The Art of Revision (page 2)

The Art of Revision

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Updated on Mar 25, 2008

After your child has a chance to take a step back from her work, she has the necessary perspective to get down and dirty with the draft in hand. But, where to begin? A thorough revision involves three major stages. 

The first is reworking content or ideas. This involves adding and deleting passages and confirming that ideas make sense:

  • Is my main idea or thesis in my introduction?
  • What’s the purpose of each paragraph? Does each paragraph relate to my thesis?
  • Which ideas are weak? Which paragraphs need more research or specific details to bolster my discussion?
  • Do my ideas connect? Do I explain why I move from idea A to idea B? Does my writing “flow” when I read it aloud?
  • Do I repeat the same ideas over and over?

The second stage is reworking the structure or organization of an essay; a bold and daunting process, where the magic of the craft truly happens. Unfortunately, the task is rarely attempted. Here are tips to encourage your child:

  • Mark up the draft, using arrows to move ideas and asterisks to add new thoughts
  • Assign a color to each main idea or thesis point and “color code” information with the appropriate shade, using a highlighter or underlining each detail with a crayon. If the essay looks like a rainbow of scattered colors, try grouping the ideas together
  • Print out a copy, use scissors to cut the essay into sections – sentences, paragraphs, or parts of paragraphs – and re-arrange ideas on the floor
  • Re-assemble the thesis points in different ways: chronologically, least important to most important, or in an order that flows better when read aloud

Editing conventions or mechanics by checking spelling, grammar, punctuation, and language comes last. Editing, which is different from revising, is a waste of time if done prematurely. Here’s a checklist of final steps:

  • Do my title and introduction entice others to read more?
  • Are there topic and concluding sentences in each paragraph?
  • Do I have a conclusion?
  • Is my verb tense consistent?
  • Do I use an active voice? Active: Monsters under my bed scare me. Passive: I was scared by monsters under my bed.
  • Do my sentences have end punctuation?
  • Are proper names and first words of sentences capitalized?
  • Do I notice any run-on sentences or fragments?
  • Did I check spelling with my own eyes in addition to using “spell check”?
  • Do I begin many sentences with “this,” “that,” or “the”?
  • Can I shed adjectives and adverbs for a stronger noun?
  • Has someone else proofread my paper?
  • Did I read it aloud one last time?

The revision process is truly an art. Even E.B. White, author of The Elements of Style, once said, “The best writing is rewriting.” So, uncap that red pen, turn off the TV, and encourage your child to join the ranks of professional writers everywhere.

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