Revision and Review

How do I review my own writing?

General Suggestions

  • Be completely brutal with your first draft. Nothing should satisfy you. Delete. Substitute. Rearrange. Insert.
  • Be especially critical of the first few paragraphs. You had probably not yet warmed up when you had written them.
  • Closely examine any paragraphs or sections that you wrote while tired or bored. Sections towards the end of the paper often need careful editing for that reason.
  • Read aloud for content and style. When it comes to detecting errors, the ear is usually more efficient than the eye.

Editing for Content

  • Ask yourself if your purpose is immediately clear? Will the reader have to wade through the paragraph six or eight times in order to understand it? Get to the point right away. Don't write in a mystery-story fashion, saving the main idea for the end.
  • Have you limited your subject sufficiently? Or, did you cover items that don't relate to the main theme?
  • Did you leave out major points that might help the reader gain a better understanding of your theme? If so, then add those important major points.
  • Are your supporting details adequate? Have you developed each topic fully enough?
  • Did you include too many supporting details? Are your sentences weighed down with more facts than the reader would need or want to know? Are the details relevant?
  • Is your organisation easy to follow? Did you move from the beginning to the end in a logical manner, or does your copy ramble without any logical structure, leaving the reader confused?
  • Does the copy answer the question, “So what”? In other words, have you told the reader why this piece is worth reading?

Editing for Brevity and Clarity

  • Have you purged each phrase of extraneous words? Weed out every word that adds nothing to the meaning of the sentence. Examples: change "during the course of" to "during" and "few in number" to "few".
  • Wherever possible, did you choose concrete words, terms and phrases instead of abstract ones? Example: instead of writing, “structure the report in a functional manner”, write, “put the conclusions first, and then explain how you arrived at them”.
  • If you used many technical terms or jargon, did you explain or define them?
  • Did you use vague adjectives when specifics were called for? Example: instead of writing, “there was a major stimulation in growth” write, “there was a two-fold stimulation in growth”
  • Is your average sentence length approximately 17 words? Long sentences contain too many ideas and force the reader to work harder to get the message.

Editing for Vigour and Pace

  • Did you vary the length of your sentences? Even though your sentences should average about 17 words, your writing should contain some short, medium-length and longer sentences in order to add rhythm and pace.
  • Did you vary the beginnings of your sentences? Or, do most of your sentences begin with the same part of speech? Strive for a moderate amount of variety. Variety adds sparkle to your writing.

Editing for Paragraph Strength

  • Does each paragraph deal with only one topic? Including more than one topic per paragraph will confuse the reader.
  • Is each paragraph developed in a logical manner? Will your readers be able to follow your train of thought?
  • Does each sentence in the paragraph contribute to the main idea of the paragraph? Have you supported the main idea with one or more of the following: facts, examples, arguments, reasons?
  • Are the sentences in each paragraph linked when necessary by:

-transitional words, such as “however,” “also,” “yet,” “although” etc.
-repetition of a word or idea from the preceding sentence?

  • Have you linked paragraphs in a similar manner?
  • Have you avoided using paragraphs longer than seven or eight typewritten lines? Long paragraphs may result in the reader accidentally skipping sections or lines.
  • Have you varied the length of paragraphs?

Final Editing

  • Put yourself in the position of the reader, and then reread the manuscript, especially looking for sections with ambiguous meanings that might lead to misinterpretation.
  • Check the manuscript a final time for accuracy. Verify all numbers.
  • Be sure that you did not make any grammatical or usage errors.

And then proofread again!