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Revising, Editing and Proofreading
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Revising, Editing and Proofreading

Revising, Editing and Proofreading

Author: Martina Shabram

Differentiate between the revising, editing, and proofreading stages of the writing process.

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Revising, Editing, and Proofreading

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Hello, students. My name is Dr. Martina Shabram. And I will be your instructor for today's lesson. I'm genuinely excited to teach you these concepts. So let's get started.

What will we practice today? This lesson is about what happens after you've written a draft. We'll practice revising, editing, and proofreading so that we know what each step looks like and how they each contribute to creating a successful finished draft.

Let's start by reminding ourselves that writing is a process not a product. For every finished, polished, solid essay, there were multiple drafts that developed towards that finished piece. And those drafts are necessary for that final piece. So we can't skip any of those steps and still hope to have a successful final version.

So what are those steps? Well, let's say you finish a draft, what now? You'll need to revise, edit, and proofread. Now these steps might sound similar, but they're actually distinct parts of the process. And separating them let's us focus on each individual element carefully.

When we draft, we're generating content for the essay. That's the first step. Then revision is the process of re-visioning an essay or other writing project. So that's where we get to think carefully about the big ideas and how they work in service of our essays main point.

Then we work and editing, which is improving the sentences, word choices, and overall style of an essay or other piece of writing. This is where we focus on making the clearest presentation of our big ideas using carefully selected language. And finally, we get to proofread, where we're fixing grammar, mechanics, punctuation, and formatting errors in an essay or other piece of writing and therefore making sure that there are no remaining errors that inhibit our readers ability to understand our argument.

So each of these steps is part of the same process, improving our writing. And because writing is a recursive project, you might find yourself doing multiple rounds of drafting, revising, editing, and proofreading. Similarly, you need not artificially separate these steps.

If while editing the big ideas you notice a typo, go ahead and fix it. And if while doing final proofreading you discover that you'd rather phrase something differently than you originally had, go ahead and rewrite that spot. You can and probably should be comfortable working through these steps as much as your essay needs.

So why should we work through the steps? Why should we care about these stages at all? I know the feeling. You've spent time and energy writing the essay and now you just want to be done with it, but here's the secret. Revising, editing, and proofreading will make all the work you did researching, organizing, and drafting worth it.

The more work you do after your draft, the better your essay will be. And if you don't do any of that work, well, then you might have wasted all of that writing you did in the first place. An essay that's turned in with errors that could have been fixed through editing, revising, or proofreading can cause you to lose credibility with your reader.

Do you trust an argument when you read it and find glaring typos? If an author can't be bothered to proofread, how much do you trust that author to have done careful trustworthy research? So you're whole purpose for writing the paper might be lost if your paper has poor organization, no clear focus, not enough supporting evidence, broad, vague language, unclear word choice, or choppy sentences, or errors in the mechanics and grammar of the writing.

So think about these final stages as the quality control of your writing process. Just as a car company has quality assurance, checking each car that comes out of the factory to make sure that it has all the necessary parts, runs correctly, and has a clean paint job, so too should you check your essay to make sure that none of its tires is going to blow off as soon as it gets the highway. So what first?

Well, the first stop on the quality assurance conveyor belt should be revision. This is a different stage than editing, which we'll look at the sentences themselves to assess how well they articulate the argument. And likewise, it's different than proofreading, where you'll check your writing to make sure that it follows the rules. There's no sense in doing those two steps, editing and proofreading, if you're going to take out, add in, or otherwise change all those sentences themselves.

Revising is the stage when you think about the big picture of your arguments, assessing your overall argumentation, support, evidence, assertions, et cetera. In this step, you might add in relevant details that you missed the first time through, take out irrelevant content that you now realize doesn't really help your argument, reorder the body paragraphs to change the way your reader works through the argument, research if you find that your argument needs more support for evidence to back up your claims, and rethink the thesis statement if it no longer matches your argument, and then rewrite your introduction and conclusion to reflect those changes. I usually revise by printing out a draft and writing on it with red pen. I sometimes do a reverse outline or look through how each paragraph contributes to the thesis, but you can do this on paper or on your computer.

Here's what it might look like as you cut, add, move, and change around your writing. So once you've revised and have to draft that you're share contains all the info that you want and no info that you don't want, you're ready to edit to make sure that the sentences are pulling their weight. In revising, you've been focusing on reseeing and rethinking the whole arguments ideas, support, an organization.

Here you're going to zoom in a little more closely just looking at how those ideas are expressed in language. So this is where you get to think about how your words are working, making sure that they mean what you intend, and match the overall tone you want. This is where you assess how your transitions connect ideas in sentences and paragraphs to make a smooth flow of ideas.

So you want to look for all the elements of style, clarity of ideas, uses precise language, effective word choice, sentence variety, and complete sentences. In editing, you might check to see if you're repeating your ideas or including redundant information, replace any words that are vague or imprecise with stronger ones that strike the right tone and create vivid impressions, add in or change up your transitions so that you're connecting ideas into sentences and paragraphs intelligently and clearly, and check that all of your sentences are complete and that you use a variety sentence lengths and structures. So here's our revised paragraph from before.

Now that we're ready to edit the language, we can maybe make this spot more evocative. And this portion here, let's change up the sentence a little to add in some more variety. Those kinds of changes, they're all editing requires.

OK, final stop. You've got to do a final check to make sure that everything in your essay is where it should be and how it should be. Here is where you zoom in your closest to check for the smallest errors in grammar and mechanics. This is separate from revision and editing, because here is where we're making sure that this text is ready for prime time. We're not adding anything new or fundamentally changing the way things are expressed. We're just making sure everything is clean, and correct.

Now remember, what is writing, a process or a product? A process. You knew I was going to say that. So you might notice something to revise or edit while you're proofreading. That's fine. Go ahead and fix any issues that you notice, but do focus on the small nitty-gritty details of grammar and mechanics.

When we proofread, we should look for typographical errors-- which we usually call typos-- grammatical errors-- like when we shift verb tense or make errors in plurality or pronoun agreements-- spelling errors, punctuation errors, capitalization errors, and any other basic formatting issues, such as indented paragraphs, double spacing, margins, font type. So how do we zoom in so close? One method is to enlarge the font on your screen to at least 20 points so that you can see some errors that might have otherwise been hiding in the fine print.

Let's try that with a portion of our sample. Once we zoom in, we notice that word is not spelled right. So we can fix that. And here I see an access comma that we don't need. So we can delete that. Now our essay is ready to be seen by the world.

So what did we learn today? This lesson broke down the difference between revision, editing, and proofreading. We thought about why these stages are so important, how to complete each of them, and how each is part of the messy, recursive process of developing a piece of writing. Well, students, I hope you had as much fun as I did. Thank you.

Terms to Know

Improving the sentences, word choices, and overall style of an essay or other piece of writing.


Fixing grammar, mechanics, punctuation, and formatting errors in an essay or other piece of writing.


The process of re-visioning an essay or other writing project.