Revising an Essay
Revision means just what it says: a re-vision. To revise is to see again, to reconceive your original essay. It does not mean simply to fix the first draft, rearranging phrases, correcting errors or improving diction. It is a creative task. Begin with global revision and then, when you have a reasonable draft, focus on local revision (on "fixing" individual paragraphs, sentences, words, and mechanics).
Begin by rereading the essay assignment. Then, to get a fresh perspective, think about how you would approach it if you were beginning from scratch, and write down your ideas. Next, read through your essay and answer the following questions in complete sentences and provide supporting details.
- What is the purpose of the essay? Is it expressed explicitly or implicitly?
- What is the thesis of the essay? What "promise" does it make to its readers? Is the thesis narrow enough to fit the scope of the essay? Is it clear enough so that you can demonstrate it?
- Do the title and first few sentences convince the reader the essay is worth reading?
- Describe the imagined audience for the essay and what they are likely to know about its subject.
- Does the body of the essay support the thesis? Are all of its parts directly and logically connected? What parts could be improved?
- Does each part of the essay contain reliable, relevant and verifiable evidence to support each generalization? Which examples are weak? Which are strong?
- Does the conclusion summarize the main ideas of the essay, restate the thesis and suggest its implications?
- What, if any, patterns of errors does the essay contain (e.g., subject-verb agreement, pronoun agreement, sentence fragments, commas, diction, spelling)?
After completing your critique, develop an agenda for revising the essay, and write answers to the following questions.
- What are the strengths and weakness of the original?
- What specific revisions do you want to make?
- What parts need to be refocused?
- What parts should be cut out?
- What additional examples are needed?
- What transitions/connections could be clarified?
- What will you do to enliven the language?