Reviewing and Revising Your Writing Study Guide

Updated on Aug 25, 2011

Practice exercises for this study guide can be found at:

Reviewing and Revising Your Writing Practice Exercises


The final step in the writing process is to review and revise your writing. This lesson shows you how to look critically at your writing and make changes to improve its clarity, focus, and quality.

When a sculptor, such as Michelangelo, begins a new sculpture, he starts with a big piece of wood or stone. The first step is to decide what to carve. The next step is to cut away the big pieces and get a rough outline of the final shape. Then, the sculptor is ready to begin polishing and fine-tuning the sculpture to create a detailed, finished work of art.

Writing, like sculpture, is a complicated art that requires many steps. First, you plan what to write. Then you write a rough draft. Now you're ready to polish and perfect your writing. This process is called editing, and even professional writers spend lots of time on this stage of the writing process.

Why Review Your Writing?

In a museum in Florence, there are four huge blocks of marble. Each has been partially carved into the shape of a person by the famous Renaissance artist Michelangelo. Michelangelo never had a chance to finish these sculptures, so we can only imagine the final form he had envisioned for them.

In your writing, you might decide to stop after a rough draft. But then you'll never know how good the story or essay could have been! Every time you look over your text and make changes, the passage improves. By spending a few minutes reviewing your essay on a test, or an hour reviewing a long story you've written, you'll be developing a stronger, more effective final product.

Editing Techniques

Just as there are many things to think about when you write an essay, there are also quite a few things to keep in mind when editing. When you have the time to do a really good edit, you should rethink everything in your essay, as well as check for errors in grammar and punctuation. Ask yourself questions like "Is this thesis statement strong enough?" "Does the structure I've chosen accomplish my goal for the essay?" "Is this word spelled correctly?" "Will my audience understand what I'm trying to say?" Editing may sound like a pain, but you'll be surprised how much your writing improves when you take the time to review it thoroughly.

There are several techniques to keep in mind when editing. These include adding information, removing unnecessary details, rearranging ideas, replacing words, and catching mistakes. Using these techniques will help you look critically at your own work and result in a more polished product. Your friends might even notice your writing skills and ask you to help them edit their essays!

Add Information

One thing to look for after you have written an essay or a story is whether you may have left out important details. Missing information can be very confusing to readers, and will weaken an otherwise strong essay. For example, imagine you are writing an essay on your favorite season and come up with this thesis statement: "My favorite season of the year is fall because it's nice outside, school starts, and I get to play soccer." When you review your essay, you realize you forgot to write the section on school starting. This will be a problem, because your reader, especially a teacher, is expecting you to discuss school and will notice its absence. By editing, you'll find the missing information so that you can fix it.

Missing information can also be a problem when your reader does not know as much about your subject as you do. For example, if you write a story about turning an amazing triple play in baseball, but don't tell your reader that triple plays are really rare, the reader may not realize what an accomplishment your feat was. You also need to be careful to explain technical terms that a reader may not understand. When you're editing, think as a reader, and look for this kind of missing information—adding a sentence here or there can make a big difference in the quality of your essay!

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