This writing lesson focuses on the final stages in the writing processs: revising the whole piece of writing for coherence and clarity, editing for linguistic accuracy, and proofreading to catch minor errors before the final draft.

The aim in essay writing is to produce prose that is clear, both to the writer and to the reader. However, often a writer's main ideas only become clear through the process of writing the first draft. This is why revision is such an important part of good writing. Because creative people constantly evaluate and reconstruct their ideas and their expression of ideas, effective academic writing needs a healthy revision process.

There are three steps in revision.

  1. Revision: revising the whole - examining the whole of the essay before its parts.

  2. Editing: revising the sentences - looking over your syntax (sentence structure), diction and grammar to ensure you are communicating your ideas clearly and correctly.

  3. Proofreading: revising surface errors- check the essay for minor errors, also known as surface errors, before the final copy is printed or sent off electronically. Also, this is the stage to check your documentation closely to make sure you have done it properly.

1. Revision

The first task of the revision process is to print a hard copy of an essay draft. Reading the hard copy through is better than looking at partial views of the essay on a computer screen because doing so encourages tinkering rather than addressing global, structural concerns. Don't spend all the time you have for revision endlessly tidying up sections of your work without considering how these sections might be rearranged or more closely connected to make up a whole.

Also, studies have shown that we tend to see more grammatical and punctuation errors on paper than we do on a screen. Keep this is mind when you revise your resume or cv as well.

Revision begins by considering the global level of your essay: its topic, thesis, and organization; and the voice you have used to present your ideas.

2. Editing

Grammar and Syntax

The stronger your knowledge of grammar, syntax, spelling, punctuation and usage is, the easier this step will be. Be patient and do not be too hard on yourself. The more you write, and the more you edit, the more you will learn.

Correct syntax ensures your sentences communicate what you intend. When syntax breaks down, the sentence loses its balance, and meaning can become obscured.

Most students make only a few grammatical errors, but they may make these same errors over and over again. Your goal is not to achieve perfection but to ensure that your sentences are clear and correct.

Spelling and Diction

Spelling correctly and not confusing words that sound alike but are spelled differently add professional gloss to any piece of writing and are doubly important in academic writing.

Diction refers both to a writer's choice of words and the art of speaking itself, reminding us that good writing is close to good spoken English, that is, to English as it is seldom spoken.

  • Don't use contractions, such as "won't", "don't", "can't", etc., in academic writing.

  • Avoid the use of "you"; "you" literally means the person one is addressing when one writes, the reader; when I use "you" here, I mean, "you" the student reading this and going on to write your essay.

  • While you should strive to make your diction formal, readers should not have to struggle through difficult diction to understand your sentences. Choose the one syllable word over the four syllable word when you can.

  • Open your sentences in different ways, with the subject, with a transition, or with a short introductory phrase or a subordinate clause. Add details to short sentences or combine two to make a compound or complex sentence.

  • Don't forget to check for correct capitalization and punctuation as well.

3. Proofreading

Proofreading is not the same as editing. Proofreading means taking a last look at a draft very close to its final version. Proofreading is your last chance to check your essay for minor or surface errors, such as typographical errors ( "teh" for "the"), and omitted words and word endings, before final version is printed or sent.

This is also the time to make sure you have documented thoroughly and correctly, using a recognized documentation style (APA, MLA) consistently throughout the essay.

Read the essay one sentence at a time, starting with the last sentence and working towards the beginning of the essay. This breaks up the flow of the text, during which the eye often sees what should be there, not what is.

Another strategy is to keep your eyes from jumping ahead, place a ruler or card under each line as your read.

Reading out loud is also helpful, or you could have someone else read it out loud as you follow along on the page or screen.


Please open the exercise to continue.