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How to revise an essay

by tutlance

What is essay revision? Revision means editing and improving essays that you have written already. This will be done in a systematic manner of reading the content, assessing its logical coherence, localization of sentences or phrases that need improvement, comparing other sources and so on.

Your teacher may assign it as an individual exercise or group work (depending on class size and time available for such task). In any case, it is up to you how many revisions are required to improve the quality of your writing. When preparing your dissertation (or thesis), you should revise it several times, each new version tries to correct previous mistakes and make it better. This is an art that you will find out during the process of writing and revising your essays.

Revising an essay won’t always make the bad parts better, but it can help you see what went wrong and how to fix it. The secret is not giving up after your first draft.

If you don’t like something in a first draft, change it. Don’t just leave it there as you work through your revisions; this will only lead to more work for yourself later on. Take care of everything right away before moving forward with the rest of the paper.

As you edit an essay or revise it, step back from your writing and look at the big picture. Scan over each paragraph looking for transitions that read awkwardly or feel forced, repetitive phrases or words within one paragraph that need streamlining, awkward word orders in sentences (particularly where pronouns are used), excessive use of “which,” “that,” or “who” and wordy phrases such as “in order to,” which are unnecessary in most cases.

What are common essay revision mistakes?

Here are common revision mistakes many students do when writing an academic essay.

  1. Failure to revise your essay carefully (you should read each sentence at least 3 times)
  2. Rehearsing old ideas while trying to focus on new ones, rather than doing revisions thoroughly and systematically
  3. Failing to see what’s wrong with your first version: grammar or structure – you’ll miss the point of revision if you fail to identify grammar mistakes, inappropriate structure or logic in sentences; content – you need to know what’s missing from your work, as well as evaluate overall quality based on feedback given by other people – they may tell you about: logic of your essay, originality of ideas or creativity in writing
  4. Not seeking for advice from teachers whose feedback you value (note that there are writers who can revise it better than English teachers)
  5. Ignoring teacher’s comments – do not be lazy and ask your teacher to clarify unclear points; bring the essay to class before turning it in so you can discuss any holes in your argument structure or inappropriate use of grammar rules
  6. Failing to plan ahead – if you prepare an essay and don’t know what mistakes to look for, how will you know where to begin revising? It is easier to identify problems if you have a plan on paper beforehand and thus isolate those paragraphs that need improvement one by one.

Editing and revising essay formats

As you edit, check your work against one of the following five general formats for writing an essay (this is my number-one piece of advice for college essay writers—it’s good to know exactly what kind of paper you’re being asked to write).

With practice, using one of these models will help you stay on track and ensure that your answer fits into the correct format:

Once you’ve determined the general structure of your essay (i.e., an argument, a story or an explanation), you can more easily envision it as a whole.

10 important tips to edit and revise your academic essay, research papers, term papers

  1. Revise or edit one thing at a time—don’t skip around in your paper trying to fix everything at once! Once you start on something new, make all the revisions before moving on. This will help keep yourself organized and stop you from making additional mistakes along the way.
  2. If possible, use an outside source for reviewing purposes. It will help you see if you have done your research correctly, and it often allows for a more objective review.
  3. Take notes on a paper as you write in order to keep track of ideas that come to mind but which don’t fit into your original essay introduction or thesis statement of your essay. Write these notes somewhere else so they are not attached to the main draft, but remember to include them in some way when you revise later on.
  4. When revising an argumentative essay, check each paragraph for transitional words like “but,” “however” or “therefore.” If one section flows nicely from one paragraph to the next, then there is no need for these words; otherwise, consider using them to provide smooth transitions from one idea to the next.
  5. When revising a descriptive essay/narrative essay , be sure you maintain an objective, third-person point of view throughout your story. Remember that readers do not want to hear about what YOU think or feel—they already know this information because it is part of your life experience and physical appearance. It is up to you, as the writer, to provide sufficient detail for your reader so that he or she can put themselves in your shoes and imagine what it was like to have been there with you at that time (or place).
  6. Fix awkward sentence structures by breaking long sentences into two shorter ones or combining a grammatically correct short sentence with a transitional word into a single sentence.
  7. When revising a cause/effect essay , be sure to backup your statements with examples and/or scientific evidence if possible (especially when dealing with potentially controversial issues). Also, you will want to make sure that the order in which you list your causes is logical so that there are no contradictions or repetitive ideas throughout your paper. If this happens, try moving things around until they more clearly fit into a pattern of progression from one thing to the next.
  8. A great way to constantly improve on your writing skills is to read as much as possible—not just for school assignments, but for fun, too! It’s especially important if you plan on pursuing a career where writing plays an role.
  9. When revising an explanatory essay, remember that it’s often more important for readers to know what something is rather than why it is the way it is—so be sure your explanations in your expository essay are clear and simple!
  10. If possible, use a computer program to help with any revisions such as grammar or spelling errors (this will be easy to do when using Microsoft Word). This can easily make otherwise tedious tasks much easier because computers are very good at picking up on small mistakes that we might miss during the proofreading stage. To use a computer program, check in the local library or ask someone if you can borrow theirs (i.e., for a day or so).

4 important essay revision tips for better grades

Here are 4 steps to revise your essay effectively:

  • First impressions matter – The first thing to do when revising your own essay is to give it a good read through. You may even want to start all over again with the very first draft that you made and check whether or not this is really what you wanted to write. Think about the opening sentence of your essay as well (many students fail there). Finally, check for spelling mistakes!
  • Reread it again – Now reread your revised version once more and try to strike out anything that isn’t relevant any more. Try to see if certain sentences can be deleted without losing the meaning of the paragraph. Are there other ways in which you could explain something with fewer words? Could you use short paragraphs to make your essay shorter and easier to read?
  • Check the structure of your paragraphs – do they follow a certain pattern or are they more random in their appearance? You may have heard about how important it is that your paragraphs follow a logical order i.e if you first talk about one topic then another and later on combine these two, this will definitely help you when adding transitions between the different points in your essay.
  • Outline – after having looked at everything again you can now start thinking about what needs to be changed for the good of the whole piece. What things could be added in order to enhance the flow of your essay? What else could you say instead of what you already have in there?

What to revise in your essay?

Read your essay carefully – do you have any spelling mistakes or sentence structure problems (such as run-on sentences, fragments, faulty parallelism, dangling participles etc.)?

If so, insert punctuation marks such as periods and commas into places they are missing.

When it comes to grammar rules, make sure that each sentence follows the subject

When revising, look for:

  • grammar mistakes
  • incorrect punctuation marks).
  • spelling mistakes.
  • misspellings words used incorrectly
  • sentence structure problems
  • paragraph organization 
  • verb agreement rule;
  • eliminate double negatives ,
  • long and complex sentences using prepositions incorrectly;
  • use articles correctly by adding a / an or the at the beginning of nouns
  • correct passive voice into active one
  • use irregular verbs correctly thus avoiding errors in tense and number (were written instead of wrote)
  • recognize and fix common comma splices
  • check for parallelism (so that sentences sound the same or different in structure)
  • Correct use of tenses
  • Avoid fragments in your essay
  • make sure verbs in dependent clauses agree with their subjects (this also includes pronouns used as subjects and adjective clauses)

Important parts of essay in revision and editing

These are important parts of essay to take into account when revising your essays:

  • Formal essay vs informal essays – the need to eliminate formal tone in informal essays.
  • Essay outline – An essay outline is a brief summary of the whole text including introduction, body and conclusion.
  • Thesis statement – A thesis statement in an essay is a set of sentences that states your opinion clearly and accurately).
  • Topic sentences – are sentences that offer complete thoughts in an essay paragraph.
  • Point-by-point structure – organizing ideas in paragraphs by order of importance rather than by time sequence.
  • Key terms and phrases.
  • Disagreement with other people’s opinions
  • Arguments used to support your ideas (using evidence, facts that prove those opinions).
  • Logic of developing one idea into another.
  • Transitions from general statements to specific ones or vice versa.
  • Avoiding irrelevant information.
  • Logical summary paraphrases.

How to become good in revising essays for college

  • Read articles on grammar rules such as: active voice, punctuation comma splices, prepositions etc.
  • Educate yourself on some common mistakes of misspellings.
  • Always read your essay aloud – you may spot grammatical errors or meaningless phrases while reading it out loud.
  • Extend this to writing a reseach paper, writing a dissertation or any academic writing assignment.

Now you know how to revise an essay for college. Remember you can get help to revise a paper plus editing and proofreading.

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