Most writing classes call for you to hand in a rough draft and then a revised final draft. A professor will usually use a general rubric and add some personal comments at the end. Before you hand in the final draft, you are expected to both edit and revise your paper.
What does that mean?
To edit your paper is to make the more obvious corrections. Perhaps you have a few typos: words misspelled or the spacing in a paragraph is unclear. When you edit, you can mostly rely on your word processor’s spellcheck or grammarcheck. If there are squiggly lines under some of the words, then they deserve a second check by you. Remember that the lines were put there by a computer and aren’t always to be trusted. They are, however, a good start.
To revise your paper is to make deeper changes to the structure and meaning of the piece. Look closely at your thesis and the organization of the paper. Perhaps something big is missing or is misplaced in your paper. This is a good time to dust off the outline, update it and use it as a means to check the overall organization of your paper.
So, how do you go about editing and revising your papers?
I find that a good trick is to read through your paper a couple of times through different lenses. If you know that you often have subject/verb agreement problems in your sentences, read through your entire paper checking just for that issue. If you think that the body paragraphs don’t fully support the topic sentences, read through your entire paper checking just for that. Does that make sense?
Don’t forget that the professor can’t comment on everything in the paper. She makes the decision to comment upon the largest issues in the paper. It is your job to look through the rest of the paper before you edit and revise it. Often, a professor will give general feedback to the class on the papers. Pay careful attention. Even though she didn’t make a specific comment on your paper about an issue, the general issues may pertain to your paper, too.
You might notice that professors are often making comments about similar issues across your papers. I recommend keeping a private list of the issues you need to work on. Perhaps you often have a strong introduction and a weak conclusion. Or maybe you switch into the first person when you were assigned to write in the third person. Whatever it is, you know where your difficulties lie. Keep this list by your side and refer to it before you hand in a draft, rough or final. Read through your paper just for those issues (separately, as I wrote above) and check for them.
Similarly, keep a list of the things you’ve done well. If you wrote a stellar thesis statement and get stuck on a future thesis statement, look back at the A paper and remember what worked well for you. This will help you to continue making progress and remember what you’ve learned.
The final trick is to edit and revise your rough draft before handing it in. The stronger your rough draft is, the better feedback your professor can give you. Don’t hand in an outline or a very short rough draft and expect to get an “A” on your final draft.
The more time you have between writing a draft, editing and revising it, the better you’ll do. If you write a draft and let it sit overnight or at least a few hours, you’ll be able to edit and revise it with fresh eyes. If you try to do everything in one sitting then you’ll probably miss some errors that could have been easily caught.
What other editing and revising tips can you share?