No matter what type of writing you do–fiction, nonfiction, or freelance–you should expect to revise your work. Learn four essential tips for revising your work from Christina Katz, author of The Writer’s Workout.
When you are a professional writer, you spend at least half of your time rewriting, likely even more time than you spend drafting new work. But the process of rewriting needn’t be tedious and nitpicky. So go ahead, draft, cut, rearrange, review, tweak, tighten, and then work your way down this list.
4 Key Revision Tips For Writers
Here are some general tips to getting to your best drafts quickly.
1. Use your spell-check, grammar check, and check your spacing. Run all three of these checks a couple of times, once right after your first draft and once right before you turn your work in.
2. Keep your format simple. Single space. No all-bold or all-italic. Justified left. Put your title and byline in bold. Use Times New Roman, Times, or Helvetica as your font. Never use tabs or insert manual spacing. Forget any fancy formatting. Sidebars go at the bottom with the subhead, “Sidebar.” That’s it. No box or special bullet points. Remember that you will often submit in an e-mail, which would mess up any formatting anyway.
(Get more Tips on Revising Your Work: 3 Easy-To-Use Revision Techniques)
3. Read your draft out loud once or twice before you turn it in. The places where your tongue trips and your voice doesn’t flow indicate that you need a few more tweaks before your draft is really done.
4. Have someone else read your piece before you turn it in. Ask them if the article is clear and error free. Ask them if they have any questions after reading it. (Your article should answer questions, not prompt them.) If the reader’s concerns are irrelevant, that’s okay. Jot them down if they spark any ideas for you. Get in the habit of thanking others for their help, whether you agree with their suggestions or not. A good standard response is, “Thanks, I’ll think that over.” When you are ready to edit, revisit the notes or suggestions and decide which ones you want to incorporate.
No matter how many drafts it takes you to get to crisp, clear writing, don’t judge yourself. You will improve with time and practice. Who cares how many drafts it takes? Just get the job done. You’ll get faster over time and with practice.
Want to learn more about revising? Discover more writing tips from The Writer’s Workout and learn how to:
- Improve your writing skills to make your writing as strong and powerful as possible
- Pitch and sell your work to editors and agents
- Deal with rejection and how to come back better than ever
- Build an author platform and develop an audience
- Balance your creative life with your daily life
Buy The Writer’s Workout now!
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How Do I Resubmit a Revised Manuscript?
Many students tell us that they don't know what to check for once they have finished their essay. They usually know to check for grammar, punctuation, and spelling, but other details are often seen as less important because of the high emphasis placed on these problems in their early education.
Writing experts generally agree, however, that while details such as grammar and punctuation are important, they are far less important than solid organization, fresh writing, and creative content.
The following guidelines are designed to give students a checklist to use, whether they are revising individually or as part of a peer review team.
- Is there a clear introduction, body, and conclusion?
- Does the introduction provide sufficient background for the reader? Are the "who," "where," "why," "what," and "how" questions addressed?
- Is there a thesis sentence? Is the purpose of the essay clear?
- Does the essay move from general to specific?
- Are there sufficient transitions between related ideas?
- Is the overall organization murky or clean? In other words, does the writer avoid introducing new material in the conclusion or switching subjects in the middle of a paragraph in the body?
- Does every paragraph address the subject matter of the thesis in some way?
Content and Style
- Does the essay show that the writer has a knowledge of the audience?
- Is the length appropriate and adequate?
- Has the writer used sufficient examples and detail to make his or her points clearly?
- Has the assignment been addressed?
- Is the tone of the essay appropriate?
- Has the writer avoided insulting the reader?
- Is the tone of the essay professional and appropriate?
- Is the language convincing, clear, and concise?
- Has the writer used fresh language and a creative approach?
Research and Sources
- Are all sources credible?
- Is the research accurate, unbiased, and complete?
- Has the writer fully interpreted the findings?
- Has the writer commented on each source used?
- Is the analysis based on hard evidence?
- Is the analysis free of faulty reasoning?
- Is the documentation in the Works Cited page and body of the essay correct?
- Have all quotations been checked against the original?
- Are all quotations introduced? Is the flow of the essay seamless?
- If material was paraphrased, are the sources still mentioned?
- If necessary, are limitations clearly spelled out?
- If included, are recommendations based on accurate interpretations?
- Have all facts been checked for accuracy?
- Have any potentially libelous statements been eliminated?
- Has the writer checked grammar and punctuation?
- Has the writer spell checked the essay?
- Has the writer checked for his or her particular pattern of error?
- Are the page numbers correct?
- Is the title capitalized correctly?
- Has the writer used the correct margin and font?