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Revision Strategies

Revision Strategies

Author: Gavin McCall

This lesson goes over some strategies for revising a whole essay.

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Welcome to English Composition. I'm Gavin McCall. Thanks for joining me. What are we going to learn today? We'll be learning about revision strategies, including planning out the time it takes to revise, reading drafts allowed to rely on the ear's experience, asking questions of the thesis and other parts of the essay, and revising on a physical paper copy of the text, as well as summarizing.

As we'll remember, revision is the process of looking again or revisioning and rethinking an essay including the structure, ideas, and support. There are several ways to go about this, all of which involve keeping the big picture of the writing project in mind. Of course, writers find that some strategies work better for them than others, but they should still remain open to new techniques, particularly if there are new to writing or writing in a new genre or if they're feeling blocked in the writing process.

During your own writing process, you'll no doubt find out which of these are other strategies will work best for you, but take a look at each of these with an open mind. Each has something to offer any writer and each can help with both preventing writer's block and getting the most out of your next draft.

The first strategy we'll cover is deceptively simple. It entails nothing more or less than giving yourself enough time between drafts or between deadlines to revise effectively. Of course, this is easier said than done as every writer and every writing project has different needs. Still, it's absolutely critical that you give yourself enough time to see your work more clearly, the good and the bad and with enough distance. Ideally, there should be at least a day or two, but even a few hours spent doing anything but working on the project will help you cleanse your palate and enable you to approach your work with something like the perspective your readers will, which is a very good thing.

Another strategy that experienced writers often do involves reading the work out loud. This is another way to provide a little distance between you and your writing as we often tend to overlook mistakes and problematic areas when reading to ourselves, but taking advantage of the ear's greater experience with language can help identify sentences, words, and even paragraphs that don't flow as well as they could. We're all more experienced listeners than we are readers, so it makes sense that reading out loud would help especially when we need the razor-sharp focus required for revision.

Another effective strategy for revision is to ask questions on the draft we're looking at. Many questions are about or directed to the thesis. We can ask, do I still agree with my thesis? It's not uncommon for our opinions to change during the writing process after all and one of the worst mistakes a writer can make is to allow him or herself through laziness or stubbornness to argue for something that he or she doesn't believe in anymore.

We can ask ourselves whether we're supporting our thesis enough. Should it be changed to better reflect the ideas in support of my essay or vice versa? We can and probably should also ask questions for the rest of the essay including the broader requirements and purposes behind the writing project.

Am I fulfilling the requirements for the assignment on a conceptual level as opposed to just a formatting, technical level? Is my tone voice, word choice and syntax appropriate? How will my audience react to this draft and what can or should I do to change that reaction? Have I ignored any counterarguments that should be addressed?

Another strategy that many experienced writers use is printing their drafts especially later drafts out into hard copies and revising them on paper. Just like reading out loud, changing the physical format of our drafts can sometimes provide us with just enough of a different perspective to see our work with a critical distance allowing us to see the big picture better. Paper copies can also make it easier to see how the various ideas and points in the essay do or do not fit together. And it's easier to jot down ideas, notes, and comments on a piece of paper without getting distracted by our ability to actually make those changes with a word processor. Essentially this helps to separate the revision and drafting steps of the writing process, which, especially for beginning writers, can be very important.

The last strategy we'll talk about is a simple one, but it's one of the most effective and neglected ways for beginning writers to revise their work. It entails nothing more than briefly rewriting or verbally expressing the main ideas of your essay. By either writing it out yourself or telling another person, we can often discover weaknesses in our arguments or perhaps even find a different approach or simply another way to state the thesis, little hugely important things that we might never have found otherwise. This strategy is particularly effective when it's combined with the other techniques we've covered or any of the multitude you'll discover on your own.

So what have we learned today? We learned a lot, all about revision strategies, including giving yourself time between drafting and revision, reading drafts out loud, asking questions of our theses and assignments, revising on paper, and summarizing our main points and ideas. I'm Gavin McCall. Thanks for joining me.