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Revising and editing

Before the revising/editing, take a break to gain a new perspective.

It will help you review how effectively you have communicated your message.

General review strategies:
  1. Revising takes practice: Try reviewing with a limited agenda, for example with focus on vocabulary, and build from there.
  2. Read the paper out loud to yourself. Read it slowly. How does it “sound?”
  3. Cover the text with a blank paper,  and lower it down as you read for a line by line analysis.

Does the text flow in an effective manner? Is it too long for what you wish to say? too short? Keep in mind your audience: they do not know what you do. They rely on what information you give them, in the order you give it to them.


Does the title briefly describe and reflect the purpose of the paper?

If there are headings and sub-headings, are these similarly brief and concise?

Introductory paragraph/introduction Get a good start!

Capture attention at the beginning or you may lose your audience. An introduction should present the purpose in an inviting way. Is your first sentence interesting and inviting? Does your first paragraph predict the development of the piece? Does it clearly introduce the subject, project, or idea to be developed?

Supporting paragraphs

Does each paragraph build the argument or story? Did you follow a plan or outline?

Is each paragraph in an effective or logical order?

Is your train of thought, or that of the “characters,” clear?

Do your transitions between paragraphs work?

Are relationships between paragraphs clear?

Can any paragraphs be eliminated as unnecessary, or combined with others more effectively?

Does each sentence support only the topic sentence of that paragraph?

Can any sentences be eliminated as unnecessary,or combined with others more effectively?

If there are side-stories or digressions,are their purposes clear in the context of the whole?


Does the conclusion summarize and clarify important information and resolve the thesis statement? Does the conclusion leave the reader thinking? Is it supported by the paper?

Areas of focus:

It could be that you have a troublesome area, or want to make your writing more effective. Here are some areas of focus:

Sentences and phrases:

Sentences should be clear and logical, even short and to the point. Sentences should flow consistently, except in places you wish to stop the reader for emphasis. Is the tone consistent throughout the paragraph? Do subordinate ideas find their right place? (Keep on guard for dangling modifiers and avoid sentence fragments.)

Prepositional phrases can modify nouns and verbs.

Words such as in, with, out, by, at are prepositions and create phrases such as: in its place… with honors… out in the yard… by the side of the road… at a place called home… throughout the paragraph… Avoid too many in one sentence, and make sure they are in their right place, near their subject/object or verb. Don’t let them wander in the sentence, or dangle, as Strive for consistency with parallel forms: Pay attention to conjunctions (and, or, not only…but also, either… or, neither…nor, both…and) The “big picture”: as you review
  • Audience: Can someone unfamiliar with your subject understand both the vocabulary/concepts and your main points?
  • Authors: Have you accurately represented the points of view and major findings of the authors of your research?
  • Subject matter: Have you adequately addressed the diversity of arguments relating to the main thesis of your study? Are these presented in a neutral or unbiased presentation?
  • Conclusions: Are the points of view and conclusions clear that they are your own? Do they reference and build on the arguments developed in the body of your paper?
  • Further study: Are there recommendations for further research and applications?


With each piece of writing you establish a vocabulary that is used throughout. Set aside your writing, list its key words, and return to your writing.

Is there any word that lacks definition or context?<.p>

Are their any words that are emotionally-charged? If so, are they used effectively for stress?<.p>

Position important words where they are more effective (at the end or beginning of sentences/paragraphs) Develop and use an active, descriptive vocabulary; avoid the overuse of pronouns (ittheywetheir, etc.);<.p>

Reflect on important vocabulary: anticipate reactions of your audience Reserve the use of emotional words to create effects. What words can be strengthened to be clearer or stronger? What words can be simplified to be clearer or stronger?<.p>

Do you over-use any words? Would synonyms add interest?

Colloquialisms are informal expressions that imitate speech.

Their use may not be clear of effective in your writing since they are so familiar, and may tend toward predictability.


Avoid adjective-noun strings: Unraveling Adjective-Noun Strings, Reducing Preposition Sprawl

A problem closely related to excessive use of jargon is excessive use of “adjective-noun strings”–that is, long strings of words that stack up in an attempt to modify a single word. These strings are common in science, technology, industry, and government. But that doesn’t make them good professional style. They may sound impressive (if you allow yourself to be impressed by that sort of thing), but they are hard to decipher and are therefore bad style.

Here’s a fairly simple example: employee compensation level evaluation procedures

Tell the truth: didn’t your brain stick and sputter over that phrase a couple times before you grasped its meaning? I’d have made your reading task easier if I’d written:  procedures for evaluating the compensation level of employees

Now unravel this string:

military trainee firing range regulations orientation manual

You should have come up with something like:

manual for orienting trainees to the regulations of a military firing range

The fundamental technique for unraveling adjective-noun strings is to read them backwards and break them into smaller modifying units, using prepositional phrases and sometime entire clauses. However, using this reversal technique doesn’t mean that you always reverse the exact word order represented in the adjective-noun string, as you’ll see in Exercise 1. Still, for many adjective-noun strings, a straight back-to-front flip (peppered with a few prepositions and articles) is all that’s needed: building radon source location method

We know the writer is telling us about some kind of method. A method for locating something. Locating what? The source of something. The source of what? Radon. What kind of radon? Radon in buildings. So, flipping the adjective-noun string front to back, we get: method for locating the source of radon in buildings

Much easier to read, don’t you agree?

Avoid using vague nouns and verbs:

Powerful Verbs and Nouns“Write with verbs and nouns. The adverb signifies the failure to find the right verb; the adjective, failure to find the right noun.” – Donald Murray

“Whatever the thing you wish to say, there is but one word to express it, but one verb to give it movement, but one adjective to qualify it; you must seek until you find this noun, this verb, this adjective.” -Gustav Flaubert

“Cut these words and they would bleed.” – Emerson

“To write simply is as difficult as to be good.” – W. Somerset Maugham

Use words with muscles: action verbs and concrete nouns.

Verbs: Verbs will be your most useful writing tools. They give a sentence energy and move it forward. Active verbs push hard; passive verbs are whimpy.

Avoid verb phrases. Substitute a succinct single verb:

Instead of: Try:
    • make adjustments
    • give instructions to
    • make mention of
    • in order to
    • in the majority of cases
    • is reflective of
    • can be compared to
    is capable of
    • adjust
    • instruct
    • mention
    • to
    • usually
    • reflect
    • resembles
–Use specific verbs and avoid vague ones. Use action verbs instead of verbs of being (is, are, was, were, be, being , been).


Are vivid/descriptive words used to describe characters and/or events? Do they fit into the flow or do they make the reader pause? If pause, is it appropriate and/or effective?

Verbs: Action/active verbs are more precise or descriptive.

Did she say she won the promotion, or did she  whisper, stress, or confide it? We investigated the accident is stronger than We conducted an investigation of the accident Many reasons account for our success is stronger than There are many reasons for our success Avoid It is and There are The child slammed the door! is more powerful than  The door was slammed by the child! Avoid forms of “to be” (as in the second, passive sentence)

When you get your assignment back, ask for feedback on the above in order to improve your skills.

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Mary Jane

Mary Jane Go has been teaching English for over 13 years. She believes that it is very important to learn English and learn it by heart. For her, it's always the right time for a dance party and that hanging out with friends is indispensable.

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