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Graduate Writing: Revising with Intent

Revising with Intent

Revision is an essential part of the writing process, often taking as long (if not longer) than the writing of a first draft. In revising our work, we aim to see the text from a new perspective so that we can clarify our message and ensure that it will be well understood by our intended audience. Gaining this new perspective can be challenging, as our identity changes from that of writer to editor, but the following ten tips can help make the process a bit easier.

  1. Create distance
    • Avoid looking at the text for as long as realistically possible.
    • In forgetting what we have written, it becomes easier to identify flaws in our organization, argumentation, and language.
  2. Listen to your work
    • Processing the text auditorily forces us to slow down and catch things that we might otherwise skip over.
    • Read your work aloud, have someone else read it to you, or use a text-to-speech reader (like Read&Write).
  3. Cultivate self-awareness
    • Understand your writing habits and quirks and target those concerns during the revision process.
  4. Make the text look physically different
    • Change the style and/or size of font, change the platform (e.g., turn a Word document into a PDF), or print out the document (it is often easier to revise and edit a physical document).
  5. Enlist algorithms
  6. Turn guidelines into a checklist
    • Make sure that you are hitting the mark—whether you are writing a course assignment or preparing an article for publication.
  7. Draft a reverse outline
    • Gain a bird’s eye view of the text’s structure by identifying how paragraphs in the draft relate to each other.
  8. Review paragraphs out of order
    • Examine how individual paragraphs are developed and how prime real estate is being maximized.
  9. Check the balance of the text to see whose voices are prominent
    • Use highlighters (physical or digital) to determine whether your voice or other scholars’ voices are dominating the text—does the piece seem balanced between your analysis and the evidence drawn from external sources?
  10. Ask “So What?” of every paragraph
    • Ask to help assess the value of the paragraph and determine whether the information is essential or extraneous for the reader
    • Use as a launching point for Socratic questions to help probe the text’s claims and assumptions


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