Drafts, editing, and revision
Writing is a process that takes time. Often students forego the revision stage or confuse revisions with proofreading. This site introduces revision and proofreading as two separate (yet connected) stages of the writing process.
Revisions to a piece of writing can happen at several different times during the process. Some writers revise as they go along, laboring intensely over each and every sentence until it seems just right. While this is not necessarily a wrong approach, it is a time-consuming one and it might indeed be hindering a more natural flow of the argument of the paper. Getting stuck on a particular word, a sentence, a paragraph, and revising it obsessively before moving on to the next word, sentence, or paragraph is common for many writers, but it is advisable to try and let go of perfectionism in the beginning and write a rough draft that will then be revised extensively. One model of writing that includes revisions at several points could look like this:
While this looks labor intensive, most students will go through most of the steps in one way or another without realizing that this process can be planned. What this model captures is the crucial difference between doing revisions to a piece of writing and simply proofreading it.
Harvard researcher Nancy Sommers describes how most students and other inexperienced writers do not use the word “revision” when speaking about their writing process. Instead they describe how they go over the paper looking to correct mechanical errors such as punctuation, incorrect grammar, dangling modifiers, or looking for violations of writing advice such as “never start a sentence with a conjunction”, “don’t use a repetitive sentence structure.” When asked about this approach, these students said that this is what revising a piece of writing means. However, most faculty and more experienced writers in her survey said that to them revisions means approaching the whole paper to look for coherency of argument, the overall structure of the paper, and whether or not the paper flows and offers the right information at the right point. Revision requires more than correcting individual errors; it involves moving paragraphs around, realizing that another source is needed, that a quote is superfluous, and assessing the paper as a whole. The following offers some possible ways of doing revisions: