Online Writing Lab


Once a writer has completed the writing portion of an essay, it is often considered to be done.  However, no one, even a professional writer, writes a perfect draft on the first attempt; in fact, it is often this revision stage of writing where a good writer separates himself from other, less experienced writers.  A good writer understands the importance of revision and spends as much time as possible during this stage to craft the essay into the ideal state.  

What, exactly, is revision?  Revision refers to the changes that occur in an essay once a draft has been completed.   Revision is not simply busywork, and while most people tend to think of revision as looking specifically for grammar and punctuation errors, true revision involves more than that. 

Here are some tips to make the revision stage more helpful and efficient:

  • Do not revise the essay immediately after the writing is finished.  Instead, wait a while so that the essay can be approached with a fresh mind and fresh eyes for better revision.   The longer a writer can wait, the better, but any amount of time helps. 
  • Read through the essay more than once and focus on a specific portion of the essay during each read.  For instance, focus on transitions between sentences during the first revision.  Then, during the next read-through, focus on overall organization, then something else, etc.
  • Read the essay aloud to help catch mistakes.
  • Read the paper one sentence at a time, beginning from the end and working towards the beginning to focus on each sentence individually and spot specific grammar errors. 
  • Ask for help:  Have others read through the essay and offer suggestions.  Writers often miss their own mistakes because it is common to read an essay as it was intended, rather than how it is actually written.  Having a peer, roommate, instructor, or a tutor read the essay for mistakes and possible corrections is often helpful.

Lastly, be aware that not all problems in an essay are equal.  A few grammatical errors should certainly be fixed, but a few grammatical errors are often common and generally less harmful than the lack of a central thesis, poor organization, and/or lack of proper development.  As such, focus more on these larger issues during revision, particularly during the beginning stages, and wait until the very end to address smaller concerns such as grammar and punctuation.

Revision Checklist

For more information on revisions, please see the revision checklist.