Revision is a process of re-visioning (i.e., looking at again) and rethinking a written work. During revision, writers reassess the structure, ideas, and support of their work. There are several ways to revise, all of which involve keeping the "big picture" of the writing project in mind. Some strategies work better for some writers than others, but all writers must remain open to new techniques. Revision strategies can be especially helpful to beginning writers, writers working in a new genre, and those who are experiencing writer's block.
As you work through the writing process, you'll learn which of these strategies work best for you. Approach each strategy with an open mind. All of them can help you to improve a draft, and to overcome writer's block.
The first strategy is simple: give yourself enough time between drafts (or deadlines) to revise. You'll see your work more clearly — the good and the bad — when you're not rushed. A day or two of revision is ideal, but even a few hours away from your project will enable you to see your work as readers will see it. This is a valuable perspective to have when optimizing your draft.
You can also distance yourself from your work by reading it out loud. Writers sometimes overlook mistakes and problem areas when reading silently. It's probably safe to say that everyone is more experienced as a listener than as a reader. Take advantage of your ears' experience with language to identify words, sentences and paragraphs that don't flow as well as they could, or should.
Another effective revision strategy is to ask questions about the draft. For example, it can be helpful to ask "Do I still agree with my thesis?" It's not uncommon for a writer's opinion to change during the writing process. One of the worst mistakes a writer can make is to argue for something that he or she no longer believes.
You can also ask yourself whether you've provided enough support for your thesis. Should you change your thesis to better align it with supporting information or vice versa? You should also ask questions about the rest of your work, including the broad requirements and purposes of the writing project. Following are examples of good revision questions:
Many experienced writers revise their drafts, especially later drafts, using paper copies. Like reading out loud, revising on paper sometimes enables you to view your work from a different perspective, and from a critical distance. You might see the "big picture" better on paper than you did on the screen.
Paper copies can enable you to understand how ideas, proposals and positions you've included in your draft do (or do not) fit together. It's also easier for most writers to jot down ideas, notes, and comments on a piece of paper than with a word processing application. The use of paper copies enables writers (especially beginning writers) to separate the revision and drafting steps of the writing process.
You can often discover weaknesses in your arguments by rewriting (or verbally stating) the main ideas of your essay. By writing out your ideas, or telling them to another person, you may find a different way to phrase your thesis, for example. You may also notice small things (important small things) that you would not have detected otherwise.
Source: Adapted from Sophia Instructor Gavin McCall