ENGL 101
English Composition I
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You finally did it! You've written the draft of your essay. Now you have to re-write it.

Wait! Put down that knife. It isn't as bad as you may think. Revision is a natural part of the writing process. When you are writing a sentence, and you think of two or three different ways to say your idea, or different words to use, you are using revision. When you tell a story and slightly change it each time to make it closer to what you want the audience to know, you are revising. To repeat: revising is a natural part of the writing process.

Many people have a very negative view of revising because of past experiences, especially if they handwrite their essays. Revising a handwritten essay can be very time-consuming, because you are having to rewrite the parts that you aren't changing, as well as the parts that you do need to change. The tendency of most writers is to change too much, thus making for more future revision. It's a nasty, vicious circle.

Word processing is one of the things that any writer can do to make revision less painful. Knowing that you only have to change the "bad" parts, and that you don't have to re-type or recopy the "good" parts makes for a more pleasant, useful revision process. In addition, you can easily save each revision as a separate file, so that you can compare versions, or go back to an earlier version if a new draft doesn't work the way you thought it would.

Whatever you do, or however you revise, you must be aware that revision is necessary.

NO WRITER GETS IT RIGHT THE FIRST TIME!!! That's not how writing works. And yet, writers continually give themselves ulcers trying desperately to come up with that perfect first draft to "save time and energy." Sitting around for three hours with writer's block saves nobody time or energy. Drafting the essay quickly the first time, then using revision to focus and complete that draft into a more polished draft is actually more efficient. It doesn't appear to be on the surface, but it is in practice.

Drafting doesn't have to take a lot of time. After all, you've already thought up all the information and organized it. Putting those words down on paper should actually be a relief. If you aren't worried about making them perfect, they should practically spill out onto the paper. In fact, most authors who use the writing process instead of trying to do everything all at once find that their drafts end up being much longer than they expected, because they’ve actually done more thinking and have more information to share.

Revision now consists of taking a look at the information you’ve drafted and determining if it’s the right information for what you are trying to communicate. REMEMBER: most of what you wrote in the first draft will be okay. Writers commonly make the mistake of thinking that most of a first draft is wasted, or thinking that because they had to make changes, they somehow wrote a horrible draft. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Even really bad drafts usually only need up to a third of the draft to be changed or “fixed.” That means that two-thirds is okay!

Revision is simply re-visioning, re-thinking the paper. Re-visit each choice you made in terms of the paragraphs, organization, thesis, and sentences and make sure that it was the right choice. Notice what I wrote here: “make sure that it was the right choice.” Revision is not just about finding the trouble spots; it’s mostly about confirming what you’ve already done correctly.

The rest of this page contain some areas that should be examined when you are revising. Remember, revision is not punishment; it is a second chance to get it right.

If you remember, the essay was said to have three controlling elements: Purpose, Focus and Audience. Revision should take a look at all three of these elements and confirm that you are using them correctly and communicating clearly.

Purpose –ask yourself the following questions:

Don’t be surprised if you find the introduction and conclusion discussing something different from the body paragraphs. Many times the very act of writing the essay will end up changing what you think about the essay or its purpose. Simply decide which way is the way you want the essay to go and revise accordingly.

Focus –ask yourself the following questions:

Audience – ask yourself the following questions: