there in creating an effective exam revision plan.

5. The 3 keys to exam revision success

Now I want to share with you some key ideas you need to keep in mind when creating your exam revision plan, but also during your revision.

1. Revise every concept multiple times

The power of revision lies in reviewing each concept multiple times as each review increases your understanding and the amount you’ll be able to recall in your exam. So aim to review every concept once, then go back and focus your time on re-reviewing everything you’re still unsure on.

2. Focus on active learning

Active learning is VITAL for exam success. Passive revision techniques are rereading notes, making posters, creating flashcards of bullet points – anything that doesn’t involve you actively TESTING your knowledge.

Instead you want to focus on active revision techniques: making and taking quizzes, completing practice papers, testing yourself with simple flashcards.

Embrace the discomfort of testing your knowledge so you can actually remember what you learn in your exams…and nab those high grades.

3. Make space in your schedule

After completing step 1 you may realise you haven’t got a lot of ‘free’ time to revise.

Ultimately, you’re going to have to make time if you want to be as prepared as possible for your exam. Look at your schedule and see where you can create space.

Could you take any days off work to boost your revision time?

Could you rearrange any social plans until have your exam, or alter some so they’re shorter or closer to home?

Could your friends or family help out with more housework or with childcare?

Commit to finding some ways to make more space so you can give your exam revision the dedication it deserves.

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  • How to write an essay outline | Guidelines & examples

How to Write an Essay Outline | Guidelines & Examples

Published on August 14, 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on July 23, 2023.

An essay outline is a way of planning the structure of your essay before you start writing. It involves writing quick summary sentences or phrases for every point you will cover in each paragraph , giving you a picture of how your argument will unfold.

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Organizing your material, presentation of the outline, examples of essay outlines, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about essay outlines.

At the stage where you’re writing an essay outline, your ideas are probably still not fully formed. You should know your topic  and have already done some preliminary research to find relevant sources , but now you need to shape your ideas into a structured argument.

Creating categories

Look over any information, quotes and ideas you’ve noted down from your research and consider the central point you want to make in the essay—this will be the basis of your thesis statement . Once you have an idea of your overall argument, you can begin to organize your material in a way that serves that argument.

Try to arrange your material into categories related to different aspects of your argument. If you’re writing about a literary text, you might group your ideas into themes; in a history essay, it might be several key trends or turning points from the period you’re discussing.

Three main themes or subjects is a common structure for essays. Depending on the length of the essay, you could split the themes into three body paragraphs, or three longer sections with several paragraphs covering each theme.

As you create the outline, look critically at your categories and points: Are any of them irrelevant or redundant? Make sure every topic you cover is clearly related to your thesis statement.

Order of information

When you have your material organized into several categories, consider what order they should appear in.

Your essay will always begin and end with an introduction and conclusion , but the organization of the body is up to you.

Consider these questions to order your material:

  • Is there an obvious starting point for your argument?
  • Is there one subject that provides an easy transition into another?
  • Do some points need to be set up by discussing other points first?

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Within each paragraph, you’ll discuss a single idea related to your overall topic or argument, using several points of evidence or analysis to do so.

In your outline, you present these points as a few short numbered sentences or phrases.They can be split into sub-points when more detail is needed.

The template below shows how you might structure an outline for a five-paragraph essay.

  • Thesis statement
  • First piece of evidence
  • Second piece of evidence
  • Summary/synthesis
  • Importance of topic
  • Strong closing statement

You can choose whether to write your outline in full sentences or short phrases. Be consistent in your choice; don’t randomly write some points as full sentences and others as short phrases.

Examples of outlines for different types of essays are presented below: an argumentative, expository, and literary analysis essay.

Argumentative essay outline

This outline is for a short argumentative essay evaluating the internet’s impact on education. It uses short phrases to summarize each point.

Its body is split into three paragraphs, each presenting arguments about a different aspect of the internet’s effects on education.

  • Importance of the internet
  • Concerns about internet use
  • Thesis statement: Internet use a net positive
  • Data exploring this effect
  • Analysis indicating it is overstated
  • Students’ reading levels over time
  • Why this data is questionable
  • Video media
  • Interactive media
  • Speed and simplicity of online research
  • Questions about reliability (transitioning into next topic)
  • Evidence indicating its ubiquity
  • Claims that it discourages engagement with academic writing
  • Evidence that Wikipedia warns students not to cite it
  • Argument that it introduces students to citation
  • Summary of key points
  • Value of digital education for students
  • Need for optimism to embrace advantages of the internet

Expository essay outline

This is the outline for an expository essay describing how the invention of the printing press affected life and politics in Europe.

The paragraphs are still summarized in short phrases here, but individual points are described with full sentences.

  • Claim that the printing press marks the end of the Middle Ages.
  • Provide background on the low levels of literacy before the printing press.
  • Present the thesis statement: The invention of the printing press increased circulation of information in Europe, paving the way for the Reformation.
  • Discuss the very high levels of illiteracy in medieval Europe.
  • Describe how literacy and thus knowledge and education were mainly the domain of religious and political elites.
  • Indicate how this discouraged political and religious change.
  • Describe the invention of the printing press in 1440 by Johannes Gutenberg.
  • Show the implications of the new technology for book production.
  • Describe the rapid spread of the technology and the printing of the Gutenberg Bible.
  • Link to the Reformation.
  • Discuss the trend for translating the Bible into vernacular languages during the years following the printing press’s invention.
  • Describe Luther’s own translation of the Bible during the Reformation.
  • Sketch out the large-scale effects the Reformation would have on religion and politics.
  • Summarize the history described.
  • Stress the significance of the printing press to the events of this period.

Literary analysis essay outline

The literary analysis essay outlined below discusses the role of theater in Jane Austen’s novel Mansfield Park .

The body of the essay is divided into three different themes, each of which is explored through examples from the book.

  • Describe the theatricality of Austen’s works
  • Outline the role theater plays in Mansfield Park
  • Introduce the research question : How does Austen use theater to express the characters’ morality in Mansfield Park ?
  • Discuss Austen’s depiction of the performance at the end of the first volume
  • Discuss how Sir Bertram reacts to the acting scheme
  • Introduce Austen’s use of stage direction–like details during dialogue
  • Explore how these are deployed to show the characters’ self-absorption
  • Discuss Austen’s description of Maria and Julia’s relationship as polite but affectionless
  • Compare Mrs. Norris’s self-conceit as charitable despite her idleness
  • Summarize the three themes: The acting scheme, stage directions, and the performance of morals
  • Answer the research question
  • Indicate areas for further study

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You will sometimes be asked to hand in an essay outline before you start writing your essay . Your supervisor wants to see that you have a clear idea of your structure so that writing will go smoothly.

Even when you do not have to hand it in, writing an essay outline is an important part of the writing process . It’s a good idea to write one (as informally as you like) to clarify your structure for yourself whenever you are working on an essay.

If you have to hand in your essay outline , you may be given specific guidelines stating whether you have to use full sentences. If you’re not sure, ask your supervisor.

When writing an essay outline for yourself, the choice is yours. Some students find it helpful to write out their ideas in full sentences, while others prefer to summarize them in short phrases.

You should try to follow your outline as you write your essay . However, if your ideas change or it becomes clear that your structure could be better, it’s okay to depart from your essay outline . Just make sure you know why you’re doing so.

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What to know about the crisis of violence, politics and hunger engulfing Haiti

A woman carrying two bags of rice walks past burning tires

A long-simmering crisis over Haiti’s ability to govern itself, particularly after a series of natural disasters and an increasingly dire humanitarian emergency, has come to a head in the Caribbean nation, as its de facto president remains stranded in Puerto Rico and its people starve and live in fear of rampant violence. 

The chaos engulfing the country has been bubbling for more than a year, only for it to spill over on the global stage on Monday night, as Haiti’s unpopular prime minister, Ariel Henry, agreed to resign once a transitional government is brokered by other Caribbean nations and parties, including the U.S.

But the very idea of a transitional government brokered not by Haitians but by outsiders is one of the main reasons Haiti, a nation of 11 million, is on the brink, according to humanitarian workers and residents who have called for Haitian-led solutions. 

“What we’re seeing in Haiti has been building since the 2010 earthquake,” said Greg Beckett, an associate professor of anthropology at Western University in Canada. 

Haitians take shelter in the Delmas 4 Olympic Boxing Arena

What is happening in Haiti and why?

In the power vacuum that followed the assassination of democratically elected President Jovenel Moïse in 2021, Henry, who was prime minister under Moïse, assumed power, with the support of several nations, including the U.S. 

When Haiti failed to hold elections multiple times — Henry said it was due to logistical problems or violence — protests rang out against him. By the time Henry announced last year that elections would be postponed again, to 2025, armed groups that were already active in Port-au-Prince, the capital, dialed up the violence.

Even before Moïse’s assassination, these militias and armed groups existed alongside politicians who used them to do their bidding, including everything from intimidating the opposition to collecting votes . With the dwindling of the country’s elected officials, though, many of these rebel forces have engaged in excessively violent acts, and have taken control of at least 80% of the capital, according to a United Nations estimate. 

Those groups, which include paramilitary and former police officers who pose as community leaders, have been responsible for the increase in killings, kidnappings and rapes since Moïse’s death, according to the Uppsala Conflict Data Program at Uppsala University in Sweden. According to a report from the U.N . released in January, more than 8,400 people were killed, injured or kidnapped in 2023, an increase of 122% increase from 2022.

“January and February have been the most violent months in the recent crisis, with thousands of people killed, or injured, or raped,” Beckett said.

Image: Ariel Henry

Armed groups who had been calling for Henry’s resignation have already attacked airports, police stations, sea ports, the Central Bank and the country’s national soccer stadium. The situation reached critical mass earlier this month when the country’s two main prisons were raided , leading to the escape of about 4,000 prisoners. The beleaguered government called a 72-hour state of emergency, including a night-time curfew — but its authority had evaporated by then.

Aside from human-made catastrophes, Haiti still has not fully recovered from the devastating earthquake in 2010 that killed about 220,000 people and left 1.5 million homeless, many of them living in poorly built and exposed housing. More earthquakes, hurricanes and floods have followed, exacerbating efforts to rebuild infrastructure and a sense of national unity.

Since the earthquake, “there have been groups in Haiti trying to control that reconstruction process and the funding, the billions of dollars coming into the country to rebuild it,” said Beckett, who specializes in the Caribbean, particularly Haiti. 

Beckett said that control initially came from politicians and subsequently from armed groups supported by those politicians. Political “parties that controlled the government used the government for corruption to steal that money. We’re seeing the fallout from that.”

Haiti Experiences Surge Of Gang Violence

Many armed groups have formed in recent years claiming to be community groups carrying out essential work in underprivileged neighborhoods, but they have instead been accused of violence, even murder . One of the two main groups, G-9, is led by a former elite police officer, Jimmy Chérizier — also known as “Barbecue” — who has become the public face of the unrest and claimed credit for various attacks on public institutions. He has openly called for Henry to step down and called his campaign an “armed revolution.”

But caught in the crossfire are the residents of Haiti. In just one week, 15,000 people have been displaced from Port-au-Prince, according to a U.N. estimate. But people have been trying to flee the capital for well over a year, with one woman telling NBC News that she is currently hiding in a church with her three children and another family with eight children. The U.N. said about 160,000 people have left Port-au-Prince because of the swell of violence in the last several months. 

Deep poverty and famine are also a serious danger. Gangs have cut off access to the country’s largest port, Autorité Portuaire Nationale, and food could soon become scarce.

Haiti's uncertain future

A new transitional government may dismay the Haitians and their supporters who call for Haitian-led solutions to the crisis. 

But the creation of such a government would come after years of democratic disruption and the crumbling of Haiti’s political leadership. The country hasn’t held an election in eight years. 

Haitian advocates and scholars like Jemima Pierre, a professor at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, say foreign intervention, including from the U.S., is partially to blame for Haiti’s turmoil. The U.S. has routinely sent thousands of troops to Haiti , intervened in its government and supported unpopular leaders like Henry.

“What you have over the last 20 years is the consistent dismantling of the Haitian state,” Pierre said. “What intervention means for Haiti, what it has always meant, is death and destruction.”

Image: Workers unload humanitarian aid from a U.S. helicopter at Les Cayes airport in Haiti, Aug. 18, 2021.

In fact, the country’s situation was so dire that Henry was forced to travel abroad in the hope of securing a U.N. peacekeeping deal. He went to Kenya, which agreed to send 1,000 troops to coordinate an East African and U.N.-backed alliance to help restore order in Haiti, but the plan is now on hold . Kenya agreed last October to send a U.N.-sanctioned security force to Haiti, but Kenya’s courts decided it was unconstitutional. The result has been Haiti fending for itself. 

“A force like Kenya, they don’t speak Kreyòl, they don’t speak French,” Pierre said. “The Kenyan police are known for human rights abuses . So what does it tell us as Haitians that the only thing that you see that we deserve are not schools, not reparations for the cholera the U.N. brought , but more military with the mandate to use all kinds of force on our population? That is unacceptable.”  

Henry was forced to announce his planned resignation from Puerto Rico, as threats of violence — and armed groups taking over the airports — have prevented him from returning to his country.  

An elderly woman runs in front of the damaged police station building with tires burning in front of it

Now that Henry is to stand down, it is far from clear what the armed groups will do or demand next, aside from the right to govern. 

“It’s the Haitian people who know what they’re going through. It’s the Haitian people who are going to take destiny into their own hands. Haitian people will choose who will govern them,” Chérizier said recently, according to The Associated Press .

Haitians and their supporters have put forth their own solutions over the years, holding that foreign intervention routinely ignores the voices and desires of Haitians. 

In 2021, both Haitian and non-Haitian church leaders, women’s rights groups, lawyers, humanitarian workers, the Voodoo Sector and more created the Commission to Search for a Haitian Solution to the Crisis . The commission has proposed the “ Montana Accord ,” outlining a two-year interim government with oversight committees tasked with restoring order, eradicating corruption and establishing fair elections. 

For more from NBC BLK, sign up for our weekly newsletter .

CORRECTION (March 15, 2024, 9:58 a.m. ET): An earlier version of this article misstated which university Jemima Pierre is affiliated with. She is a professor at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, not the University of California, Los Angeles, (or Columbia University, as an earlier correction misstated).

what is a revision plan for an essay

Patrick Smith is a London-based editor and reporter for NBC News Digital.

what is a revision plan for an essay

Char Adams is a reporter for NBC BLK who writes about race.

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MacKenzie Scott donates $640 million, more than doubling her planned gifts to nonprofit applicants

FILE - Billionaire philanthropist MacKenzie Scott arrives at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party, March 4, 2018, in Beverly Hills, Calif. Scott announced Tuesday, March 19, 2024 she would give $640 million to more than 360 organizations in response to an application process she launched last year. The award is more than double the amount that she initially promised in an “open call” for applications. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)

FILE - Billionaire philanthropist MacKenzie Scott arrives at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party, March 4, 2018, in Beverly Hills, Calif. Scott announced Tuesday, March 19, 2024 she would give $640 million to more than 360 organizations in response to an application process she launched last year. The award is more than double the amount that she initially promised in an “open call” for applications. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)

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Billionaire philanthropist and author MacKenzie Scott announced Tuesday she is giving $640 million to 361 small nonprofits that responded to an open call for applications.

Yield Giving’s first round of donations is more than double what Scott had initially pledged to give away through the application process. Since she began giving away billions in 2019 , Scott and her team have researched and selected organizations without an application process and provided them with large, unrestricted gifts.

In a brief note on her website, Scott wrote she was grateful to Lever for Change, the organization that managed the open call, and the evaluators for “their roles in creating this pathway to support for people working to improve access to foundational resources in their communities. They are vital agents of change.”

The increase in both the award amount and the number of organizations who were selected is “a pleasant surprise,” said Elisha Smith Arrillaga, vice president at The Center for Effective Philanthropy. She is interested to learn more about the applicants’ experience of the process and whether Scott continues to use this process going forward.

Some 6,353 nonprofits applied to the $1 million grants when applications opened.

Nicole Shanahan waves from the podium during a campaign event for Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Tuesday, March 26, 2024, in Oakland, Calif. Shanahan has been picked as Kennedy Jr.'s running mate. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

“The donor team decided to expand the awardee pool and the award amount,” said Lever for Change, which specializes in running philanthropic prize awards.

The 279 nonprofits that received top scores from an external review panel were awarded $2 million, while 82 organizations in a second tier received $1 million each.

Competitions like Scott’s open call can help organizations who do not have connections with a specific funder get considered, said Renee Karibi-Whyte, senior vice president, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.

“One of the best things about prize philanthropy is that it surfaces people and organizations and institutions that otherwise wouldn’t have access to the people in the power centers and the funding,” she said. Her organization also advises funders who run competitive grants or philanthropic prize competitions to phase the application to diminish the burden of applying on any organization that is eliminated early.

Megan Peterson, executive director of the Minnesota-based nonprofit, Gender Justice, said the application was a rare opportunity to get noticed by Scott.

“Having seen the types of work that she has supported in the past, we did feel like, ‘Oh, if only she knew that we were out here racking up wins,’” said Peterson.

Her organization has won lawsuits recently around access to emergency contraception and the rights of trans youth to play sports. They plan to use the funds to expand their work into North Dakota. Peterson said the funds must be used for tax exempt purposes but otherwise come with no restrictions or reporting requirements — just like Scott’s previous grants.

“I think she’s really helping to set a new path for philanthropy broadly, which is with that philosophy of: Find people doing good work and give them resources and then get out of the way,” Peterson said of Scott. “I am grateful for not just the support individually, but the way in which I think she is having an impact on philanthropy broadly.”

The open call asked for applications from nonprofits who are community-led with missions “to advance the voices and opportunities of individuals and families of meager or modest means,” Yield Giving said on its website. Only nonprofits with annual budgets between $1 and $5 million were eligible to apply.

The awardees were selected through a multilayer process, where applicants scored fellow applicants and then the top organizations were reviewed by a panel of outside experts.

Scott has given away $16.5 billion from the fortune she came into after divorcing Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. Initially, she publicized the gifts in online blog posts, sometimes naming the organizations and sometimes not. She launched a database of her giving in December 2022, under the name Yield Giving.

In an essay reflecting on the website , she wrote, “Information from other people – other givers, my team, the nonprofit teams I’ve been giving to – has been enormously helpful to me. If more information about these gifts can be helpful to anyone, I want to share it.”

Smith Arrillaga, of CEP, said it was important that Scott is, “continuing to honor her commitment in terms of giving away her wealth, even though she’s thinking, changing and tweaking the ‘how’ of how it’s done and she’s still trying to go with the spirit of what she committed to.”

Associated Press coverage of philanthropy and nonprofits receives support through the AP’s collaboration with The Conversation US, with funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. The AP is solely responsible for this content. For all of AP’s philanthropy coverage, visit .

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Guest Essay

New York’s Subway Is Still Not Safe, but Not for the Reason You Think

A cartoonlike illustration of a woman with a small child in a stroller navigating a maze of floating staircases.

By Julie Kim

Ms. Kim is a writer who lives in Brooklyn.

A few months before Gov. Kathy Hochul ordered some 1,000 members of the state police and National Guard to patrol New York City’s subway system in response to a string of violent attacks, some of them deadly, I had an unsafe subway experience of my own. It didn’t involve crime — unless you’d call the system’s shameful lack of elevators and accessible stations criminal.

An infection in my 10-year-old son’s leg required us to make regular trips from our Brooklyn home to a hospital on East 71st Street in Manhattan. He had been getting around on crutches, but these trips were long, so, much to his embarrassment, I loaded him into his younger sister’s stroller and wheeled him to the nearest accessible subway station, at Atlantic Avenue.

On a good day, it takes three elevator rides to get from street to platform. We entered the first, a dirty green box tacked onto the side of a warehouse, then wheeled to and entered the second, another metal box reeking of urine and industrial cleaning fumes. When we finally got to the third, we discovered it was out of service.

Before I knew it, my son had stood up on his one good leg and, without his crutches, hopped down several steps, around a corner and down a few more. I followed him to the bottom of the stairs, carrying the empty stroller, where he waited, teetering in the center of the narrow platform. I scooped him back into the stroller and stayed put, not daring to further navigate the treacherous strip between the broken elevator and the tracks. We’d made it to the platform safely, but our trip involved far more danger than we expected.

There was a political logic to Ms. Hochul’s decision to deploy troops; it was a response to heightened safety fears among subway riders and workers. When citizens feel unsafe, politicians and city officials tend to act fast to quell those fears. To explain the sudden presence of soldiers in the subway, she described subway crime as “not statistically significant but psychologically significant.”

For millions of commuters, the current state of the system is an urgent safety matter, too. Nearly three-quarters of the city’s 472 stations don’t have elevators, leaving millions of New Yorkers — including older people, the disabled and caregivers with young children — with no choice but to avoid the subway altogether. This issue affects far more New Yorkers than does violent crime, but it is treated much less urgently. The number of New Yorkers age 65 and older has increased by 40 percent since 2000, already surpassing the Bloomberg administration’s projection of 1.35 million by 2030. More than 500,000 New Yorkers have a temporary or permanent disability that makes it difficult for them to walk.

The dangers caused by our broken, inaccessible transportation system are very real, but they don’t often make headlines, perhaps in part because they are hard to measure — an unreported tumble on the subway stairs, the monetary, physical or psychic toll of delayed or canceled trips, errands left undone or the exhausting, harrowing and sometimes painful trials faced by vulnerable commuters. Our family has felt some of these costs: I haven’t taken the subway with my 6-year-old daughter, who has permanent disabilities that require her to use a wheelchair or a stroller every day, for nearly three years. The last time I carried her down the stairs leading to an inaccessible station, I felt something pop in my back. My response has been to avoid riding the subway with her. But the effects of this poorly maintained system affect a broad range of New Yorkers, far beyond those who use wheelchairs.

The lack of elevators in the subway system is not just a matter of the city meeting a legal obligation to make public spaces accessible. It is also a safety issue that should be treated with the same urgency as crime, if not more.

It’s true that state and city officials are working — albeit defensively and slowly — to fix the subway’s accessibility problem. To settle two class-action lawsuits, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority agreed in 2022 to spend billions of dollars to bring 95 percent of stations into compliance with accessibility and safety standards of the federal Americans With Disabilities Act — by 2055. The agency’s plan is crawling along at a pace of roughly 10 station upgrades per year; occasionally, a project gets bolstered by an infusion of federal funds.

In the meantime, older riders are walking backward down stairs into stations; disabled residents who cannot enter stations without an elevator are relegated to inefficient buses or a paratransit ride-share service known for its hourslong trips and leaving passengers stranded . Caregivers of children and adults with mobility limitations risk injury or keep their orbits small.

New Yorkers are all the more impatient for the M.T.A. to fix this because we’ve seen how quickly and effectively officials can act when there’s political will behind fixing a problem — Governor Hochul’s quick mobilization of troops and officers is a case in point. And we’ve seen what can happen when the system works.

When my son and I got off at the Q station on East 72nd Street in Manhattan, it was like entering another world. It was my first time there since it opened in 2017 as part of the century-long Second Avenue subway expansion. The train doors opened onto a spacious and well-lit platform. I paused in the center to get my bearings: We were far underground, yet the space felt open and airy. The Q train had delivered us directly into an accessible waiting area, in front of the entrance to a steel-and-glass elevator with grab bars and generous clearance on all sides — margins wide enough for a person using a wheelchair, stroller, crutches, cane or walker to safely pass or for someone to hold a (small) dance party. We boarded with a delivery person and his bicycle, and the inside smelled as it should, like nothing. Up on the mezzanine, a Taylor Swift song played softly over the speakers.

My son looked up from his book. “Where are we?” he asked. We made our way to the turnstiles; the station agent saw us coming and activated the automatic emergency gate. Passing through it, I stood taller, like royalty. A short, wide corridor led to the elevators — five of them in a row — the station’s crown jewels. We waited alongside others — older couples, AirPodded commuters, the delivery person and his bike. Within seconds, three elevators arrived. We scurried into one of them with two other people; the lucky delivery person got his own.

The door closed, and we were lifted gently up to the street, a ride that any New Yorker or visitor would have appreciated and that should not have felt so precious.

Julie Kim is a writer living in Brooklyn and working on a book about everyday acts of inclusion.

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    Revised on December 8, 2023. Revision and editing are essential to make your college essay the best it can be. When you've finished your draft, first focus on big-picture issues like the overall narrative and clarity of your essay. Then, check your style and tone. You can do this for free with a paraphrasing tool.

  9. Academic Revising 101: The Essential Essay Revision Checklist

    Revising the Organization of an Essay. Essays are organized into 3 basic parts: the introduction, body, and conclusion. The introduction has a hook, overview of the topic or description of the situation, and the thesis statement. The body contains the ideas and details that support the thesis statement. It's the heart of your essay content.

  10. The Writing Center

    Why Revise. To make the draft more accessible to the reader. To sharpen and clarify the focus and argument. To improve and further develop ideas. Revision VS. Editing. Revising a piece of your own writing is more than just fixing errors—that's editing. Revision happens before editing. Revising involves re-seeing your essay from the eyes of a ...

  11. Revision

    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 ...

  12. Working Through Revision: Rethink, Revise, Reflect

    Polished texts tend to undergo both revision and editing at various stages of the writing process. Five Steps for Making Substantive but Manageable Revisions. Step 1: Ask for Feedback. Step 3: Translate Feedback into a Concrete Revision Plan. Step 4: Make Changes. Step 5: Reflect on the Changes You've Made.

  13. Revising and Editing

    A successful revision process should involve: Adding and deleting ideas extensively. Rearranging ideas, paragraphs, sentences, phrases, and words. Rewriting paragraphs and sentences for more variety, better flow, and more precise word choices. Keep in mind that successful revision is rarely accomplished quickly and easily. It is typical that ...

  14. How to Revise an Essay and Make It Better Than Ever

    Revision tip #3: Check the content of your essay first. When people think of revision, they often think of correcting spelling errors, typos, and other grammatical errors. Though these are all part of the revision process, there's more to revision than just changing some punctuation or moving around a few words.

  15. Creating Revision Plans and Revision Memos: Moving from feedback, to

    A revision plan provides an early indication about what the writer intends to do, and is useful if an instructor wants to examine the students' revision process. Students who are experienced with revising their writing may resist what appears to be an extra step. Still, it can confirm how students make decisions about what to change.

  16. Guidelines for Revising a Composition

    Guidelines for Revising a Composition. 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.

  17. 3 Steps for Creating an Effective Revision Plan

    In this article, we'll look at three tips for creating an effective yet flexible revision plan such as, scoping your subject, understanding exam requirements, and implementing retrospective revision timetables. Amirah Khan. March 29, 2022. ... For an essay-based exam, your ability to craft a well-written and critical argument under a time ...

  18. Revision: Revising an Essay During the Writing Process

    Definition. In composition, revision is the process of rereading a text and making changes (in content, organization, sentence structures, and word choice) to improve it. During the revision stage of the writing process, writers may add, remove, move and substitute text (the ARMS treatment). " [T]hey have opportunities to think about whether ...

  19. PDF Planning, Drafting, and Revising an Effective Essay I. Planning

    II. Drafting. A. Draft your essay, using your plan as a guide, but making changes if needed . B. Focus on getting the ideas down; do not slow the process down too much by being overly critical and constantly revising while drafting. III. Revising . A. Allow enough time for revision, and allow some time between the drafting and revising. B. Focus on global issues first—those issues that are ...

  20. Revising an Argumentative Paper

    Download this Handout PDF Introduction You've written a full draft of an argumentative paper. You've figured out what you're generally saying and have put together one way to say it. But you're not done. The best writing is revised writing, and you want to re-view, re-see, re-consider your argument to make sure that it's as…

  21. 5 Steps to Creating an Effective Exam Revision Plan

    Instead you want to focus on active revision techniques: making and taking quizzes, completing practice papers, testing yourself with simple flashcards. Embrace the discomfort of testing your knowledge so you can actually remember what you learn in your exams…and nab those high grades. 3. Make space in your schedule.

  22. How to Write an Essay Outline

    An essay outline is a way of planning the structure of your essay before you start writing. It involves writing quick summary sentences or phrases for every point you will cover in each paragraph, giving you a picture of how your argument will unfold. You'll sometimes be asked to submit an essay outline as a separate assignment before you ...

  23. The Haiti crisis, explained: Violence, hunger and unstable political

    Chaos has gutted Port-au-Prince and Haiti's government, a crisis brought on by decades of political disruption, a series of natural disasters and a power vacuum left by the president's assassination.

  24. PDF City of Ann Arbor, Michigan

    NOTICE: Final Plan Revision for Traffic Calming on Manchester Rd (Buckingham to Needham) Dear Manchester RoadResident/Owner, Thank you for your participation and i nvolvement in the Manchester Traffic Calming Project. The final plan was approved in September 2023 and your pateince with the installation of devices has been greatly appreciated.

  25. MacKenzie Scott donates $640 million to nonprofits

    Updated 10:49 AM PDT, March 20, 2024. Billionaire philanthropist and author MacKenzie Scott announced Tuesday she is giving $640 million to 361 small nonprofits that responded to an open call for applications. Yield Giving's first round of donations is more than double what Scott had initially pledged to give away through the application process.

  26. Opinion

    There was a political logic to Ms. Hochul's decision to deploy troops; it was a response to heightened safety fears among subway riders and workers.