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Steps for Revising Your Paper

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When you have plenty of time to revise, use the time to work on your paper and to take breaks from writing. If you can forget about your draft for a day or two, you may return to it with a fresh outlook. During the revising process, put your writing aside at least twice—once during the first part of the process, when you are reorganizing your work, and once during the second part, when you are polishing and paying attention to details.

Use the following questions to evaluate your drafts. You can use your responses to revise your papers by reorganizing them to make your best points stand out, by adding needed information, by eliminating irrelevant information, and by clarifying sections or sentences.

Find your main point.

What are you trying to say in the paper? In other words, try to summarize your thesis, or main point, and the evidence you are using to support that point. Try to imagine that this paper belongs to someone else. Does the paper have a clear thesis? Do you know what the paper is going to be about?

Identify your readers and your purpose.

What are you trying to do in the paper? In other words, are you trying to argue with the reading, to analyze the reading, to evaluate the reading, to apply the reading to another situation, or to accomplish another goal?

Evaluate your evidence.

Does the body of your paper support your thesis? Do you offer enough evidence to support your claim? If you are using quotations from the text as evidence, did you cite them properly?

Save only the good pieces.

Do all of the ideas relate back to the thesis? Is there anything that doesn't seem to fit? If so, you either need to change your thesis to reflect the idea or cut the idea.

Tighten and clean up your language.

Do all of the ideas in the paper make sense? Are there unclear or confusing ideas or sentences? Read your paper out loud and listen for awkward pauses and unclear ideas. Cut out extra words, vagueness, and misused words.

Visit the Purdue OWL's vidcast on cutting during the revision phase for more help with this task.

Eliminate mistakes in grammar and usage.

Do you see any problems with grammar, punctuation, or spelling? If you think something is wrong, you should make a note of it, even if you don't know how to fix it. You can always talk to a Writing Lab tutor about how to correct errors.

Switch from writer-centered to reader-centered.

Try to detach yourself from what you've written; pretend that you are reviewing someone else's work. What would you say is the most successful part of your paper? Why? How could this part be made even better? What would you say is the least successful part of your paper? Why? How could this part be improved?

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8 Tips for Revising Your Writing in the Revision Process

Revising your writing doesn’t have to be a long painful process. Follow these tips to make your revision process a fun and easy one. One of my favorite Billy Joel songs is “Get It Right the First Time.” It’s a great song, but an impossible goal, even for someone with as much talent as him….

revising your writing

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Revising your writing doesn’t have to be a long painful process. Follow these tips to make your revision process a fun and easy one.

revising essays tips

One of my favorite Billy Joel songs is “Get It Right the First Time.” It’s a great song, but an impossible goal, even for someone with as much talent as him.

As a writer, you are going to need to understand why they call it a “first” draft – there is an understanding that there will be more than one.

Revising your writing is as important as the actual act of writing. It’s where you polish your piece to make it ready for the rest of the world, even if that only includes one other person.

Here are some tips for how to revise your writing:

revising essays tips

1. Wait Until the First Draft is Done

That’s right. Wait. Finish writing your first draft before you dive headlong into the revision process. There are a few reasons for this. First, every moment you spend revising an incomplete manuscript is time that could be better spent working on the actual manuscript.

If you deviate from the process of writing, it can be hard to get back into the flow of creation. Don’t deviate from the plan. Stay on course and wait until you’ve arrived at your destination to start editing.

The second reason echoes the first. If you distract yourself from the goal of finishing your manuscript, there is the danger of falling down the rabbit hole of self-doubt. You could make endless tweaks to a single sentence, and that may call into question the whole paragraph. Maybe the page. Maybe the whole section or chapter. Maybe you should scrap the whole thing and just start over?

There is a creature in your head that whispers vicious things in your own voice and makes you second guess your ability or your ideas. You want to starve that voice of attention, so get the work of a first draft done first. Then you can say you did it! And that voice will have nothing else to say.

2. The Rule of Two

revising essays tips

After you have finished your first draft (and maybe let it rest for a bit – like a fine steak), you need to read through it at least twice.

First, the technical run – spelling and grammar. Fix all those your/you’re/yore and there/their/they’re flops and make sure you haven’t left any incomplete sentences, run-ons, or adverbs (we’ll get to these in a minute). Ensure voice consistency (active, please), and maintain perspective (first person, second person, third person omniscient/limited).

Second, make substantive corrections. Edit out inconsistencies and anything that messes with the overall flow of the work.

See Related Article: What’s the Difference Between Editing vs. Revising?

As you make your runs through the text, keep these other pointers in mind:

3. Take Notes

revising essays tips

While reading through the first time (and, for longer works, as you are writing) make notes SEPARATE from the actual text.

I keep a Rhodia Squared dot pad handy for just about everything – sketching out ideas in visual form, writing notes about characters and places (especially how to SPELL their names), and sometimes the alternate ideas that voice I mentioned before comes up with (we may not always agree, but sometimes it has a good idea or two).

Take note as you run your first technical revisions about anything you want to revisit during the second part of your revision process. That will make it easier to come back to, and, let’s be fair, the biggest lie we tell ourselves is “I don’t need to write that down. I’ll remember it later.”

4. Don’t Trust Technology Too Much

Spelling and Grammar checks have come a long way since the first time I installed Microsoft Word back in the mid 90’s. Unfortunately, not far enough. As I write this, Word has highlighted at least a half-dozen grammatical non-errors.

As you build your skills as a writer, put a few tools in your toolbox to help you better understand how language works. English is a fickle mistress, and I will evangelize the Elements of Style until my dying breath. It’s a quick read with loads of great information to help you be a better writer and communicator in general. Get a copy (it’s cheap) and keep it handy. Refer to it for any questions on grammar you might have.

5. Adverbs are the Devil

Lazy writers use adverbs. Period. If you are doing your job well enough, describing the scene and the characters, the reader will understand how an action is performed well enough without any of those -ly words hanging about. Think about these examples below – what sounds better?

“I’ll get you for this!” he said angrily.
He shook his fist, knuckles white with rage, and shouted “I’ll get you for this!”

Same idea, but I think we can agree the second version transmits it with better clarity. Do your best to avoid adverbs. You won’t be perfect – none of us are – but do your best.

6. Kill Your Darlings

This is the hardest part of revising your writing. Sure, it’s easy to know when your writing is bad, and little is more satisfying than culling the weak from your word-herd. But what about those times when you read your own writing and fall in love…and then suddenly realize that this spectacular bit of prose doesn’t actually belong with the rest of the work. Maybe you could make it fit, or tweak somewhere else to force it to work.

It’s a difficult decision, but in the end the best and simplest way to deal with this scenario is to swipe the red pen and take it out. Aside from the mechanical process of fixing your spelling mistakes and revising for voice, your primary concern during the revision process is to remove everything that isn’t the story.

That means sometimes you have to kill your darlings – those bits of work that really sing, but brought the wrong sheet music to choir practice. If you feel terrible about it, cut and paste into a separate document to look at it later.

7. Know When to Stop Revising

Remember when we talked about that voice? It can show up during the regular revision process, too. When you get to the end of your second run through the text, you are going to be tempted to go through again. And again. And again.

If your immediate feeling about concluding the revision process is contentment, then stop. Tell yourself that it is good enough. Fix yourself a coffee or a cocktail or whatever you do to celebrate and enjoy the moment. Kick your feet up and relax. You have earned it, my friend!

8. Open the Door

The last and most stressful part of the whole process is to let someone else have a crack at it. This should be your Designated Reader – a person who knows you; someone you can trust to give honest feedback about your work.

It doesn’t hurt if they have an interest in your genre (and some technical know-how of the craft), but that isn’t totally necessary. If you can watch them read it, don’t. It’s as private a matter for someone to read your work as it was for you to write it.

Give them space and time, and be prepared for feedback of all kinds. If you hit a home run, then great! You’re ready for the next step. If your Designated Reader has some valuable critique, make targeted changes. Remember to know when enough is enough.

Do you have any tips to share about how to revise your first draft? Share your tips for revising your writing in the comments below!

Bill comes from a mishmash of writing experiences, having covered topics ranging from defining thematic periodicity of heroic medieval literature to technical manuals on troubleshooting mobile smart device operating systems. He holds graduate degrees in literature and business administration, is an avid fan of table-top and post-to-play online role playing games, serves as a mentor on the D&D DMs Only Facebook group, and dabbles in writing fantasy fiction and passable poetry when he isn’t busy either with work or being a husband and father.

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8.4 Revising and Editing

Learning objectives.

  • Identify major areas of concern in the draft essay during revising and editing.
  • Use peer reviews and editing checklists to assist revising and editing.
  • Revise and edit the first draft of your essay and produce a final draft.

Revising and editing are the two tasks you undertake to significantly improve your essay. Both are very important elements of the writing process. You may think that a completed first draft means little improvement is needed. However, even experienced writers need to improve their drafts and rely on peers during revising and editing. You may know that athletes miss catches, fumble balls, or overshoot goals. Dancers forget steps, turn too slowly, or miss beats. For both athletes and dancers, the more they practice, the stronger their performance will become. Web designers seek better images, a more clever design, or a more appealing background for their web pages. Writing has the same capacity to profit from improvement and revision.

Understanding the Purpose of Revising and Editing

Revising and editing allow you to examine two important aspects of your writing separately, so that you can give each task your undivided attention.

  • When you revise , you take a second look at your ideas. You might add, cut, move, or change information in order to make your ideas clearer, more accurate, more interesting, or more convincing.
  • When you edit , you take a second look at how you expressed your ideas. You add or change words. You fix any problems in grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure. You improve your writing style. You make your essay into a polished, mature piece of writing, the end product of your best efforts.

How do you get the best out of your revisions and editing? Here are some strategies that writers have developed to look at their first drafts from a fresh perspective. Try them over the course of this semester; then keep using the ones that bring results.

  • Take a break. You are proud of what you wrote, but you might be too close to it to make changes. Set aside your writing for a few hours or even a day until you can look at it objectively.
  • Ask someone you trust for feedback and constructive criticism.
  • Pretend you are one of your readers. Are you satisfied or dissatisfied? Why?
  • Use the resources that your college provides. Find out where your school’s writing lab is located and ask about the assistance they provide online and in person.

Many people hear the words critic , critical , and criticism and pick up only negative vibes that provoke feelings that make them blush, grumble, or shout. However, as a writer and a thinker, you need to learn to be critical of yourself in a positive way and have high expectations for your work. You also need to train your eye and trust your ability to fix what needs fixing. For this, you need to teach yourself where to look.

Creating Unity and Coherence

Following your outline closely offers you a reasonable guarantee that your writing will stay on purpose and not drift away from the controlling idea. However, when writers are rushed, are tired, or cannot find the right words, their writing may become less than they want it to be. Their writing may no longer be clear and concise, and they may be adding information that is not needed to develop the main idea.

When a piece of writing has unity , all the ideas in each paragraph and in the entire essay clearly belong and are arranged in an order that makes logical sense. When the writing has coherence , the ideas flow smoothly. The wording clearly indicates how one idea leads to another within a paragraph and from paragraph to paragraph.

Reading your writing aloud will often help you find problems with unity and coherence. Listen for the clarity and flow of your ideas. Identify places where you find yourself confused, and write a note to yourself about possible fixes.

Creating Unity

Sometimes writers get caught up in the moment and cannot resist a good digression. Even though you might enjoy such detours when you chat with friends, unplanned digressions usually harm a piece of writing.

Mariah stayed close to her outline when she drafted the three body paragraphs of her essay she tentatively titled “Digital Technology: The Newest and the Best at What Price?” But a recent shopping trip for an HDTV upset her enough that she digressed from the main topic of her third paragraph and included comments about the sales staff at the electronics store she visited. When she revised her essay, she deleted the off-topic sentences that affected the unity of the paragraph.

Read the following paragraph twice, the first time without Mariah’s changes, and the second time with them.

Nothing is more confusing to me than choosing among televisions. It confuses lots of people who want a new high-definition digital television (HDTV) with a large screen to watch sports and DVDs on. You could listen to the guys in the electronics store, but word has it they know little more than you do. They want to sell what they have in stock, not what best fits your needs. You face decisions you never had to make with the old, bulky picture-tube televisions. Screen resolution means the number of horizontal scan lines the screen can show. This resolution is often 1080p, or full HD, or 768p. The trouble is that if you have a smaller screen, 32 inches or 37 inches diagonal, you won’t be able to tell the difference with the naked eye. The 1080p televisions cost more, though, so those are what the salespeople want you to buy. They get bigger commissions. The other important decision you face as you walk around the sales floor is whether to get a plasma screen or an LCD screen. Now here the salespeople may finally give you decent info. Plasma flat-panel television screens can be much larger in diameter than their LCD rivals. Plasma screens show truer blacks and can be viewed at a wider angle than current LCD screens. But be careful and tell the salesperson you have budget constraints. Large flat-panel plasma screens are much more expensive than flat-screen LCD models. Don’t let someone make you by more television than you need!

Answer the following two questions about Mariah’s paragraph:


Please share with a classmate and compare your answers.

  • Now start to revise the first draft of the essay you wrote in Section 8 “Writing Your Own First Draft” . Reread it to find any statements that affect the unity of your writing. Decide how best to revise.

When you reread your writing to find revisions to make, look for each type of problem in a separate sweep. Read it straight through once to locate any problems with unity. Read it straight through a second time to find problems with coherence. You may follow this same practice during many stages of the writing process.

Writing at Work

Many companies hire copyeditors and proofreaders to help them produce the cleanest possible final drafts of large writing projects. Copyeditors are responsible for suggesting revisions and style changes; proofreaders check documents for any errors in capitalization, spelling, and punctuation that have crept in. Many times, these tasks are done on a freelance basis, with one freelancer working for a variety of clients.

Creating Coherence

Careful writers use transitions to clarify how the ideas in their sentences and paragraphs are related. These words and phrases help the writing flow smoothly. Adding transitions is not the only way to improve coherence, but they are often useful and give a mature feel to your essays. Table 8.3 “Common Transitional Words and Phrases” groups many common transitions according to their purpose.

Table 8.3 Common Transitional Words and Phrases

After Maria revised for unity, she next examined her paragraph about televisions to check for coherence. She looked for places where she needed to add a transition or perhaps reword the text to make the flow of ideas clear. In the version that follows, she has already deleted the sentences that were off topic.

Many writers make their revisions on a printed copy and then transfer them to the version on-screen. They conventionally use a small arrow called a caret (^) to show where to insert an addition or correction.

A marked up essay

1. Answer the following questions about Mariah’s revised paragraph.

2. Now return to the first draft of the essay you wrote in Section 8 “Writing Your Own First Draft” and revise it for coherence. Add transition words and phrases where they are needed, and make any other changes that are needed to improve the flow and connection between ideas.

Being Clear and Concise

Some writers are very methodical and painstaking when they write a first draft. Other writers unleash a lot of words in order to get out all that they feel they need to say. Do either of these composing styles match your style? Or is your composing style somewhere in between? No matter which description best fits you, the first draft of almost every piece of writing, no matter its author, can be made clearer and more concise.

If you have a tendency to write too much, you will need to look for unnecessary words. If you have a tendency to be vague or imprecise in your wording, you will need to find specific words to replace any overly general language.

Identifying Wordiness

Sometimes writers use too many words when fewer words will appeal more to their audience and better fit their purpose. Here are some common examples of wordiness to look for in your draft. Eliminating wordiness helps all readers, because it makes your ideas clear, direct, and straightforward.

Sentences that begin with There is or There are .

Wordy: There are two major experiments that the Biology Department sponsors.

Revised: The Biology Department sponsors two major experiments.

Sentences with unnecessary modifiers.

Wordy: Two extremely famous and well-known consumer advocates spoke eloquently in favor of the proposed important legislation.

Revised: Two well-known consumer advocates spoke in favor of the proposed legislation.

Sentences with deadwood phrases that add little to the meaning. Be judicious when you use phrases such as in terms of , with a mind to , on the subject of , as to whether or not , more or less , as far as…is concerned , and similar expressions. You can usually find a more straightforward way to state your point.

Wordy: As a world leader in the field of green technology, the company plans to focus its efforts in the area of geothermal energy.

A report as to whether or not to use geysers as an energy source is in the process of preparation.

Revised: As a world leader in green technology, the company plans to focus on geothermal energy.

A report about using geysers as an energy source is in preparation.

Sentences in the passive voice or with forms of the verb to be . Sentences with passive-voice verbs often create confusion, because the subject of the sentence does not perform an action. Sentences are clearer when the subject of the sentence performs the action and is followed by a strong verb. Use strong active-voice verbs in place of forms of to be , which can lead to wordiness. Avoid passive voice when you can.

Wordy: It might perhaps be said that using a GPS device is something that is a benefit to drivers who have a poor sense of direction.

Revised: Using a GPS device benefits drivers who have a poor sense of direction.

Sentences with constructions that can be shortened.

Wordy: The e-book reader, which is a recent invention, may become as commonplace as the cell phone.

My over-sixty uncle bought an e-book reader, and his wife bought an e-book reader, too.

Revised: The e-book reader, a recent invention, may become as commonplace as the cell phone.

My over-sixty uncle and his wife both bought e-book readers.

Now return once more to the first draft of the essay you have been revising. Check it for unnecessary words. Try making your sentences as concise as they can be.

Choosing Specific, Appropriate Words

Most college essays should be written in formal English suitable for an academic situation. Follow these principles to be sure that your word choice is appropriate. For more information about word choice, see Chapter 4 “Working with Words: Which Word Is Right?” .

  • Avoid slang. Find alternatives to bummer , kewl , and rad .
  • Avoid language that is overly casual. Write about “men and women” rather than “girls and guys” unless you are trying to create a specific effect. A formal tone calls for formal language.
  • Avoid contractions. Use do not in place of don’t , I am in place of I’m , have not in place of haven’t , and so on. Contractions are considered casual speech.
  • Avoid clichés. Overused expressions such as green with envy , face the music , better late than never , and similar expressions are empty of meaning and may not appeal to your audience.
  • Be careful when you use words that sound alike but have different meanings. Some examples are allusion/illusion , complement/compliment , council/counsel , concurrent/consecutive , founder/flounder , and historic/historical . When in doubt, check a dictionary.
  • Choose words with the connotations you want. Choosing a word for its connotations is as important in formal essay writing as it is in all kinds of writing. Compare the positive connotations of the word proud and the negative connotations of arrogant and conceited .
  • Use specific words rather than overly general words. Find synonyms for thing , people , nice , good , bad , interesting , and other vague words. Or use specific details to make your exact meaning clear.

Now read the revisions Mariah made to make her third paragraph clearer and more concise. She has already incorporated the changes she made to improve unity and coherence.

A marked up essay with revisions

1. Answer the following questions about Mariah’s revised paragraph:

2. Now return once more to your essay in progress. Read carefully for problems with word choice. Be sure that your draft is written in formal language and that your word choice is specific and appropriate.

Completing a Peer Review

After working so closely with a piece of writing, writers often need to step back and ask for a more objective reader. What writers most need is feedback from readers who can respond only to the words on the page. When they are ready, writers show their drafts to someone they respect and who can give an honest response about its strengths and weaknesses.

You, too, can ask a peer to read your draft when it is ready. After evaluating the feedback and assessing what is most helpful, the reader’s feedback will help you when you revise your draft. This process is called peer review .

You can work with a partner in your class and identify specific ways to strengthen each other’s essays. Although you may be uncomfortable sharing your writing at first, remember that each writer is working toward the same goal: a final draft that fits the audience and the purpose. Maintaining a positive attitude when providing feedback will put you and your partner at ease. The box that follows provides a useful framework for the peer review session.

Questions for Peer Review

Title of essay: ____________________________________________

Date: ____________________________________________

Writer’s name: ____________________________________________

Peer reviewer’s name: _________________________________________

  • This essay is about____________________________________________.
  • Your main points in this essay are____________________________________________.
  • What I most liked about this essay is____________________________________________.

These three points struck me as your strongest:

These places in your essay are not clear to me:

a. Where: ____________________________________________

Needs improvement because__________________________________________

b. Where: ____________________________________________

Needs improvement because ____________________________________________

c. Where: ____________________________________________

The one additional change you could make that would improve this essay significantly is ____________________________________________.

One of the reasons why word-processing programs build in a reviewing feature is that workgroups have become a common feature in many businesses. Writing is often collaborative, and the members of a workgroup and their supervisors often critique group members’ work and offer feedback that will lead to a better final product.

Exchange essays with a classmate and complete a peer review of each other’s draft in progress. Remember to give positive feedback and to be courteous and polite in your responses. Focus on providing one positive comment and one question for more information to the author.

Using Feedback Objectively

The purpose of peer feedback is to receive constructive criticism of your essay. Your peer reviewer is your first real audience, and you have the opportunity to learn what confuses and delights a reader so that you can improve your work before sharing the final draft with a wider audience (or your intended audience).

It may not be necessary to incorporate every recommendation your peer reviewer makes. However, if you start to observe a pattern in the responses you receive from peer reviewers, you might want to take that feedback into consideration in future assignments. For example, if you read consistent comments about a need for more research, then you may want to consider including more research in future assignments.

Using Feedback from Multiple Sources

You might get feedback from more than one reader as you share different stages of your revised draft. In this situation, you may receive feedback from readers who do not understand the assignment or who lack your involvement with and enthusiasm for it.

You need to evaluate the responses you receive according to two important criteria:

  • Determine if the feedback supports the purpose of the assignment.
  • Determine if the suggested revisions are appropriate to the audience.

Then, using these standards, accept or reject revision feedback.

Work with two partners. Go back to Note 8.81 “Exercise 4” in this lesson and compare your responses to Activity A, about Mariah’s paragraph, with your partners’. Recall Mariah’s purpose for writing and her audience. Then, working individually, list where you agree and where you disagree about revision needs.

Editing Your Draft

If you have been incorporating each set of revisions as Mariah has, you have produced multiple drafts of your writing. So far, all your changes have been content changes. Perhaps with the help of peer feedback, you have made sure that you sufficiently supported your ideas. You have checked for problems with unity and coherence. You have examined your essay for word choice, revising to cut unnecessary words and to replace weak wording with specific and appropriate wording.

The next step after revising the content is editing. When you edit, you examine the surface features of your text. You examine your spelling, grammar, usage, and punctuation. You also make sure you use the proper format when creating your finished assignment.

Editing often takes time. Budgeting time into the writing process allows you to complete additional edits after revising. Editing and proofreading your writing helps you create a finished work that represents your best efforts. Here are a few more tips to remember about your readers:

  • Readers do not notice correct spelling, but they do notice misspellings.
  • Readers look past your sentences to get to your ideas—unless the sentences are awkward, poorly constructed, and frustrating to read.
  • Readers notice when every sentence has the same rhythm as every other sentence, with no variety.
  • Readers do not cheer when you use there , their , and they’re correctly, but they notice when you do not.
  • Readers will notice the care with which you handled your assignment and your attention to detail in the delivery of an error-free document..

The first section of this book offers a useful review of grammar, mechanics, and usage. Use it to help you eliminate major errors in your writing and refine your understanding of the conventions of language. Do not hesitate to ask for help, too, from peer tutors in your academic department or in the college’s writing lab. In the meantime, use the checklist to help you edit your writing.

Editing Your Writing

  • Are some sentences actually sentence fragments?
  • Are some sentences run-on sentences? How can I correct them?
  • Do some sentences need conjunctions between independent clauses?
  • Does every verb agree with its subject?
  • Is every verb in the correct tense?
  • Are tense forms, especially for irregular verbs, written correctly?
  • Have I used subject, object, and possessive personal pronouns correctly?
  • Have I used who and whom correctly?
  • Is the antecedent of every pronoun clear?
  • Do all personal pronouns agree with their antecedents?
  • Have I used the correct comparative and superlative forms of adjectives and adverbs?
  • Is it clear which word a participial phrase modifies, or is it a dangling modifier?

Sentence Structure

  • Are all my sentences simple sentences, or do I vary my sentence structure?
  • Have I chosen the best coordinating or subordinating conjunctions to join clauses?
  • Have I created long, overpacked sentences that should be shortened for clarity?
  • Do I see any mistakes in parallel structure?


  • Does every sentence end with the correct end punctuation?
  • Can I justify the use of every exclamation point?
  • Have I used apostrophes correctly to write all singular and plural possessive forms?
  • Have I used quotation marks correctly?

Mechanics and Usage

  • Can I find any spelling errors? How can I correct them?
  • Have I used capital letters where they are needed?
  • Have I written abbreviations, where allowed, correctly?
  • Can I find any errors in the use of commonly confused words, such as to / too / two ?

Be careful about relying too much on spelling checkers and grammar checkers. A spelling checker cannot recognize that you meant to write principle but wrote principal instead. A grammar checker often queries constructions that are perfectly correct. The program does not understand your meaning; it makes its check against a general set of formulas that might not apply in each instance. If you use a grammar checker, accept the suggestions that make sense, but consider why the suggestions came up.

Proofreading requires patience; it is very easy to read past a mistake. Set your paper aside for at least a few hours, if not a day or more, so your mind will rest. Some professional proofreaders read a text backward so they can concentrate on spelling and punctuation. Another helpful technique is to slowly read a paper aloud, paying attention to every word, letter, and punctuation mark.

If you need additional proofreading help, ask a reliable friend, a classmate, or a peer tutor to make a final pass on your paper to look for anything you missed.

Remember to use proper format when creating your finished assignment. Sometimes an instructor, a department, or a college will require students to follow specific instructions on titles, margins, page numbers, or the location of the writer’s name. These requirements may be more detailed and rigid for research projects and term papers, which often observe the American Psychological Association (APA) or Modern Language Association (MLA) style guides, especially when citations of sources are included.

To ensure the format is correct and follows any specific instructions, make a final check before you submit an assignment.

With the help of the checklist, edit and proofread your essay.

Key Takeaways

  • Revising and editing are the stages of the writing process in which you improve your work before producing a final draft.
  • During revising, you add, cut, move, or change information in order to improve content.
  • During editing, you take a second look at the words and sentences you used to express your ideas and fix any problems in grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure.
  • Unity in writing means that all the ideas in each paragraph and in the entire essay clearly belong together and are arranged in an order that makes logical sense.
  • Coherence in writing means that the writer’s wording clearly indicates how one idea leads to another within a paragraph and between paragraphs.
  • Transitional words and phrases effectively make writing more coherent.
  • Writing should be clear and concise, with no unnecessary words.
  • Effective formal writing uses specific, appropriate words and avoids slang, contractions, clichés, and overly general words.
  • Peer reviews, done properly, can give writers objective feedback about their writing. It is the writer’s responsibility to evaluate the results of peer reviews and incorporate only useful feedback.
  • Remember to budget time for careful editing and proofreading. Use all available resources, including editing checklists, peer editing, and your institution’s writing lab, to improve your editing skills.

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revising essays tips

Revision Strategies

Revision Strategies  

Why is Revising Important? What is Revision? 

Now what? You’ve done your research, written your paper, but the big question now is: what do you do next? Answer: Revise. Although it can be a daunting word, revision is the time during your writing when you can carefully go back over your paper to fix any mistakes that may confuse or trip up your reader. Revision is a time to smooth out the flow of your thoughts through transitioning between your paragraphs, to make sure that each of your paragraphs are balanced with supporting evidence and your own original thought, and to look at sentence level edits like grammar and sentence flow in the final stages. While most see this as a time to make sure commas are in the right place, revision is for looking at the big picture just as much as the fine details and below are some tips and tricks to get you started!      

How do I Go About it?   

One of the first steps in the revision process is making sure you set aside enough time to properly edit your paper. If you finish a paper twenty minutes before it’s due, then there is little you can do to revise it. Although sometimes it’s hard to find time to write and revise amidst your busy schedule, I promise it’s worth it!   

Writing a paper a few days before it is due will allow you to take a step back and edit the big and small details without the pressure of a looming deadline. This will also give you time to consult writing tutors, your classmates, or your teacher if you find you need help during the process. The ratio of planned writing time to revision is usually along the lines of 70/30 or 80/20 depending on the type of writing assignment you have.   

For example, if you are assigned an 8-page research paper, then you are more than likely going to spend 70% of your timing writing and 30% of your time revising since you will have more writing that needs revising before you turn it. This is versus if you are assigned a 1-page reflection essay that requires you to spend more time writing at 80% and only about 20% of your time revising since there is only so much writing that can fit onto one page.        

Let’s face it, many of us get bored while writing. Taking a brief moment to step back after writing your first draft to do other things will allow you to return to the assignment later with fresh eyes in order to spot any errors that you may have missed before.   

The Big Picture   

When thinking about revision, our minds often jump to making sentence-level edits first. However, revision is much more than that!   

The first step in any revision process is taking a step back to look at the big picture. Does your paper have an introduction with a thesis statement? Does it have complete and coherent body paragraphs? What about a conclusion that sums up the main focus of your paper for the reader one last time? For a better understanding of how a typical essay is organized, check out “How is it Organized?” on our Reading Strategies page. 

Keep in mind that the Big Picture also includes any rubrics or assignment guidelines that your teacher may have given you. It’s important to note requirements like word/paper length during writing and revision as you don’t want to have a complete paper only to realize at the end that you missed the word count or forgot to include three scholarly sources. For more tips on how to keep rubrics and requirements in mind click here to jump to our section on assignment guidelines . Link to rubrics and assignments guidelines sections below.      

Main Intent 

Start with the main intent of your paper which is found in the ‘thesis statement.’ The thesis statement is included in the introduction paragraph and is typically found at the conclusion of the paragraph. It tells what the text will focus on and how the writer plans to achieve this. Do you state clearly and concisely what your paper will achieve and why and/or how? Do your body paragraphs support your thesis statement? Does your conclusion paragraph match your thesis statement? If you make sure that every part of your paper can be brought back to your thesis statement, then your paper will be more well-rounded and fluent.  

Note the thesis statement that is highlighted in yellow from an analysis paper on the biblical prophetess Deborah below.  

The thesis statement in this photo is the last sentence in the opening paragraph, summarizing the point of the paper.

This thesis statement tells what the body paragraphs will analyze: “these texts” (analysis being the how ). It also tells why : because “they are more important in setting an example for woman of all ages by displaying how God uses a female to undertake several predominantly male roles, as He resorts to His preferred method of using the unexpected, or, in this case, a woman, to conquer a problem.”  

The following paragraphs in the paper will analyze the biblical texts that mention Deborah in order to show the reader that God uses women in male roles, an aspect that the writer found while analyzing the texts. We can assume that certain body paragraphs will inform us of the texts and others will attempt to prove the writer’s reasoning with supporting evidence from other sources.  


When reviewing your body paragraphs, you may want to consider why you are writing your paper. Are you trying to argue, persuade, or analyze? Does the structure of your paper enable you to do so? For example, a research paper is different from a persuasive paper since a persuasive paper is trying to persuade t he reader to see a topic as the writer does while a research paper focuses on objectively analyzing available sources of a topic to come to a conclusion, without regards to the writer’s personal opinion. So , the persuasive paper will have paragraphs that inform the reader of a topic, but also paragraphs that attempt to prove to the reader why their stance is the best stance on the topic.    

Topic Sentences tell the intent and focus of a paragraph. Most of the time they are original thought or observation. They can sometimes be used to attract the reader’s attention to a certain issue or point by giving a preview of what the paragraph is about which propels them to keep reading. Topic sentences are typically found at the beginning and ending of a paragraph to introduce and then sum up the points mentioned within the paragraph.  

For example, if you were to write a topic sentence for a paragraph in the aforementioned Deborah essay stating that it is hard to properly analyze the biblical texts because women prophets, especially Deborah, are sadly not as studied as male prophets, a poor intro topic sentence for paragraph might be:  

“Many people find it difficult to study the texts with Deborah in them because there is little research done on female prophets.” 

While we are able to see that this paragraph will focus on the aspect of female prophets and that it is hard to study the texts with Deborah in them because there is little research on female prophets, there is no transition from the last paragraph to connect the thoughts of the paper nor is the sentence specific about who the “many people” are.    

Whereas a more defined topic sentence with proper transitioning between paragraphs and one that introduces the full intent of the paragraph might be:   

“Although the only apparent struggles in analyzing such texts could be seen through their aforementioned slight detailed differences, a majority of scholars find textual difficulties presented in the lack of focus on female prophets in general.”   

This topic sentence, which is the first sentence of the paragraph, transitions the reader from the paragraph before it by using a good transition phrase starting with the word “Although.” “Although” is generally used to compare and contrast ideas, and ere it is used to do just that.   

By acknowledging the intent of the paragraph before it as well as previous research in general, this makes the previous information relevant to this paragraph since the content of this paragraph will be slightly contrasting since the writer is stating that this is actually the biggest issue in analysis not the other ones previously stated even though they are important too.   

The second half of the sentence also serves to tell the intent of the paragraph. Here as the reader, we know that we are going to be presented with sources that support the idea that there is a lack of focus on female prophets in general which makes it hard to study them.   

Some questions to ask might be:  

  •   Do your paragraphs have a clear topic sentence? Do your topic sentences tell the main intent of that specific paragraph? Is it one clear point? If not, you may want to pick the point that best describes the content in your paragraph.    
  • Do your paragraphs transition smoothly? What draws your attention during reading? Is it to the things that you want to draw attention to?  

Examples/Evidence provide a foundation atop which you can build your paper on. Teachers will typically give a minimum or maximum number of sources that you can have in your paper within the rubric or assignment guidelines. Always remember to pick sources that will best support the main intent of your paper and the assignment’s requirements. However, try to keep an open mind when you’re choosing your sources. When you’re writing a paper, you want sources that will support your argument, but, if you’re struggling to find any, try reconsidering your initial idea . It’s okay to be wrong, and it’s okay to revise and change; that’s all part of the process of learning. What you want to avoid is pulling bits and pieces from sources that don’t agree with your argument. This is called ‘cherry-picking’, and it can actually make writing a paper harder, since you have to construct writing that fits your sources, instead of finding sources that fit your writing. Some questions to ask would be:  

  • Do your paragraphs have enough examples, quotes, paraphrasing, and summary from other sources to provide support for the main topic of each paragraph? Do you have more quotes than paraphrasing or vice vera?  
  • Sometimes it may work better to have a quote rather than summary; however, keep in mind that well-rounded papers typically have an even amount of all in order to keep the audience’s attention and show that you know what you are talking about.    
  • Do you explain why you included that examples, quotes, paraphrasing, or summary with a follow-up sentence on how it supports your argument or research? Does your inclusion of this example lead into the idea of your next sentence?  
  • Sometimes having too many sources can drown out your own thought, so be sure to keep an eye out to see if your paragraphs are balanced with original thought and other sources.    

One way to check if your paragraphs are complete is by putting them to the PREP test:  

P oint: Does your paragraph have an introduction topic sentence? What is this paragraph going to be about?   

R eason: Does your paragraph give reasoning for your topic sentence? Why do you think this way, or why is your point valid?   

E xample: Does your paragraph provide an example/ evidence from supporting sources that backup your reasoning. Do you provide quotes, and/or paraphrasing, and/or summary from other sources?  

P oint: Does your paragraph have a conclusion topic sentence? Does it sum up/(re)state the focus of the paragraph without being repetitive? Does it provide a smooth transition into your next paragraph?    

Structural Edits 

Structural Edits are just what the name hints at: they involve the overall structure, or layout, of your paper. When doing structural edits, you are looking at how your paragraphs are arranged and how the sentences within them are arranged.   

Are your paragraphs arranged in a way that promotes the best flow of thoughts and transitions between them? Are your sentences arranged in a way that enables the reader to follow your thoughts while reading? Or are your paragraphs choppy and jump from idea to idea without any rhyme or reason?    

Here are a few different ways of how to go about Structural Edits:    

The Outline Method  

As you reread your paper, create an outline as you go. Do not look at your original outline but follow the flow of your written paper.   

Note where your introduction and thesis are. What does your introduction introduce and how? Note where each of your paragraphs are, what the focus of each paragraph is, what supporting and/or challenging evidence does it provide, and where their topic sentences are. Finally, note where your conclusion is. Does it sum up everything in your paper well?   

Once you finish, you should have an outline that looks somewhat like this:  

(Access a downloadable copy of the  Outline Method here.)

A list of the outline method is included in this photo. The Word document is available for download above.

Now pull your original outline back out. Does your current outline and original outline match in the same places? If not, look and see how and why. Are your paragraphs in reverse order? Do you have holes in your new outline where you haven’t supported a point in one of your paragraphs? Are your topic sentences in the middle of one of your paragraphs instead of at the beginning or end? Does this work for that particular paragraph (sometimes it can depending on the length and focus of the paragraph)?   

Please note that outlines are meant to be flexible, so if your current outline doesn’t 100% match the original outline THIS IS OKAY because some changes are good! As you write and revise, you are usually able to feel and see if it makes more sense to put one paragraph in a different place or to use one source but not the other. Most of the time you know when something doesn’t look or sound right as you’re writing or editing. Just make sure that your new outline matches the main points you are trying to focus on in the original outline. Trust your instincts and, if you are not sure, consult a writing tutor, your classmates, or your teacher for advice on how to revise your paper.    

One last thing to remember is the above outline is an outline for a basic essay. If you are doing scientific research or writing a business proposal, your outline is bound to look different. However, the same basic principles still apply. Read your writing, create an outline of your writing from your reading, and consult and compare your original and current outline to see if you need to change anything.         

The PowerPoint Method  

If you are a visual leaner, one way to help you visualize your paper is by copying and pasting your paragraphs onto PowerPoint slides. Put one paragraph on a slide from beginning to end (ex: Introduction is on the first slide and Conclusion is on the last slide). Now read your paper both in your head or out loud if that helps. Does your paper flow well in the order that it is in? Try moving some of the slides around. Does it read better if Paragraph 2 is in front of Paragraph 1? While you won’t always need to rearrange your paragraphs, if you are finding that your paper is a little hard to read or choppy, using the PowerPoint method can help you see if it is the layout that is affecting your paper’s flow.   


Note that you could also use the same method when looking at the sentences in one of your paragraphs if it harder to read. Create a PowerPoint and try putting one sentence on each slide. Now seeing if moving some slides around in a different order helps the paragraph to be read better or be understood more easily. Do you find that you need an example to backup up one of your own statements in the paragraph? Do sentences 4 and 5 need to be rearranged to make everything clearer? Do you need to delete a sentence in order for everything to be connected better?     

The Paragraph-Cutting Method 

If you’re a hands-on learner this might be just the thing for you!  

Paragraph cutting is much like the PowerPoint Method. If you’re not comfortable with PowerPoint or don’t have the time, print your paper out and lay it in front of you. With scissors, cut the paragraphs out and line them up top to bottom from introduction to conclusion and start reading.  

Just like the PowerPoint method, you can rearrange the paragraphs to see what layout best fits your paper and intent. You can also use this method on individual paragraphs by cutting up the sentences and rearranging them as noted above.  

During this time, you might realize that a sentence you have in Paragraph 1 might actually fit better in Paragraph 3, so you can physically cut it out and move it to the other paragraph. Once you are done take a picture of your finished structure just in case you forget your edits later, and then transfer your edits into your actual paper.        

The Highlighting Method 

The Highlighting Method is a simple way to check the structure of your paper and assess what you do or don’t have in your paper as well. With at least 4 different colored highlighters (or more depending on the type of paper you’re writing or what your rubric asks you to include) highlight the different elements of your paper. Maybe you want your thesis and topic sentences to be highlighted in blue and your supporting evidence to be highlighted in orange. The Highlighting Method gives you a chance to see the placement and type of sentences you have in each paragraph by color-coordinating. This not only helps you to assess your paragraphs but also how much or how little you have in each paragraph.        

Image shows multiple colors used to emphasize different sections of the paper.

   Note in the example of the Highlighter Method above:  

  • Topic sentences (which are original thought or observation) are highlighted in yellow.   
  • Quotes are highlighted in green.   
  • Summary is highlighted in blue. 
  • Paraphrasing is highlighted in gray.   
  • Anything that is not highlighted is original thought from the writer.   

The end result: This method allows us to see that this paragraph is balanced with original thought as well as a variety of sources and ways in which the writer was able incorporate them into her paragraph.  

Rubrics and Assignment Guidelines  

Teachers typically give a rubric or assignment guideline when assigning a paper so make sure to consult it when you start the revision process to remind yourself what you need to include in your paper. They are extremely helpful in making sure that you have all the big bases covered in your writing since they include what the teacher expects to find when reading your paper, such as word length, formatting, number and type of sources, and how clear your points are.      

It might be helpful for you to print out a copy of the rubric or assignment guideline for yourself and check off if you meet each of paper’s requirements when revising. If you find that you have the box for word length checked off but don’t have enough sources to meet the minimum for the source requirement, this gives you a chance to find additional sources and incorporate them into your paper before the deadline.  

Rubrics and assignment guidelines can be your best friends when you’re revising! Don’t be afraid of using them to your advantage during the revision process!    

Sentence Level Edits   While it’s essential to make sure that there are no issues with the overall structure of your paper, you should also look at some of the smaller problems. You can go about tackling some of the sentence-level edits by proofreading your paper.   

Proofreading   Proofreading is usually the final step when it comes to revising. This is when you read over your paper specifically to look for any mistakes involving things such as spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Even though revising involves more than just checking your grammar, it’s still important to make sure that your paper is grammatically correct. Having grammatical errors in your paper can not only cause you to lose points on your assignment, but it can also cause your readers to become confused and misunderstand what you’re trying to say. Before you begin this process, you should doublecheck to make sure that you’ve handled any larger issues first, such as problems with the organization, style or formatting issues, etc. If everything’s correct, then you’re ready to take a look at the grammatical errors.  While proofreading may seem like a tedious process, there are a few strategies that may help you.  

Proofreading Strategies 

Set your work to the side for a little while.   After you’ve spent some time writing and revising a paper, you become very familiar with it. You know what it says, or what it’s supposed to say. However, this familiarity can actually be a hindrance when it comes to trying to proofread. So, after you’ve finished with your major revisions, consider setting your paper to the side for a bit, maybe overnight, or even just for a few hours if you’re short on time. That way, when you come back to it, you’ll have a fresh perspective to begin proofreading with.  

Don’t just use Spellcheck.   Spellcheck, or any program like it, is a very useful tool when it comes to proofreading. You should always make sure to use it before turning in an assignment, as it can catch errors that you might not have noticed. However, you should not rely on it. There are certain problems that it can’t catch, or that it may miss, so you should look back over your paper after using Spellcheck on it.  

Print out a hard copy.   Printing out a hard copy of your paper has some of the same benefits as setting it aside for a few days. By the time you’ve reached the proofreading stage of revision, you’ll have already become very familiar with your paper, and you’ll have become used to seeing it on a screen. When you print your paper out, you’ll be seeing it in a new format, which can make it easier to spot errors. Also, having a hard copy of your paper gives you the opportunity to mark-up a physical copy of your work.  

Read your work out loud.   Reading your work out loud can help you find grammatical errors, but it’s mainly useful for making sure that your sentences flow together and don’t sound awkward. Something that looks good on paper may actually end up sounding disjointed. This is a great way to ensure that your writing is cohesive. Reading aloud in front of a friend or family member can also be helpful for identifying these types of errors. They may be able to catch things that you may not notice.   

Look for one type of error at a time.   Proofreading may seem like a daunting task, as it encompasses so many things. A way to make it less intimidating can be that you only focus on looking for one type of error at a time. For example, on your first read-through, you look for any spelling errors. Then, on your second read-through, you look for any comma errors. This can help to make the proofreading process a little more manageable.  

Ask another person to review it.   Once you’re finished proofreading your paper, it can still be helpful to have another set of eyes look over it. Like with setting your work aside, or printing out a hard copy, having a fresh perspective look over the paper can be helpful. You can ask a friend or family member to read your work, or you can always make an appointment with a consultant at the Writing Center to go over your paper. If you’d like to set up an appointment with a consultant, click here .   

Many people have trouble knowing when and where to use a comma in their sentences. This can lead to confusion in their readers, because, depending on where a comma is placed, it can change the meaning of the sentence completely. Below are a few general rules that can help you check and make sure that your paper uses commas correctly.  

this image shows comma rules.

If you still need some help with this, click here for some more examples of proper comma use.  

Subject Verb Agreement 

Another common mistake that people make while writing a paper is that, in their sentences, their subjects and verbs don’t agree. Subjects and verbs agree when they are both singular or plural, and in the same “person” (first person, third person, etc.). An example of subject-verb agreement would be: “I am” or “he is”, while an example of subject-verb disagreement would be: “He am” or “I is”.    

Here are a few rules you should keep in mind to make sure that your subjects and verbs agree throughout your paper.   

this image includes examples of subject/verb agreements.

If you still need some help with this, click here for some more examples of subject-verb agreement.  

Active and Passive Voice 

While you’re working on your paper, you should always make sure to keep your writing in the active voice, and not the passive voice. The difference between the two is that in the active voice, the subject of your sentence is performing the action, while in the passive voice, the subject is receiving the action. That may sound confusing, so here’s an example to show you what they both look like.  

Active Voice Example: The hero saved the day.   

Passive Voice Example: The day was saved by the hero.  

In the first example, the subject of the sentence, the hero, is performing the verb. He is actively saving the day. However, in the second example, the action already happened. It’s in the past; the day was saved.   

In your writing, you want to avoid phrases that sound like the second example. The active voice is typically clearer, which makes it easier for your readers to understand what it is that you’re trying to say.   

While you’re editing your writing, if you come across a sentence that includes a “by the…” phrase, that sentence is probably written in the passive voice. You can fix it by rearranging some of your words.   

For example: The knight was kidnapped by the dragon .  

You see we have a “by the” phrase. That means that this sentence is written in the passive voice, so, what we need to do is reorganize. Who is actually doing something in this sentence? The dragon, he is actively kidnapping the knight. The knight is being useless and doing nothing, so why should he be the star of the sentence? He shouldn’t be; the dragon should be the subject instead. So, he and the knight switch places. If the dragon is the new subject, then we need to update our verb as well.  

So, our new sentence would be: The dragon kidnapped the knight.  

This sentence is written in the active voice, because the subject of the sentence, the dragon, is the one who is doing something.   

If you still need some help with this, click here for some more examples of how to change passive voice sentences into active voice.   

Questions to Keep You on Track   

As you’re revising your paper, feel free to use the questions below to help you through the revision process.   

this image is a screenshot of the below downloadable checklist.

Print out your own checklist here.


Academic Guides. (n.d.). Writing a Paper: Proofreading .  https://academicguides.waldenu.edu/writingcenter/writingprocess/proofreading .   

Hobart and William Smith Colleges. (n.d.). Academics: Revision Strategies . https://www.hws.edu/academics/ctl/writes_revision.aspx .  

Lumen. (n.d.). Guide to Writing . https://courses.lumenlearning.com/styleguide/chapter/subject-verb-agreement/ .   

Purdue Writing Lab. (n.d.). Changing Passive to Active Voice // Purdue Writing Lab . Purdue Writing Lab. https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/general_writing/academic_writing/active_and_passive_voice/changing_passive_to_active_voice.html .  

Student Success. (n.d.). Commas (Eight Basic Uses) . https://www.iue.edu/student-success/coursework/commas.html .  

The Writing Center. (n.d.). Subject-Verb Agreement .  https://writingcenter.gmu.edu/guides/subject-verb-agreement .  

revising essays tips

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Writing a Paper: Revising

Although sometimes revising and proofreading seem interchangeable, they are, in fact, different. Revision means to see (vision) again (re). Revision is more than proofreading. It is looking back at whole ideas to make sure that everything fits the purpose of the document. It may be looking back at the type of or amount of evidence provided to support the ideas, or it may be looking back at the organization of paragraphs and their relation to one another.

In U.S. academic English, the process of writing is emphasized. In other words, it is expected that a document go through multiple drafts instead of being written once. In fact, experienced writers often say that the majority of their time is spent rewriting, reorganizing, and rewording their first draft.

Writing is also often very personal. Once something is placed on the page, it can be difficult to decide to delete it. True revision, however, may require deletion. It may be necessary to delete entire paragraphs (or entire pages). It might also be necessary to move ideas from one part of the text to another. Do not be afraid of the bigger changes—this is part of the process.

Writers may tend to be more linear or more recursive. A linear writer may have clearly defined steps in the writing process. This type of writer might begin with brainstorming, then produce an outline, then write the draft, then revise the draft, and then proofread the draft. A recursive writer often has a less clearly defined approach. The outline of the document may not be clear until after the first draft is written. The writing and the revision may happen throughout the production of the document. There is no one correct approach to writing, but understanding what type of writer you tend to be may help you to understand the process of writing and where revision occurs in your process.

Revising Strategies

Please read the following pages for some revising strategies.

  • Revising in General
  • Revising Based on Feedback
  • Revising for Focused Ideas
  • Revising for Stronger Evidence
  • Revising for Effective Organization
  • Revising for Scholarly Voice
  • Revising for Grammar
  • Reflecting & Improving

Also check out our blog posts on revising . We add new posts continually, so check back often.

Our Paper Review Service

Our Paper Review Service is another beneficial way to enhance your revision skills. In addition to the revision strategies listed above, we also encourage you to set up a paper review appointment with our writing instructors to receive individualized feedback on your project. We, at the Writing Center, look forward to partnering with you in your journey to academic writing and revision success!

Applying Feedback in Your Paper Video Playlist

Note that these videos were created while APA 6 was the style guide edition in use. There may be some examples of writing that have not been updated to APA 7 guidelines.

  • Applying Feedback in Your Paper: Applying Feedback Principles (video transcript)
  • Applying Feedback in Your Paper: Thesis Statement Feedback (video transcript)
  • Applying Feedback in Your Paper: Transition Feedback (video transcript)
  • Applying Feedback in Your Paper: Paragraph Feedback (video transcript)
  • Applying Feedback in Your Paper: Grammar Feedback (video transcript)
  • Applying Feedback to Your Paper: APA Feedback (video transcript)
  • Applying Feedback to Your Paper: Word Choice Feedback (video transcript)

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Writing Center

How to revise drafts, now the real work begins....

After writing the first draft of an essay, you may think much of your work is done, but actually the real work – revising – is just beginning. The good news is that by this point in the writing process you have gained some perspective and can ask yourself some questions: Did I develop my subject matter appropriately? Did my thesis change or evolve during writing? Did I communicate my ideas effectively and clearly? Would I like to revise, but feel uncertain about how to do it?

Also see the UMN Crookston Writing Center's  Revising and Editing Handout .

How to Revise

First, put your draft aside for a little while.  Time away from your essay will allow for more objective self-evaluation. When you do return to the draft, be honest with yourself; ask yourself what you really think about the paper.

Check the  focus  of the paper.  Is it appropriate to the assignment prompt? Is the topic too big or too narrow? Do you stay on track throughout the entire paper? (At this stage, you should be concerned with the large, content-related issues in the paper, not the grammar and sentence structure).

Get  feedback .  Since you already know what you’re trying to say, you aren’t always the best judge of where your draft is clear or unclear. Let another reader tell you. Then discuss aloud what you were trying to achieve. In articulating for someone else what you meant to argue, you will clarify ideas for yourself.

Think honestly about your thesis.  Do you still agree with it? Should it be modified in light of something you discovered as you wrote the paper? Does it make a sophisticated, provocative point? Or does it just say what anyone could say if given the same topic? Does your thesis generalize instead of taking a specific position? Should it be changed completely?

Examine the  balance  within your paper.  Are some parts out of proportion with others? Do you spend too much time on one trivial point and neglect a more important point? Do you give lots of details early on and then let your points get thinner by the end? Based on what you did in the previous step, restructure your argument: reorder your points and cut anything that’s irrelevant or redundant. You may want to return to your sources for additional supporting evidence.

Now that you know what you’re really arguing, work on your  introduction and conclusion . Make sure to begin your paragraphs with topic sentences, linking the idea(s) in each paragraph to those proposed in the thesis.

Proofread.  Aim for precision and economy in language. Read aloud so you can hear imperfections. (Your ear may pick up what your eye has missed). Note that this step comes LAST. There’s no point in making a sentence grammatically perfect if it’s going to be changed or deleted anyway.

As you revise your own work, keep the following in mind:

Revision means rethinking your thesis. It is unreasonable to expect to come up with the best thesis possible – one that accounts for all aspects of your topic – before beginning a draft, or even during a first draft. The best theses evolve; they are actually produced during the writing process. Successful revision involves bringing your thesis into focus—or changing it altogether.

Revision means making structural changes. Drafting is usually a process of discovering an idea or argument. Your argument will not become clearer if you only tinker with individual sentences. Successful revision involves bringing the strongest ideas to the front of the essay, reordering the main points, and cutting irrelevant sections. It also involves making the argument’s structure visible by strengthening topic sentences and transitions.

Revision takes time. Avoid shortcuts: the reward for sustained effort is an essay that is clearer, more persuasive, and more sophisticated.

Think about your purpose in writing: Does your introduction clearly state what you intend to do? Will your aims be clear to your readers?

Check the organization. Does your paper follow a pattern that makes sense? Doe the transitions move your readers smoothly from one point to the next? Do the topic sentences of each paragraph appropriately introduce what that paragraph is about? Would your paper be work better if you moved some things around?

Check your information. Are all your facts accurate? Are any of our statements misleading? Have you provided enough detail to satisfy readers’ curiosity? Have you cited all your information appropriately?

Revision doesn’t necessarily mean rewriting the whole paper. Sometimes it means revising the thesis to match what you’ve discovered while writing. Sometimes it means coming up with stronger arguments to defend your position, or coming up with more vivid examples to illustrate your points. Sometimes it means shifting the order of your paper to help the reader follow your argument, or to change the emphasis of your points. Sometimes it means adding or deleting material for balance or emphasis. And then, sadly, sometimes revision does mean trashing your first draft and starting from scratch. Better that than having the teacher trash your final paper.

Revising Sentences

Read your paper out loud, sentence by sentence, and look for places where you stumble or get lost in the middle of a sentence. These are obvious places that need fixing. Look for places where you get distracted or even bored – where you cannot concentrate. These are places where you probably lost focus or concentration in your writing. Cut through the extra words or vagueness or digression: get back to the energy.

Tips for writing good sentences:

Use forceful verbs – replace long verb phrases with a more specific verb. For example, replace “She argues for the importance of the idea” with ‘she defends the idea.” Also, try to stay in the active voice.

Look for places where you’ve used the same word or phrase twice or more in consecutive sentences and look for alternative ways to say the same thing OR for ways to combine the two sentences.

Cut as many prepositional phrases as you can without losing your meaning. For instance, the sentence “There are several examples of the issue of integrity in  Huck Finn ” would be much better this way: “ Huck Finn  repeated addresses the issue of integrity.”

Check your sentence variety. IF more than two sentences in a row start the same way (with a subject followed by a verb, for example), then try using a different sentence pattern. Also, try to mix simple sentences with compound and compound-complex sentences for variety.

Aim for precision in word choice. Don’t settle for the best word you can think of at the moment—use a thesaurus (along with a dictionary) to search for the word that says exactly what you want to say.

Look for sentences that start with “it is” or “there are” and see if you can revise them to be more active and engaging.

By Jocelyn Rolling, English Instructor Last edited October 2016 by Allison Haas, M.A.

An Essay Revision Checklist

Guidelines for Revising a Composition

Maica / Getty Images

  • Ph.D., Rhetoric and English, University of Georgia
  • M.A., Modern English and American Literature, University of Leicester
  • B.A., English, State University of New York

Revision  means looking again at what we have written to see how we can improve it. Some of us start revising as soon as we begin a rough  draft —restructuring and rearranging sentences as we work out our ideas. Then we return to the draft, perhaps several times, to make further revisions.

Revision as Opportunity

Revising is an opportunity to reconsider our topic, our readers, even our purpose for writing . Taking the time to rethink our approach may encourage us to make major changes in the content and structure of our work.

As a general rule, the best time to revise is not right after you've completed a draft (although at times this is unavoidable). Instead, wait a few hours—even a day or two, if possible—in order to gain some distance from your work. This way you'll be less protective of your writing and better prepared to make changes. 

One last bit of advice: read your work aloud when you revise. You may hear problems in your writing that you can't see.

"Never think that what you've written can't be improved. You should always try to make the sentence that much better and make a scene that much clearer. Go over and over the words and reshape them as many times as is needed," (Tracy Chevalier, "Why I Write." The Guardian , 24 Nov. 2006).

Revision Checklist

  • Does the essay have a clear and concise main idea? Is this idea made clear to the reader in a thesis statement early in the essay (usually in the introduction )?
  • Does the essay have a specific purpose (such as to inform, entertain, evaluate, or persuade)? Have you made this purpose clear to the reader?
  • Does the introduction create interest in the topic and make your audience want to read on?
  • Is there a clear plan and sense of organization to the essay? Does each paragraph develop logically from the previous one?
  • Is each paragraph clearly related to the main idea of the essay? Is there enough information in the essay to support the main idea?
  • Is the main point of each paragraph clear? Is each point adequately and clearly defined in a topic sentence and supported with specific details ?
  • Are there clear transitions from one paragraph to the next? Have key words and ideas been given proper emphasis in the sentences and paragraphs?
  • Are the sentences clear and direct? Can they be understood on the first reading? Are the sentences varied in length and structure? Could any sentences be improved by combining or restructuring them?
  • Are the words in the essay clear and precise? Does the essay maintain a consistent tone ?
  • Does the essay have an effective conclusion —one that emphasizes the main idea and provides a sense of completeness?

Once you have finished revising your essay, you can turn your attention to the finer details of editing and proofreading your work.

Line Editing Checklist

  • Is each sentence  clear and complete ?
  • Can any short, choppy sentences be improved by  combining  them?
  • Can any long, awkward sentences be improved by breaking them down into shorter units and recombining them?
  • Can any wordy sentences be made more  concise ?
  • Can any  run-on sentences  be more effectively  coordinated  or  subordinated ?
  • Does  each verb agree with its subject ?
  • Are all  verb  forms correct and consistent?
  • Do  pronouns  refer clearly to the appropriate  nouns ?
  • Do all  modifying words and phrases  refer clearly to the words they are intended to modify?
  • Is each word  spelled  correctly?
  • Is the  punctuation  correct?
  • Revision and Editing Checklist for a Narrative Essay
  • revision (composition)
  • 11 Quick Tips to Improve Your Writing
  • An Introduction to Academic Writing
  • 6 Steps to Writing the Perfect Personal Essay
  • How Do You Edit an Essay?
  • Conciseness for Better Composition
  • Paragraph Writing
  • Self-Evaluation of Essays
  • How To Write an Essay
  • The Difference Between Revising and Editing
  • What Is Expository Writing?
  • Development in Composition: Building an Essay
  • Make Your Paragraphs Flow to Improve Writing
  • Definition and Examples of Analysis in Composition
  • Revising a Paper

The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Editing and Proofreading

What this handout is about.

This handout provides some tips and strategies for revising your writing. To give you a chance to practice proofreading, we have left seven errors (three spelling errors, two punctuation errors, and two grammatical errors) in the text of this handout. See if you can spot them!

Is editing the same thing as proofreading?

Not exactly. Although many people use the terms interchangeably, editing and proofreading are two different stages of the revision process. Both demand close and careful reading, but they focus on different aspects of the writing and employ different techniques.

Some tips that apply to both editing and proofreading

  • Get some distance from the text! It’s hard to edit or proofread a paper that you’ve just finished writing—it’s still to familiar, and you tend to skip over a lot of errors. Put the paper aside for a few hours, days, or weeks. Go for a run. Take a trip to the beach. Clear your head of what you’ve written so you can take a fresh look at the paper and see what is really on the page. Better yet, give the paper to a friend—you can’t get much more distance than that. Someone who is reading the paper for the first time, comes to it with completely fresh eyes.
  • Decide which medium lets you proofread most carefully. Some people like to work right at the computer, while others like to sit back with a printed copy that they can mark up as they read.
  • Try changing the look of your document. Altering the size, spacing, color, or style of the text may trick your brain into thinking it’s seeing an unfamiliar document, and that can help you get a different perspective on what you’ve written.
  • Find a quiet place to work. Don’t try to do your proofreading in front of the TV or while you’re chugging away on the treadmill. Find a place where you can concentrate and avoid distractions.
  • If possible, do your editing and proofreading in several short blocks of time. Your concentration may start to wane if you try to proofread the entire text at one time.
  • If you’re short on time, you may wish to prioritize. Make sure that you complete the most important editing and proofreading tasks.

Editing is what you begin doing as soon as you finish your first draft. You reread your draft to see, for example, whether the paper is well-organized, the transitions between paragraphs are smooth, and your evidence really backs up your argument. You can edit on several levels:

Have you done everything the assignment requires? Are the claims you make accurate? If it is required to do so, does your paper make an argument? Is the argument complete? Are all of your claims consistent? Have you supported each point with adequate evidence? Is all of the information in your paper relevant to the assignment and/or your overall writing goal? (For additional tips, see our handouts on understanding assignments and developing an argument .)

Overall structure

Does your paper have an appropriate introduction and conclusion? Is your thesis clearly stated in your introduction? Is it clear how each paragraph in the body of your paper is related to your thesis? Are the paragraphs arranged in a logical sequence? Have you made clear transitions between paragraphs? One way to check the structure of your paper is to make a reverse outline of the paper after you have written the first draft. (See our handouts on introductions , conclusions , thesis statements , and transitions .)

Structure within paragraphs

Does each paragraph have a clear topic sentence? Does each paragraph stick to one main idea? Are there any extraneous or missing sentences in any of your paragraphs? (See our handout on paragraph development .)

Have you defined any important terms that might be unclear to your reader? Is the meaning of each sentence clear? (One way to answer this question is to read your paper one sentence at a time, starting at the end and working backwards so that you will not unconsciously fill in content from previous sentences.) Is it clear what each pronoun (he, she, it, they, which, who, this, etc.) refers to? Have you chosen the proper words to express your ideas? Avoid using words you find in the thesaurus that aren’t part of your normal vocabulary; you may misuse them.

Have you used an appropriate tone (formal, informal, persuasive, etc.)? Is your use of gendered language (masculine and feminine pronouns like “he” or “she,” words like “fireman” that contain “man,” and words that some people incorrectly assume apply to only one gender—for example, some people assume “nurse” must refer to a woman) appropriate? Have you varied the length and structure of your sentences? Do you tends to use the passive voice too often? Does your writing contain a lot of unnecessary phrases like “there is,” “there are,” “due to the fact that,” etc.? Do you repeat a strong word (for example, a vivid main verb) unnecessarily? (For tips, see our handouts on style and gender-inclusive language .)

Have you appropriately cited quotes, paraphrases, and ideas you got from sources? Are your citations in the correct format? (See the UNC Libraries citation tutorial for more information.)

As you edit at all of these levels, you will usually make significant revisions to the content and wording of your paper. Keep an eye out for patterns of error; knowing what kinds of problems you tend to have will be helpful, especially if you are editing a large document like a thesis or dissertation. Once you have identified a pattern, you can develop techniques for spotting and correcting future instances of that pattern. For example, if you notice that you often discuss several distinct topics in each paragraph, you can go through your paper and underline the key words in each paragraph, then break the paragraphs up so that each one focuses on just one main idea.


Proofreading is the final stage of the editing process, focusing on surface errors such as misspellings and mistakes in grammar and punctuation. You should proofread only after you have finished all of your other editing revisions.

Why proofread? It’s the content that really matters, right?

Content is important. But like it or not, the way a paper looks affects the way others judge it. When you’ve worked hard to develop and present your ideas, you don’t want careless errors distracting your reader from what you have to say. It’s worth paying attention to the details that help you to make a good impression.

Most people devote only a few minutes to proofreading, hoping to catch any glaring errors that jump out from the page. But a quick and cursory reading, especially after you’ve been working long and hard on a paper, usually misses a lot. It’s better to work with a definite plan that helps you to search systematically for specific kinds of errors.

Sure, this takes a little extra time, but it pays off in the end. If you know that you have an effective way to catch errors when the paper is almost finished, you can worry less about editing while you are writing your first drafts. This makes the entire writing proccess more efficient.

Try to keep the editing and proofreading processes separate. When you are editing an early draft, you don’t want to be bothered with thinking about punctuation, grammar, and spelling. If your worrying about the spelling of a word or the placement of a comma, you’re not focusing on the more important task of developing and connecting ideas.

The proofreading process

You probably already use some of the strategies discussed below. Experiment with different tactics until you find a system that works well for you. The important thing is to make the process systematic and focused so that you catch as many errors as possible in the least amount of time.

  • Don’t rely entirely on spelling checkers. These can be useful tools but they are far from foolproof. Spell checkers have a limited dictionary, so some words that show up as misspelled may really just not be in their memory. In addition, spell checkers will not catch misspellings that form another valid word. For example, if you type “your” instead of “you’re,” “to” instead of “too,” or “there” instead of “their,” the spell checker won’t catch the error.
  • Grammar checkers can be even more problematic. These programs work with a limited number of rules, so they can’t identify every error and often make mistakes. They also fail to give thorough explanations to help you understand why a sentence should be revised. You may want to use a grammar checker to help you identify potential run-on sentences or too-frequent use of the passive voice, but you need to be able to evaluate the feedback it provides.
  • Proofread for only one kind of error at a time. If you try to identify and revise too many things at once, you risk losing focus, and your proofreading will be less effective. It’s easier to catch grammar errors if you aren’t checking punctuation and spelling at the same time. In addition, some of the techniques that work well for spotting one kind of mistake won’t catch others.
  • Read slow, and read every word. Try reading out loud , which forces you to say each word and also lets you hear how the words sound together. When you read silently or too quickly, you may skip over errors or make unconscious corrections.
  • Separate the text into individual sentences. This is another technique to help you to read every sentence carefully. Simply press the return key after every period so that every line begins a new sentence. Then read each sentence separately, looking for grammar, punctuation, or spelling errors. If you’re working with a printed copy, try using an opaque object like a ruler or a piece of paper to isolate the line you’re working on.
  • Circle every punctuation mark. This forces you to look at each one. As you circle, ask yourself if the punctuation is correct.
  • Read the paper backwards. This technique is helpful for checking spelling. Start with the last word on the last page and work your way back to the beginning, reading each word separately. Because content, punctuation, and grammar won’t make any sense, your focus will be entirely on the spelling of each word. You can also read backwards sentence by sentence to check grammar; this will help you avoid becoming distracted by content issues.
  • Proofreading is a learning process. You’re not just looking for errors that you recognize; you’re also learning to recognize and correct new errors. This is where handbooks and dictionaries come in. Keep the ones you find helpful close at hand as you proofread.
  • Ignorance may be bliss, but it won’t make you a better proofreader. You’ll often find things that don’t seem quite right to you, but you may not be quite sure what’s wrong either. A word looks like it might be misspelled, but the spell checker didn’t catch it. You think you need a comma between two words, but you’re not sure why. Should you use “that” instead of “which”? If you’re not sure about something, look it up.
  • The proofreading process becomes more efficient as you develop and practice a systematic strategy. You’ll learn to identify the specific areas of your own writing that need careful attention, and knowing that you have a sound method for finding errors will help you to focus more on developing your ideas while you are drafting the paper.

Think you’ve got it?

Then give it a try, if you haven’t already! This handout contains seven errors our proofreader should have caught: three spelling errors, two punctuation errors, and two grammatical errors. Try to find them, and then check a version of this page with the errors marked in red to see if you’re a proofreading star.

Works consulted

We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.

Especially for non-native speakers of English:

Ascher, Allen. 2006. Think About Editing: An ESL Guide for the Harbrace Handbooks . Boston: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Lane, Janet, and Ellen Lange. 2012. Writing Clearly: Grammar for Editing , 3rd ed. Boston: Heinle.

For everyone:

Einsohn, Amy. 2011. The Copyeditor’s Handbook: A Guide for Book Publishing and Corporate Communications , 3rd ed. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Lanham, Richard A. 2006. Revising Prose , 5th ed. New York: Pearson Longman.

Tarshis, Barry. 1998. How to Be Your Own Best Editor: The Toolkit for Everyone Who Writes . New York: Three Rivers Press.

You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute the source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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The Ultimate Guide to Rewriting and Revising Essays for College Students

Stefani H.

Table of contents

During your college years, you'll pen countless essays on a myriad of topics. These essays, whether they contribute to your final grades or pave the way for more extensive research, are a testament to your understanding, analytical skills, and argumentative prowess.

Yet, the journey from the first draft to the polished final piece is rarely a straight path. The beauty and clarity of your essay emerge not just in the initial burst of inspiration but in the rigorous process that follows: revising and rewriting.

Even the most seasoned writers acknowledge this truth: the first draft is just the beginning. No matter how well it's penned, every first draft can, and often should, undergo a careful revision. After all, refining your work not only elevates its quality but also hones your skills as a writer.

Understand the Difference: Rewriting vs. Revising

The journey from the start of your essay to its glorious finale often involves two essential pit stops: rewriting and revising. While these terms are sometimes used interchangeably, each has its own unique purpose in the world of essay refinement.

Rewriting: Think of rewriting as reconstructing the backbone of your essay. It’s about taking the existing content and changing its structure, tone, or even the core points. This might mean switching paragraphs around, rephrasing entire sections, or adding new insights. In simpler words, rewriting is the act of making large-scale changes to the foundation of your work.

Revising: On the other hand, revising is like polishing a diamond. Once you’ve shaped and cut the gem (your essay), revising ensures each facet shines brilliantly. It focuses on smaller, finer details: fixing grammar, refining sentence structures, checking for clarity, and ensuring a smooth flow. It’s the step that ensures your arguments are clear, concise, and compelling.

Both processes, while distinct, are equally critical. Rewriting ensures your essay’s backbone is strong and logical, while revising ensures the flesh covering that backbone is smooth, cohesive, and free of errors. Together, they guarantee that your essay stands tall, impressing readers and leaving a lasting impact.

The Rewriting Process

So, you've penned down your initial thoughts, and it's time to refine. Rewriting isn't just about fixing errors; it's about refining your message, ensuring coherence, and making sure every paragraph serves its purpose. Let's dive deep into the nitty-gritty of this transformative process.

#1. Start Fresh

Ever tried solving a puzzle for hours, only to find the solution after taking a short break? Similarly, when you’ve been deeply engrossed in your essay, you might become "blind" to its quirks and redundancies. This is why it's beneficial to distance yourself from your work for a day or two. It allows you to come back with fresh eyes, enabling you to spot areas that need improvement more effectively.

#2. Re-evaluate Your Thesis

The thesis is the heart of your essay. As you rewrite, ensure your thesis is not just present but pulsating, guiding every argument you make. Check if it's specific enough to give your essay direction, strong in its claim, and arguable to ignite interest. If your thesis feels weak or off-track, don't hesitate to reshape it. A well-defined thesis can significantly enhance the quality of your undergraduate essay writing, making services like our undergraduate essay writing service a valuable asset for students.

#3. Reorganize for Flow

You want your reader to sail smoothly through your essay, not stumble and trip. Reorganize your paragraphs, ensuring each one naturally progresses from its predecessor. Does the conclusion of one paragraph introduce the concept of the next? Are your ideas sequenced logically? Sometimes, merely swapping two paragraphs or restructuring sentences within a paragraph can make all the difference in maintaining a logical flow.

Remember, rewriting isn't about changing what you want to say; it's about ensuring you say it in the most effective, clear, and engaging way possible.

Deep Dive into Revision

Revision is an art—a meticulous process of fine-tuning your essay, word by word, sentence by sentence. It's not just about correcting grammar or spelling errors; it's about enhancing clarity, strengthening arguments, and ensuring your essay stands out. Here's how you can master this art.

#1. Seek Out Repetition

While some repetition can be used for emphasis, unnecessary repetition can make your essay feel redundant and drawn-out. Read through your essay, identifying any points or sentences that echo the same ideas. Once you spot them, decide which representation is strongest and eliminate the others. Remember, it's about quality, not quantity.

#2. Be Concise

Brevity is the soul of wit, they say, and it’s the heart of a compelling essay too. Search for lengthy phrases that can be shortened without losing their essence. For instance, instead of writing "due to the fact that," you can simply say "because." Eliminating superfluous words can make your essay sharper and more direct.

#3. Strengthen Your Arguments

Your claims should always be robust and well-backed. Scrutinize each argument you make. Is it supported by relevant evidence or examples? If not, either find the evidence to back it up or consider whether that point is strong enough to be included. A well-substantiated point is far more persuasive than a baseless claim.

#4. Evaluate Your Sources

In the age of information, not everything you read online is gold. Ensure every source you've cited adds value to your essay. Check the date of publication—is the information current? Verify the author's credentials—are they an authority on the subject? Most importantly, always prefer primary sources over secondary ones. Quality sources can elevate your essay from good to great.

Diving deep into revision requires patience and attention to detail. It's about ensuring every word, sentence, and paragraph contributes positively to your essay's overall message.

Tools to Help in the Revision Process

In the digital age, writers have more resources than ever to perfect their essays. These tools are not just about grammar checks; they're about enhancing clarity, improving style, and ensuring your essay communicates its message effectively. Here are some top tools to consider:

1. Grammarly : Arguably the most popular writing assistant out there, Grammarly goes beyond simple grammar checks. It looks at sentence structure, offers vocabulary enhancements, and even checks for tone. The premium version offers suggestions on clarity, engagement, and delivery, making it a comprehensive tool for essay revision.

2. Hemingway Editor : Named after the famous author known for his concise writing style, the Hemingway Editor is designed to make your writing clear and bold. It highlights lengthy, complex sentences and suggests simpler alternatives. It also points out passive voice, unnecessary adverbs, and other elements that might weaken your essay.

3. ProWritingAid : This is more than just a grammar checker; it’s an all-in-one style editor. ProWritingAid analyses your essay for style issues, repetitive words, and even clichés. Its detailed reports on overused words, sentence length variation, and other writing insights can help you refine your essay to perfection.

4. Readable : This tool checks the readability of your essay. It uses various metrics like the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level and the Gunning Fog Score to ensure your content is accessible for your target audience, which in this case, is college students.

5. Editing and Proofreading Services : Sometimes, the best tool is a fresh pair of expert eyes. Consider using services like Writers Per Hour, an undergraduate essay writing service, where professional editors review and refine your essay to ensure it's of the highest quality.

Leveraging these tools can streamline your revision process, saving you time and ensuring that your essay is polished and ready for submission. Remember, while these tools are immensely helpful, they should complement, not replace, your manual revision efforts.

Before and After: Transformation Examples

Seeing is believing. To truly grasp the power of revision and rewriting, let's delve into a few "before and after" snippets. These examples showcase the transformative effects of taking the time to refine your work.

Thesis Refinement

Before : "Many people use social media nowadays."

After : "The proliferation of social media platforms has significantly influenced modern communication patterns and behavior."

Eliminating Repetition

Before : "Online classes have become popular. The popularity of online classes is due to flexibility. Flexibility makes online classes appealing."

After : "The flexibility of online classes has contributed to their rising popularity."

Strengthening Arguments

Before : "Fast food isn't good for health because it's not healthy."

After : "Fast food often contains high levels of saturated fats, sugars, and salt, which can lead to health issues such as heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension."

Being Concise

Before : "In my personal opinion, I truly believe that the study of history is absolutely essential for understanding the present day."

After : "Studying history is crucial for understanding the present."

Improved Transition

Before : "Solar energy is renewable. Wind energy is also good."

After : "Solar energy is renewable, and similarly, wind energy offers sustainable benefits."

Source Evaluation

Before : "According to a blog post I found, chocolate is great for health."

After : "A study published in the Journal of Nutrition suggests potential health benefits of dark chocolate."

These transformations, while sometimes subtle, can drastically improve the clarity, strength, and professionalism of an essay. They showcase the potential of dedicated rewriting and revision, emphasizing that the magic often lies in the details.

Feedback is Gold

Have you ever read your own writing so many times that the words start to blend together? You're not alone. This is a common phenomenon for many writers, especially when engrossed in a topic. But there's an old adage in the writing world that rings very true: "Writing is rewriting." And an integral part of this rewriting process is feedback.

Every time you read your own essay, you're coming to it with your own biases, memories of what you meant to say, and personal connections to the words. A fresh set of eyes won't have that same bias. They can often spot inconsistencies, unclear sections, or areas that need further elaboration, which you might overlook.

Your peers, especially those in the same academic setting, can be a valuable resource. They understand the assignment's context and have a good grasp of what's expected. Sharing your essay with a fellow student can offer insight into how a typical reader might interpret your work.

If you have access to a mentor, professor, or teaching assistant, use that resource! They've likely seen hundreds, if not thousands, of essays over the years. Their expertise can guide you in strengthening your arguments, refining your thesis, and improving your essay's overall flow.

It's essential to remember that feedback, even if it seems critical, is meant to help you grow as a writer. Take it in stride. Remember, every suggestion is a stepping stone to a better essay. Instead of getting disheartened, consider each piece of advice, evaluate its merits, and decide how best to integrate it into your work.

Feedback is indeed golden. It provides a pathway for improvement, offers a chance for reflection, and helps ensure that your essay isn't just good, but great.

As you embark on your academic journey, the art of rewriting and revising becomes a foundational skill in your toolkit. Remember, even the most compelling ideas can fall flat if they're not presented clearly, logically, and with precision. While your initial draft captures the essence of your thoughts, it's the meticulous process of refining that truly brings your essay to life.

Investing time in rewriting and revising isn't just about fixing errors; it's about enhancing your arguments, clarifying your points, and ensuring your essay resonates with its readers. Every essay deserves the chance to reach its full potential, and that's achieved through this iterative process.

So, the next time you pen down your thoughts, embrace the subsequent stages of rewriting and revising. They're not just final touches; they're integral to the writing journey itself. And if you're ever in doubt, remember: perfection is not achieved when there's nothing left to add, but when there's nothing left to take away.

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Articles & Advice > College Admission > Blog

Top Tips for Revising Your College Admission Essays

You wrote your college essay! Now you have to proof and revise it to make it better. This quick guide from an essay expert can make the editing process easier.

by Ethan Sawyer The College Essay Guy

Last Updated: Apr 14, 2023

Originally Posted: Oct 18, 2021

So you’ve been working hard and now have a solid draft of your college admission personal statement in hand. Awesome! But after you’re done celebrating, you’ll start to wonder, now what? Coming up with the big idea and just writing it can be the toughest part of the process, but revision is also key. Students often ask how many times they should revise their essay. The answer will vary from student to student, but most of my favorite essays each year went through five to 10 drafts before we called them “done.”

5 steps to level-up your essay draft

Here are five steps you should take to level-up your personal statement draft—think of it as taking your work from a seven to a 10!

  • Step 1: Go through your essay and highlight the first line of each paragraph in bold. This will set you up for the next step.
  • Step 2: Read the bolded lines aloud . As you read, you’ll probably notice that some parts make sense and some don’t.
  • Step 3: Write a new outline in which all the bolded lines flow together . Essentially, what you’ll be writing is the skeleton of the essay, which is like a mini version of your essay with only the most important points. Once you’ve written this new outline, paste the bolded lines into a blank document.
  • Step 4: Rewrite your paragraphs so each one fleshes out the topic sentence . Why paste the new outline into a new document and start over? Because it’ll take longer if you don’t. Trust me.
  • Step 5: Step away from the essay for at least 30 minutes. Go for a walk. Get something to eat. Do anything else to clear your mind. When you come back, put the first sentence of each paragraph in bold again. Read them aloud to see whether they tell a very short version of your overall essay.

If they don’t, rewrite them so they’re more transitionary and properly maintain the flow of your essay. If they do, you should have a solid revision, one that’s ready for feedback from a trusted counselor, teacher, or other supporter in your life.

Asking for feedback

When asking for feedback about your essay, don’t just ask someone what they think about it or if they like it. Help them focus on what your colleges of interest are looking for. Attach your essay in an email and ask:

  • Is it clear what my topic is?
  • Are the examples in each paragraph strong, specific, and visual?
  • Is it clear what values I’m trying to show in each paragraph?
  • Do you spot at least two or three moments where I answer, “So what?” in the essay?

Seeking this feedback with specific requests of what to focus on will get you more of what you're looking for without getting lost in choosing words to sound smarter or defaulting to a laundry list of activities that’ll just end up muddling your story.

Related: How to Tell Your Story in Your College Application Essay

The great college essay test

Once you get feedback, it’s time for what I like to call “the great college essay test.” Read your essay aloud—or have someone else read it to you—then evaluate the essay based on the following criteria:

  • Core values: Can you name at least four or five core values present in your essay ? Do you find a variety of values (autonomy, resourcefulness, healthy boundaries, diversity)? Or are the values redundant (hard work, determination, perseverance)?
  • Vulnerability: Does the essay sound mostly analytical or like it’s coming from a deeper, more vulnerable place? After reading it, do you feel the admission reader will know more about and feel personally closer to you?
  • Insight or “so what?” moments: Is your personal statement drawing important and interesting connections between different sides of who you are? Can you identify at least three to five “so what?” moments of insight in the essay? Are these moments predictable, or are they truly illuminating?
  • Craft: Do the ideas in your essay connect in a logical but not too obvious (aka boring) way? Can you tell your essay represents a series of carefully considered choices and a lot of time revising several drafts? Is there anywhere you lose interest while reading? Where can words be cut? Which part isn’t revealing as much as it could be?

Polishing up your essay

You’ve made it to the end and there’s one last thing to do: It’s time to polish and proofread that essay until it gleams. For this step, it’s nice to get a little help, so here are two of my favorite resources for syntax and grammar:

  • For phrasing and word choice , try Hemingway Editor , which will help you choose strong words for an impactful essay. Important note: You don’t have to agree with all their suggestions, but putting your text through their app is a great exercise.
  • For editing and proofreading , Grammarly is a great tool to scan for spelling, punctuation, and grammatical errors. You can even download it to your web browser for easy access. Another important note: No app is perfect, so be cautious to accept all of Grammarly’s suggestions as well.

Related: College App Proofreading Tips From an Editor-in-Chief

And there you have it—after first drafts and more drafts, your personal statement is done. Check that off your college admission to-do list. Now, onto your supplemental essay responses—which can be equally as important when it comes to applying to specific schools. Good luck!

For more essay tips, guides, and resources, check out CollegeEssayGuy.com  and the Application Essay Clinic section of CollegeXpress.

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About Ethan Sawyer

Ethan Sawyer

Ethan Sawyer, "The College Essay Guy," has been helping students tell their stories for more than 10 years and is the author of the forthcoming College Essay Essentials: A Step-by-Step Guide to Writing a Successful College Admission Essay . He has reached thousands of students and counselors through his webinars and workshops and has become a nationally recognized college essay expert and sought-after speaker. He is a graduate of Northwestern University and received an MFA from UC–Irvine.

Ethan was raised as a missionary kid in Spain, Ecuador, and Colombia and studied at 17 different schools. He’s worked as a teacher, curriculum writer, voice actor, grant writer, theater director, motivational speaker, community organizer, and truck driver (true story). He is also a certified Myers-Briggs® specialist.

He is an active member of the Western Association of College Admissions Counselors (WACAC) and the National Association of College Admissions Counselors (NACAC). He lives with his wife and daughter in Los Angeles. For more information, visit CollegeEssayGuy.com .

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Revising A College Essay – Tips And Examples

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Making sure your college application essay is error-free, engaging, full of real examples, and free of grammatical mistakes may be a huge challenge. However, in academic writing , it is crucial to revise your college essay extensively before submitting it to ensure your hard work pays off and your messages are conveyed effectively. This article provides helpful tips for revising a college essay and improving your score.


  • 1 Revising a College Essay – In a Nutshell
  • 2 Definition: Revising a college essay
  • 3 Preparation before revising a college essay
  • 4 Revising a college essay: Style and tone
  • 5 Revising a college essay: Grammar and punctuation
  • 6 Second opinion after revising a college essay

Revising a College Essay – In a Nutshell

  • When revising a college essay, do not become defensive and limit the number of people who will read it.
  • Once the initial draft of your essay is completed, set it aside and wait some time before returning to it for revision, editing, and proofreading.
  • Select and proofread one paragraph at a time to alleviate stress and anxiety when revising a college essay.

Definition: Revising a college essay

Revising a college essay entails looking at your thoughts’ structure and progression. Revising a college essay is important because it helps:

  • Refine the content and structure
  • Improving clarity and coherence
  • Ensuring the message is effectively communicated to the reader

The typical process of revising a college essay involves:

  • Reviewing the content
  • Making necessary changes to improve clarity
  • Checking for grammatical errors
  • Polishing the final draft

Throughout the process, it is important to consider the target audience, the purpose of the essay, the flow of ideas, and the overall coherence of the essay.


Preparation before revising a college essay

When revising a college essay for the first time, focus on the ideas presented and how well they flow together, rather than correcting any grammar mistakes you see.

Step1: Overall message

Step2: transition & flow, step 3: quality of content.

Here are some questions to consider when revising a college essay:

  • How should I interpret the results of my essay?
  • Have I addressed your question?
  • Does it provide a lesson, or is it only illustrative?
  • Do I illustrate my morals using personal anecdotes and case studies?
  • Do these beliefs coincide with those of the school?
  • Is there a good balance between focusing on myself and focusing on someone else or anything else?

Answering any of these questions negatively when revising a college essay means you need to rework your essay, as explained in the table below.

When revising a college essay, ensure it has a logical structure and flows well by highlighting each paragraph’s subject phrase and transition sentence. Adjust these subject and transition phrases as needed to create a coherent structure.

Conclude Revising a college essay by reading the essay over again to make sure it flows smoothly. Similarly, ensure your essay has an engaging opening and a satisfying conclusion that expands on the ideas presented in the essay’s body.

Call attention to anything confusing, dull, or redundant when revising a college essay. If you want your essay to stand out, you should:

  • Go back and explain any unclear pieces
  • Add lively language to the dull parts
  • Cut away any unnecessary information

Check that your essay highlights the aspects of you that universities care about most: your hobbies, good qualities, and personality.

Revising a college essay: Style and tone

It’s important to employ the right tone while writing an essay, so read it and see whether you have struck the right balance between formality and informality. Consider the following questions:

  • Is there a sense of myself in the essay? Do the words I have chosen flow well?
  • Is it a weak point? Do my reflections about myself come over in my writing?
  • Is the tone friendly and professional?
  • Is it appropriate to broach such delicate subjects with such tact?

Read it aloud

You may overlook issues with voice and form in your writing if you read your essay quietly. Therefore, hearing it read aloud may assist when revising a college essay. Examples are overusing words, constructing sentences without parallelism, and using phrases that do not sound natural.

During the editing process, you should read your essay out loud numerous times. Errors in language and punctuation may be uncovered in this way as well.

Here are some options to consider:

  • Perform a dramatic reading.
  • Listen to it read out by someone else.
  • Use text-to-speech software to hear it read back.
  • Put yourself on tape and listen to it afterward.

Revising a college essay: Grammar and punctuation

After checking for overall coherence and writing style, read your essay once again for grammatical and punctuation faults.

Step 1: Run a spell check

Step 2: check punctuation, capitalization & verbs, step 3: sentence structure, step 4: coherency & consistency.

Start by checking for spelling, grammatical, and punctuation errors using your word processor’s spell check when revising a college essay.

Some small mistakes in punctuation or capitalization may slip by spell check when revising a college essay. Verify that verb tense and subject agreement is proper.

Look for sentence fragments, run-ons, and other grammar problems. Use a range of sentence lengths and styles when revising a college essay to keep the reading engaging.

The parallel structure of longer, more involved sentences should be checked. Clarity is maintained by removing unnecessary or inappropriate modifiers.

It’s important to maintain uniformity in your usage of abbreviations, acronyms, and verb tenses when revising a college essay. Modify any names or references to the prior institution if you want to submit the same essay to several schools.

Second opinion after revising a college essay

Before you send in your application, be sure to acquire some comments on your essay. Avoid getting too many pieces of advice contradicting each other by sticking to two or three readers.

Get opinions from individuals who understand you well, such as your instructors or loved ones. Having someone with great writing abilities and knowledge of the college admissions process would be best to read your essay and provide input on its substance, tone, and flow. Put these queries to your readers or editors and wait for their responses:

  • Is it easy to recall what you read in the introduction?
  • Should I include examples of how I have put my ideals into practice?
  • Do paragraphs flow into one another easily?
  • Please tell me what you learned from reading my essay.
  • Where did you become confused, bored, or frustrated?
  • Does my voice come through in the essay?
  • Is it a weak point? Is there evidence of honest introspection?
  • Does it seem to have the right tone?
  • Do you find my humor amusing, if any?

Feedback from a teacher, guidance counselor, or mentor

Here is the best team to get feedback from.

A teacher already acquainted with your work is a good resource for advice on narrative, flow, and language when Revising a college essay. Your English instructor is a good choice.

  • Acquainted with your work
  • Possesses a solid foundation in writing, grammar, and style fundamentals for narrative essays
  • Possibly too many requests for assistance from other students
  • Possible unfamiliarity with the format expected of college essays

Guidance counselor

You may even ask your school’s guidance counselor, who should know what admissions authorities search for in a college application essay.

  • Has a solid understanding of how to apply to universities
  • Undoubtedly swamped with requests for assistance from other learners
  • Possibly will not be acquainted with your work or you as a person

Your extracurricular activity mentor or coach is another responsible adult you can approach.

  • Is familiar with your history
  • Perhaps they are not used to writing in a collegiate fashion
  • Possibly not a very good writer

Feedback from family or friends

Having family and friends review your work when revising a college essay is a great way to ensure it accurately represents who you are. However, if you want more in-depth criticism, ask for assistance from relatives who excel in writing or English.

  • Acquainted with your history, character, and major life events
  • Allows you to gauge the degree to which your essay displays honesty and openness
  • Potentially not the best person to edit your essay
  • Potentially will provide emotionally-neutral recommendations
  • Negative comments from a loved one may be particularly trying

Feedback from a professional coach or editor

When revising a college essay, an essay editor can provide impartial, experienced input after you have heard criticism from friends and family.

  • Has an expert understanding of entrance essays for universities
  • Provides insightful, impartial criticism of your writing’s structure, organization, and style
  • Not acquainted with you or your history

Tip for considering feedback in your essay

When revising a college essay, get some sleep or take a few hours off after getting comments. Then, when some time has passed, come back with a clear head to consider comments.

The number of revisions you do depends on the kind of writing you do. Keep each essay draft in its file in case you need to go back to it for ideas or words.

What should be considered when revising a college admission essay?

When revising a college essay, you should first look for any overarching problems with the paper’s content, flow, tone, style, or clarity. The next step is to proofread for typos and fix grammatical problems.

When revising a college essay, how many times should I do It?

There can be multiple revision phases, depending on the length and complexity of your essay. Always take a break from working on your essay after each round of editing so that you can return to it with fresh eyes.

What are the goals of revising a college essay?

Revising a college essay makes remembering the specifics of your studied subject easier. Students who review the material are more likely to try any questions on the subject in the test.

What impact does revising a college essay have on the substance of your writing?

Revising a college essay effectively entails examining your response to the assignment’s directions and the clarity of your concept communication by revising a college essay. Similarly, correction of grammatical, punctuation, and presentational errors will be aided by revision.

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Tips for Revising

TeacherVision Staff

First Drafts

After you have written your first draft, you will need to revise it. Read your draft carefully to make sure that it is well organized.

If ideas don't flow in a logical sequence from paragraph to paragraph, move the paragraphs around until your main points fall into a clear pattern. For example, you may want to organize your ideas chronologically, according to how things happened from start to finish in time, or you may want to talk about your ideas in order of their importance.

Of course, you should organize your ideas in an outline long before you sit down to write. If you need to, you can change your outline as you write your essay.

  • Check to make sure you have not accidentally left out an important point. If so, add a sentence or paragraph to clarify your meaning or provide further evidence for your main point.
  • Check to make sure that all your subordinate ideas support the main idea. If you have accidentally included something that does not support the main idea, delete it.

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How to Present to an Audience That Knows More Than You

  • Deborah Grayson Riegel

revising essays tips

Lean into being a facilitator — not an expert.

What happens when you have to give a presentation to an audience that might have some professionals who have more expertise on the topic than you do? While it can be intimidating, it can also be an opportunity to leverage their deep and diverse expertise in service of the group’s learning. And it’s an opportunity to exercise some intellectual humility, which includes having respect for other viewpoints, not being intellectually overconfident, separating your ego from your intellect, and being willing to revise your own viewpoint — especially in the face of new information. This article offers several tips for how you might approach a roomful of experts, including how to invite them into the discussion without allowing them to completely take over, as well as how to pivot on the proposed topic when necessary.

I was five years into my executive coaching practice when I was invited to lead a workshop on “Coaching Skills for Human Resource Leaders” at a global conference. As the room filled up with participants, I identified a few colleagues who had already been coaching professionally for more than a decade. I felt self-doubt start to kick in: Why were they even here? What did they come to learn? Why do they want to hear from me?

revising essays tips

  • Deborah Grayson Riegel is a professional speaker and facilitator, as well as a communication and presentation skills coach. She teaches leadership communication at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and has taught for Wharton Business School, Columbia Business School’s Women in Leadership Program, and Peking University’s International MBA Program. She is the author of Overcoming Overthinking: 36 Ways to Tame Anxiety for Work, School, and Life and the best-selling Go To Help: 31 Strategies to Offer, Ask for, and Accept Help .

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Celebrants share their tips for writing heartfelt wedding vows

Eddie Lemos Couto marrying a couple in a library

Whether you're not great with words or public speaking terrifies you, writing wedding vows can be tricky.

"[Writing vows] might be the one thing that gives couples the most angst of all about their wedding day," says Jen King, a writer and marriage celebrant from Mullumbimby, on Bundjalung country in northern NSW.

"You're exposing your vulnerabilities in front of all your guests. You're showing your emotional side."

So how do you get the ball rolling? And what should you include, and avoid?

Why writing wedding vows can be difficult

Eddie Lemos Couto is a marriage celebrant in Boorloo/Perth and says couples should feel welcomed to reach out to their celebrant for help.

"A lot of people know exactly how they feel about each other but putting [that feeling] into words is a different matter," he says.

"Not everyone is good with words. I [tell couples], 'It's a good thing you are hiring someone who is — I can help you."

Your celebrant may be able to provide questions, prompts, links to inspiration, and offer to read over your words and provide feedback.

There are templates you can find online, but all of the celebrants we spoke to recommended at least putting your own spin on things.

How to get started

Brooke O'Donnell, a Palyku woman and celebrant also based in Boorloo/Perth, recommends getting started on your vows early.

"If you're planning a wedding that is a year away, start writing," she says.

"Some people are good at winging it, but I wouldn't recommend that for most."

Celebrant Brooke O'Donnell marrying a couple

When writing vows, Ms King suggests imagining you are telling your loved one why you want to marry them.

"You're telling them … how they make you feel, what you will bring to the marriage, and what you are looking forward to together once you are married," she says.

She says to "tune everyone else out" and write it as though you are speaking directly to your partner.

"It's not about anyone else except you and the person you are about to marry."

Although in blended families, Ms O'Donnell says you might like to acknowledge stepchildren and what you promise for them also.

How long should wedding vows be?

There are no strict rules, but if you're looking for a ballpark length, Ms King recommends 200 words.

"First of all, everyone wants to see you get married, and then get to the bar and start drinking," she says.

"You could tell [your partner] more in a card.

"Pulling out the most important things for vows will have the most impact."

Jen King marring a couple in 2022

Mr Lemos Couto says he will tailor a ceremony around how long a person's vows are. The only time he asks couples to tweak is when there is an imbalance.

"I might tell someone to write less or write more when … someone is talking for five minutes and the other for five seconds," he says.

What you shouldn't write in your wedding vows

Mr Lemos Couto says people should be careful to avoid making promises they won't be able to keep.

"Don't tell them you will stop smoking. Don't say 'from this point onwards I will go to the gym every day'," he says

Cliches should also be avoided, Ms King says.

"Things like, 'When I see you, my world lights up.'"

Lastly, don't forget to say 'I love you' in one way or another, Ms O'Donnell says.

She has commonly seen people "forget to state the obvious".

"The number one thing is you can't really get it wrong [if] you say you love the person.

"Sometimes the most very obvious things are actually all you need."

You can be playful — but it's not comedy

Ms King says vows don't have to be all heartfelt and it's OK to have some fun with it.

But she warns turning the whole thing into a "comedy act" can fall flat with your spouse.

"You can imagine in front of all your friends, you feel awkward, so you turn it into a bit of a joke to get some laughs," she says.

Mr Lemos Couto says some couples take unique approaches, such as "ninja vows", which is when partners write each other's words, and read them aloud during the ceremony for the first time.

Alternatively, some couples choose to be private with their vows, and exchange before or after the ceremony in the form of a letter, explains Ms O'Donnell.

"[For those couples] I will just do the legal vows, and they have said their personal vows in secret."

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