Thompson Rivers University

10 Tips for Revising your Writing

  Posted on: July 28, 2016


By Jessica Messerer-Trosin

Revising your paper is essential if you want to get a good grade. To ensure success, give yourself enough time between writing your first draft and the due date.

Masters in English provides “10 Tremendous Tips for Editing and Revising Your Writing”:

  1.  Let it breathe – You need to leave your first draft alone for a while before you begin your revisions. You’ll be less sensitive about critiquing your own work, and you may discover new creative ideas.
  2. Revise global, then local – Start by looking at the big ideas of your paper first rather than the details within the sentences. Do they make sense? Do they support your thesis? Are they fully developed and do they have the sources to back them up?
  3. Ask questions designed to elicit a new perspective – Put yourself in the place of a reader who has no idea about the topic of the paper or the sources that you used. Would they be able to understand it? Are all the proper connections made? Does the paper make a coherent argument? Would more sources strengthen the argument? Is there resolution?
  4. Get feedback – Take your work to a tutor at the Writing Centre, or ask your professor (or a peer) for feedback before the assignment is due. Another set of eyes on your work may notice something that you missed.
  5. Expand your resources – The research you did for your first draft might not be enough. While reading your paper think about whether having another source would add to the credibility of your argument or make it easier to understand. First hand interviews with experts in the field could also provide you with valuable information, depending on the topic of your paper.
  6. Work on bite-sized pieces – Revising your paper could seem like a big task if you have 20 pages ahead of you. Instead, approach it in smaller pieces – tell yourself that you will take a look at the first four pages today, and four more tomorrow.
  7. Educate yourself – As you do your revisions, there will be certain things you will have to research. Try to learn these things as you go through them – it could save you time on your next assignment. This could include things like committing some citation style guidelines to memory, or learning punctuation rules, or expanding your vocabulary through the use of a thesaurus.
  8. Kill your darlings – This can be a difficult step in revision, but it is an important one. Sometimes you will have spent a lot of time crafting the perfect sentence, but when you go back to look at it again later, you realize that it doesn’t really add anything to your paper.
  9. Tighten the language – Say what you mean to say, but don’t use unnecessary words. If something can be said in a more clear way in eight words rather than in 12, use the shorter version.
  10. Use precise language — Use verbs and nouns that are specific rather than vague.
  11. Create a catchy title – Come up with a title that will draw the reader in. But avoid abstractions or clichés.

Lastly, there is a difference between revision, editing, and proofreading.

Revision refers to the refining and clarification of ideas and the overall structure. Editing is fixing grammar and the syntax of your paper – does it say what you actually mean? Proofreading is when you do a final spellcheck and fix your punctuation. These three things should be done in the order they are here. After all, a paper won’t be successful if the ideas aren’t there, even if everything is spelled correctly.

Good luck with your revisions!


Image source: