Review your work multiple times. In each revision of the paper, focus on a different kind of concern. Remember, revision means to see again, and that’s what you are trying to accomplish by coming back to the paper repeatedly over several days, each time with a fresh perspective.
Use this three-part approach on your next writing assignment.
First Reading: Organization
Underline or highlight the topic sentence in each paragraph. If you discover you don’t have a topic sentence, write one.
- Read through only the topic sentences in your paper, or block these into a second document.
- Does each sentence logically follow the one preceding it?
- Do the topic sentences form a reasonable mini-essay in themselves?
- Move ideas—whole paragraphs, sentences, parts of text—around like blocks to improve organization.
- To ensure overall continuity among paragraphs, tell your reader what point you’re discussing, what you’ll talk about next, etc. You may need to write some new sections, transition sentences, or whole paragraphs.
Second Reading: Paragraphs and Sentences
Look at one paragraph at a time and read it out loud.
- Does each sentence in the paragraph refer to the central idea stated in the topic sentence of that paragraph? Throw out irrelevant sentences or move them to better locations.
- Look at the length of each paragraph. If a paragraph is short, see if you’ve left questions unanswered. If it’s too long, see if you can break it up into two or more shorter paragraphs.
- Does each sentence follow the preceding one logically? Do you give your readers clues (words such as thus, therefore, first, because, but) to help them follow your thoughts? Rearrange sentences and add transitions if necessary.
- Do your sentences sound dull because they’re too short? Do they sound complex because they’re long? Combine some; break others up into simple sentences. Variety in sentence length makes your writing more interesting to read.
- Omit needless words and search the thesaurus for useful synonyms.
- Circle all verbs. Change passive voice to active voice. Use fresh, powerful verbs.
- Read each sentence in the paragraph aloud to recognize errors in grammar, spelling, and punctuation.
Third reading: Content
Ask a friend, professor, or TA to read your paper and give you feedback. Then ask yourself:
- Do you believe what you’ve written? Do you understand your own ideas and your reasons? If necessary, reconsider your thesis or discuss your ideas with your professor.
- Does every paragraph, sentence, and word serve to develop your thesis? Speak simply and clearly to your reader.
- Have you cited your sources appropriately? Is your final draft clean and easy to read? Check your stylebook for proper form.