Great Revision Tips

Consider your overall purpose for writing a particular piece and your audience. Look for opportunities to:

Make the Focus Sharper

Take another look at your introduction, paying particular attention to your thesis statement, and compare it to the main body and conclusion of your paper. Then ask yourself: Will the readers’ attention be drawn to my main point or idea without them being diverted in other directions? Does everything I have written relate to my thesis statement? If it does not, you need to:

  • Make your introduction, and particularly your thesis, clearer;
  • Remove any text that strays from the main point.

Does the Organization Need Improving?

Going through each paragraph, just read the topic sentence. Then ask yourself if you think your argument flows logically and sensibly from one point to the next point. If it does not, then you may need to:

  • Develop a new topic sentence or make the existing one sharper;
  • Make sure related ideas are linked e.g. move chunks of text if you need to;
  • Add new transitions or make existing ones stronger to demonstrate how each paragraph links to the following one;
  • Check your sub-headings and add any that might improve the flow of your work or make it more visually appealing.

Make Paragraphs Stronger

Each paragraph should be devoted to just one single point or idea. Make sure your paragraphs achieve the following:

  • Are focused on just one theme or idea (remember: each new topic needs a new paragraph).
  • Are logically linked with good transitional words or phrases.
  • Are appropriate in length (generally, where a paragraph exceeds three-quarters of a page, it is considered too lengthy. Where it has only a sentence or two, it is not long enough.)

Check that your Content is Strong Enough

Try asking yourself if your analysis or argument is sufficiently complete and thorough. Have you challenged your thinking by asking difficult questions? Have you tried not to make your claims too general and wide-ranging? Have you considered all opposing viewpoints? If you have not, you may need to:

  • Include more specific examples, facts or details.
  • Ask harder questions of yourself to give your ideas more gravitas, e.g., “how,” “what,” “why,” “does it matter.”
  • Put more emphasis on main points and/or ideas.
  • Consider whether or not your viewpoint needs any clarification.
  • Think again about your central point or argument.

Involve Your Readers

Ask yourself if you think your paper passes the “what does it matter” question. An effective paper does the following:

  • Tells the reader the reasons why they should read this paper.
  • Gets the full attention of the reader.
  • Makes the reader want to continue reading.

The Next Stage is Revising at Sentence Level

Here your focus should be to improve the effectiveness of sentences. Watch out for ways to:

Make Sentences Stronger

  • Do not use unnecessary words or repetition.
  • Remove pretentious or unnecessary phrases e.g. “basically,” “generally,” “very,” and so on.
  • Avoid passive in favor of active voice.
  • Make sure your verbs are active ones where possible.

Make Sentences Clearer

  • Parallel points and/or ideas should be balanced.
  • Fix any “hanging” modifiers and untangle any mixed-up constructions.
  • Add any words that are missing.
  • Look for any awkward shifts in number, person or tense, and eliminate them.

Add Variety to Sentences  

  • Smoothen out any sentences that are choppy.
  • Alternate the length of sentences e.g. put short ones in between long ones, etc.
  • Vary the way you begin sentences.
  • Overly long sentences should be divided up.

Can Your Style be Refined?

  • Be precise in your choice of words
  • Make sure the language you use is suitable for the subject matter and readership.
  • Use similes, metaphors and any other figurative speech where appropriate.
  • Remove any clichés and jargon.

Lastly, Use Proofreading to Find Mistakes

  • Proofread your text to identify spelling and typographical errors; look out for tense/verb agreements, and make sure singular and plural words are used correctly. 
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