Below are some questions to help you find out where you need to focus your revision
efforts. These questions also display all the areas a writer should address when
engaging in the revision process.
It's good to start with content first, in order to make sure
you're getting your point across clearly and completely enough.
- Does your thesis (and essay on the whole) meet the assignment's guidelines?
- Is there a difference between your topic and your thesis? (i.e. topic: Sense of
Place, thesis: Understanding the cultural value of a community's natural
surroundings is essential in the process of creating a sense of place.)
- Would someone who knows nothing of your topic understand your point?
- Is your tone appropriate?
- Are you providing examples?
- Do your examples apply to your thesis?
- Are there unnecessary words? Sometimes meaning is lost when there are too many
words used. See if you can drop excess words from each sentence. When an instructor
makes the comment "awkward” next to a sentence, it is usually because the sentence
is "muddied" with verbose language.
- Are there any points in your paper where you have been vague?
- Have you wandered from your point?
- Are there gaps of logic between sentences and/or paragraphs? Have you failed to
include essential information or transitions between major points?
Organization & Structure
- Does your paper resemble an hourglass -- beginning with a
broad perspective, narrowing into your thesis, narrowing further for your body
paragraphs, and then broadening back out to the big picture in your conclusion?
- Does your paper flow naturally from paragraph to paragraph? Does your paper
in a logical fashion or do your major points seem out of order?
- If you have listed major points in your introduction, do you follow that same
pattern in your body paragraphs?
- Do each of your body paragraphs direct the reader back to your thesis?
- Does each body paragraph pertain to a singular topic or point, or are there
multiple points in one paragraph?
- Are your paragraphs too long or too short? The average paragraph is roughly
4-8 sentences. If your paragraph is a page long or more, you can probably break it
down into two separate paragraphs.
- Does your conclusion relate to your introduction without regurgitating the same
Grammar & Mechanics
This area of revision is often less time consuming
content and reorganization because concrete rules apply to most
grammatical/mechanical errors. Use your handbook, The College Writer's Reference
for College Writing, or come to the Writing Lab; we have many excellent handouts
regarding the principles of grammar.
- Do your subjects and verbs agree? (Hint:
Ignore everything between the subject and verb. Does it make sense?)
- Are you using verb tense in a consistent way?
- Have you punctuated correctly?
- Do you have any comma splices (two complete sentences fused together with only
- Do you have any fragments (incomplete sentences)? Hint: If a sentence needs the
previous or following sentence to make sense, it is often fragment that should be
attached to the previous or following sentence with a comma.)
Proofreading & Fine Tuning
This step should NOT be neglected. When
become distracted by lack of proofreading in an essay, they will usually mark
points off. Proofreading errors like typos and misspelled words will distract the
reader's attention away from what the author is trying to say. Are all your words
spelled correctly? (Hint: Remember your spell check will not catch words that sound
the same yet have different spellings and meanings i.e. they're/their/there,
affect/effect, hear/ here.)
- Have you cited sources in proper form for any quotations you used?
- Have you read your paper aloud? Reading out loud will slow you down making it
easier to catch subtle errors like verb tense, fused sentences, or missing commas.
- Do you have any typos?
Back to "Writing a Paper"
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