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Revising

9.3 A Change for the Better

“I write one page of masterpiece to ninety-one pages of sh*t. I try to put the sh*t in the wastebasket.”

–Ernest Hemingway

Writing is an intellectually challenging, and draining, activity — writing well, that is. Putting ideas on paper is a good start, but revising those ideas so that they are persuasive, cogent, and form a solid argument is the real work of writing. As you review what you have written, you will undoubtedly see holes in your logic, sentences that confuse rather than clarify, and sentences and paragraphs out of place. Below are some helpful hints to consider as you analyze and transform your paper.

  • Take a break. Looking at your paper later will help you see it from the point of view of the audience. A good rule of thumb is to wait at least a day before revising. Often, writers look at their prose a day later and recognize significant flaws they would not have noticed had they written their paper in one night.
  • Be your own critic. You are obviously your own best critic. When writing, most people do not (and should not) turn in their first drafts. So take advantage of your first, second, and third drafts to write your opinions in the margins. Highlight the things you really like, and circle the things you would like to change.
  • Read and re-read your paper. In the first read-through consider the overall purpose of the paper and whether it is expressed clearly. In the second read-through analyze organization, logical development, and correctness. Often, reading your text aloud reveals awkward phrasing, missing information, weak points, and illogical reasoning.

License

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Expression and Inquiry by Chris Manning, Sally Pierce, and Melissa Lucken is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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