Revising and Editing: Writing Review Study Guide

Updated on Aug 25, 2011

Practice exercises for this concept can be found at Revising and Editing: Writing Review Practice Exercises.

So, you've written your essay. It's all printed out, with your name on it and everything. You're glad that you're done. But wait! You're not done! It's tempting to stop at this point and turn in your essay as it is. You've worked hard to create a clear piece of writing, with well-thoughtout points and well-constructed paragraphs. You'd be amazed, however, at how much your essay can improve with a little revising and editing.

Fresh Eyes

Don't worry, though; your hard work has earned you something. Take a little break. Put your essay away for a couple of days, and don't even look at it. When you pick it back up to revise it, you'll be looking at it with a fresh pair of eyes. It sounds kind of funny, but it's true. When you're working on writing your essay and you're in it up to your elbows, it can be difficult to see some of the mistakes that you're making. So, it's important to take a little time to rejuvenate yourself, and then come back to your writing and fix it up, so that it's the best that it can be.

Pace Yourself

Say the word garbage 25 times. Notice how it starts to sound like it's not really a word. Say it again (just once) in a few minutes, and it'll sound real again. This is sort of what happens when you're working on your essay.


Revising, unlike editing, which we'll talk about a bit later, is content based. When revising, you go back over what you've written to make it clearer, more concise, or more organized. The process of revising is simple. Just ask yourself some questions, and while you do that, read over what you have and make sure you're able to answer each question with a definitive yes. Here are some questions to ask yourself as you revise.

  • Does your introduction draw the reader in?
  • Does your introduction have a thesis statement?
  • Have you addressed the topic?
  • Is your writing clear?
  • Have you removed anything that is unnecessary?
  • Is your style consistent?
  • Is there a good flow from beginning to end?
  • Does each paragraph have a topic sentence and supporting ideas?
  • Does the conclusion flow logically out of the paragraph that came before it?
  • Does your conclusion remind the reader of your thesis and supporting ideas without repeating word for word what you said in your introduction?
Inside Track

Are all of these questions overwhelming? Focus on one at a time.


Editing involves a much closer reading of your writing than revising does. When you edit your paper, you're going to look for errors in grammar, spelling, punctuation, and word usage. To do this, you're going to need to read each sentence very carefully.

Computer versus Paper

Should you edit right on the computer, or should you print out your essay and edit on paper? This is a good question. Each way has its advantages. Your computer's document software probably has a spell-check feature, which is very useful. Definitely take advantage of that feature and always spell-check your work, but for all other editing purposes, printing it out is the best way to go. For one thing, your computer is not as smart as you are and doesn't catch misused words such as to, too, and two. It recognizes all three as real words, so it won't know if you've used them incorrectly. Another reason paper is handy is that you can write on it. So, you can go through and circle things, cross things out, write in the margin, or whatever helps you.


Steer clear of your computer's grammar check. The computer doesn't know what you intended to say. Only you know that.

What to Look For

As you're reading each sentence of your printed paper carefully, look for the following things:

  • consistent tense
  • grammar errors
  • spelling errors
  • punctuation errors
  • misused words
  • use of active voice wherever possible and avoidance of passive voice
  • words and phrases that are repeated too often
Inside Track

Try using a different color of pen or pencil for each type of error.

Mark It Up!

As you're reading through your essay, mark it up! If you see a word that's used incorrectly, circle it. If you see something that doesn't need to be there, cross it out. But don't stop to fix anything. Just find what's wrong and identify it. If you notice that some of the tenses you used are inconsistent, circle the words or make a note in the margin. It's much easier to tackle one problem at a time once you've identified what the problems are. So once you've finished going through and marking up your paper, read through again and focus on one problem at a time. If you noticed some tense inconsistencies, go back to make sure all the tenses are consistent. If you noticed a particular grammar error popping up now and then, focus on that next and fix all those errors. Just take it one problem at a time.

Fuel For Thought

Professional editors have a standard set of symbols that they use in editing. For instance, ¶ means new paragraph.

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