WHAT IS REVISION? RE + VISION
Revision is the act of re-envisioning a body of text that you have already produced. It entails stepping back from a text and looking at it through new eyes. When you think about it, as you go through the writing process, you look at and think about your text differently at each stage. It’s like you put on several different pairs of glasses as you write, seeing the text differently with each pair. There are at least two distinct kinds of “lenses” we need to address here: your Writer’s glasses and your Reader’s glasses:
1. Seeing Through Your Writer’s Glasses
When you “see” as a writer, you are primarily trying to envision and capture the ideas in your head. According to composition theorist Linda Flowers, you are writing “writer-based prose,” which means that your writing will tend to have the following characteristics:
- It will be more associative and narrative. Your writing will tend to be “stream of consciousness,” moving from thought to thought, as ideas occur to you.
- Your writing will be elliptical; it will “leap” from idea to idea, often leaving out information or failing to establish clear connections.
- You will use “private language,” words and phrases that are very familiar to you, but may not be clear to a reader.
Be aware that there is nothing wrong with writing writer-based prose! It is a necessary stage in the writing process. Writer Anne Lamont calls this the “down draft” stage: you have to get your ideas down before you can develop and more clearly organize them.
2. Seeing Through Your Reader’s Glasses
Once you’ve finished your “down draft,” you will need to put on a second pair of glasses, however. You need to start looking at your text through the eyes of a READER. What changes will readers need you to make to your text in order for them to fully understand it? Once you start thinking this way, you are REVISING. This is what Lamont calls the “up draft” stage. Having gotten your ideas down, it’s time to “fix them up.” In order to turn your “writer-based prose” into “reader-based prose,” then, consider the reader’s needs:
- Readers need to be able to spot and understand your central idea(s), and see clearly how your various points and pieces of evidence develop and support your central idea.
- Readers need texts that are linear, that move logically from point to point with clear connections between each.
- Readers need you to use language that is familiar to them and that means exactly what you intended it to mean.
Remember, frustrated readers will quit! Be sure you have given full consideration to their needs before you decide you’re done with revision. Consider these suggestions and use this checklist:
- Revising is not simply editing or proofreading; rather, it is a time when you reread, rethink, and repackage your ideas.
- Revision is a full stage of the writing process. Taking the time to revise always means that your work improves and grows stronger.
- Revising requires a different perspective than writing. Give yourself time between the drafting and the revising stages, even if it’s only a few hours.
- Get out the assignment sheet and make a revision checklist before you revise. Use it to make sure you’ve completed every part of the assignment.
- Individualize your revision checklist. Add your problem areas to your checklist and look for them each time.
A General Revision Checklist
(to consider yourself and to ask volunteers to consider after reading your draft)
- Is my main point clear? Do I have a thesis or controlling idea? Where is it in the paper exactly?
- Is the paper unified? Does every paragraph in the draft develop and support my central idea?
- Is there a clear and logical progression from point to point, from paragraph to paragraph in the paper?
- Do I develop my ideas fully with both sound reasoning and persuasive evidence? Are there any gaps that need filling? Is all my evidence relevant and reliable?
- Have I provided my reader with an inviting introduction and a satisfying conclusion?
- Are my sentences and word choices fluent and clear?
- Have I fulfilled the assignment, meeting all the challenges the teacher laid out for me?