"Revising" refers to rethinking orquite literallyre-viewing the key elements of your writing project. When writers and editors talk about revising, they typically mean a renewed attention to these key elements, and they might use terms like "big-picture revision," "global issues," and "higher order concerns." Revising means asking overarching questions:

  • How have I established my purpose in writing this piece? How could I be more clear in defining the problem or situation I'm responding to? How could I be better at affirming what I want my audience to think, believe, feel, or do after they finish reading?
  • How have I engaged the conventions of the genre and/or discipline I am working in? Do I know "the rules" of this type of writing, and how have I met, bent, or broken these rules?
  • How have I affirmed my credibility as a researcher, scholar, citizen, and/or student in this piece?
  • How have I considered my audience's needs and expectations? Where will my audience ask questions, and what more could I do?
  • How have I situated this work within a particular context, place, or time?

It can be hard to get outside our own work. Starting points for revising a draft include viewing it in a new way (e.g., try printing your work out and reading it in hard copy form), returning to it after time away, shifting to a new space, or seeking input from a smart, friendly individual (e.g., a JMU Writing Center Consultant).

Revising drafts: this really nice UNC-Chapel Hill Writing Center resource talks us through the necessary mental steps we must make as we enter into the revision process.

Reverse outlining: this UWC-produced resource suggests creating a quick outline of your already-written draft to help you see how you have organized, where your paragraphs may be too vague or too busy, and what readers will need guidance.

Overview of reverse outlining with an example: we also like this Duke handout on reversing outlining.

23 ways to revise a text: we like this resource. Revision can start at any stage of the writing process, and this list offers a bunch of ways to begin rethinking and reseeing your writing effort.


Editing is usually still about making choices, as opposed to correcting errors. Closer to the "big picture" or "higher order" side of the scale, editing may involve assessing organization, transitions, and evidence. On the "later order" or "local" side of the scale, editing includes paragraph structure, clarity, style, and the way you introduce, use, and cite sources.

Editing v. proofreading

Writing in an Academic Style (Part 1): Point of View, Active vs. Passive Voice, Information Flow (a UWC-produced resource) 

Writing in an Academic Style (Part II): Objectivity, Verb Choice, Strength of Claims, Concision (a UWC-produced resource)

Using the Paramedic Method for concise sentences (a UWC-produced handout)

Eliminating weak verbs: find the strong verbs hidden in your writing to create variety and cut wordiness

Make your writing more concise

Steps to eliminate wordiness


Proofreading focuses on identifying and correcting sentence-level errors. "Proof reading" is an old term from back when printers offered a first or trial printed version of a handwritten manuscript so that the writer or copyeditor could catch spelling or formatting errors. Your "proof" is then your nearly final, as-good-as-it-can-be version of your paper, and your "proof-reading" then focuses on addressing any last-minute problems before you hit "print" or "send."

Proofreading strategies

Top Twenty Errors in Undergraduate Writing: here's Andrea Lunsford's famous list, last updated in 2008.

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