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Revising Your Paper with a Checklist

Revising Your Paper with a Checklist

Author: Rebecca Oberg

This learning packet should:
-Use a checklist to check for errors in: spelling and mechanics, grammar, clarity, purpose and focus, and style and tone as appropriate to the chosen audience.
-Provide general information about revision in the writing process.

Revision is often a tough concept for students, who often have a negative attitude about the process. By showing a wide range of audiovisual clips, informative slide show presentations, and relevant text, learners can begin to see the value of revision as a key component in the writing process. Key terms are defined, examples are provided, and checklists are offered as a major component in building student confidence in revision.

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Revision and Editing: A Closer Look

This slide show presentation offers a thorough look at some easy-to-implement tips for revision and editing. Keep in mind that revision focuses on the quality of content and ideas, and editing for grammar and mechanics always comes after revising (or re-"seeing") ideas and more abstract aspects of writing.

Source: See slide show presentation for citation.

Revision: A Basic Overview

This simple clip offers some basic advice for revision, giving learners a quick place to start. Emphasis is placed on putting some time between writing that first draft and revising--getting some distance is a great help in the successful writing process.

Source: YouTube

Revision Checklist: A Basic Place To Start

This slide show presentation offers a basic checklist (a great place to start) for revision. Though other lists may be more detailed, this provides a simple, concise list for taking a second look at your writing. The presentation also offers a list of basic editing/proof-reading symbols.

Revision Checklist


Never think that what you've written can't be improved. You should always try to make the sentence that much better and make a scene that much clearer. Go over and over the words and reshape them as many times as is needed.

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.

Revising is an opportunity to reconsider our topic, our readers, even our purpose for writing. Taking the time to rethink our approach may encourage us to make major changes in the content and structure of our work.

We should keep in mind that revising involves much more than just correcting errors in grammar, spelling, and punctuation. You shouldn't waste time carefully editing a paper that you haven't revised at all. Because you may end up discarding entire sentences and paragraphs, evaluate what you have written before you try to fix it.

As a general rule, the best time to revise is not right after you've completed a draft (although at times this is unavoidable). Instead, wait a few hours--even a day or two, if possible--in order to gain some distance from your work. This way you'll be less protective of your writing and better prepared to make changes.

One last bit of advice: read your work aloud when you revise. You may hear problems in your writing that you can't see.

Revision Checklist

  1. Does the essay have a clear and concise main idea? Is this idea made clear to the reader in a thesis statement early in the essay (usually in the introduction)?
  2. Does the essay have a specific purpose (such as to inform, entertain, evaluate, or persuade)? Have you made this purpose clear to the reader?
  3. Does the introduction create interest in the topic and make your audience want to read on?
  4. Is there a clear plan and sense of organization to the essay? Does each paragraph develop logically from the previous one?
  5. Is each paragraph clearly related to the main idea of the essay? Is there enough information in the essay to support the main idea?
  6. Is the main point of each paragraph clear? Is each point adequately and clearly defined in a topic sentence and supported with specific details?
  7. Are there clear transitions from one paragraph to the next? Have key words and ideas been given proper emphasis in the sentences and paragraphs?
  8. Are the sentences clear and direct? Can they be understood on the first reading? Are the sentences varied in length and structure? Could any sentences be improved by combining or restructuring them?
  9. Are the words in the essay clear and precise? Does the essay maintain a consistent tone?
  10. Does the essay have an effective conclusion--one that emphasizes the main idea and provides a sense of completeness?

Once you have finished revising your essay, you can turn your attention to the finer details of editing and proofreading your work.

Revision Beyond Pen and Paper

This interesting clip shows how the concept of revision and of re-visiting initial work is a relevant skill outside of English class. By seeing how a broad range of professionals revise in their own careers, learners can perhaps see the value of practicing revision in their own written pieces.

Source: YouTube

What Do Writers Say About Revising?


Here are some quotations from well-known authors and writers about the act of revising. Get inspired!


Interviewer:How much rewriting do you do?

Hemingway:It depends. I rewrote the ending of Farewell to Arms, the last page of it, 39 times before I was satisfied.

Interviewer:Was there some technical problem there? What was it that had stumped you?

Hemingway:Getting the words right.

(Ernest Hemingway, "The Art of Fiction," The Paris Review Interview, 1956)


"The pleasure is the rewriting." –Joyce Carol Oates


The main thing I try to do is write as clearly as I can. I rewrite a good deal to make it clear.
(E.B. White, The New York Times, August 3, 1942)


There's no reason you shouldn't, as a writer, not be aware of the necessity to revise yourself constantly. More than a half, maybe as much as two-thirds of my life as a writer is rewriting. I wouldn't say I have a talent that's special. It strikes me that I have an unusual kind of stamina. I can rewrite sentences over and over again, and I do. . . . 

And I think what I've always recognized about writing is that I don't put much value in so-called inspiration. The value is in how many times you can redo something.
(John Irving, National Book Award Interview, June 3, 2005)


If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.
(Elmore Leonard, Newsweek, April 22, 1985)


I have rewritten--often several times--every word I have ever published. My pencils outlast their erasers."
(Vladimir Nabokov, Speak, Memory, Random House, 1966)


I'm all for the scissors. I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil.
(Truman Capote in Conversations With Capote, by Lawrence Grobel, New American Library, 1985)


I would write a book, or a short story, at least three times--once to understand it, the second time to improve the prose, and a third to compel it to say what it still must say.
Somewhere I put it this way: first drafts are for learning what one's fiction wants him to say. Revision works with that knowledge to enlarge and enhance an idea, to reform it. Revision is one of the exquisite pleasures of writing.
(Bernard Malamud, "Long Work, Short Life," quoted in The Magic Worlds of Bernard Malamud, by Evelyn Gross Avery, SUNY Press, 2001)


To be a writer is to sit down at one's desk in the chill portion of every day, and to write; not waiting for the little jet of the blue flame of genius to start from the breastbone--just plain going at it, in pain and delight. To be a writer is to throw away a great deal, not to be satisfied, to type again, and then again and once more, and over and over. It is to ring changes, not repeat, not fall onto a dead center.
(John Hersey, quoted in The Craft of Revision, by Donald Murray, Harcourt Brace, 1991)