Revision and Proofreading

Revision vs. Proofreading: What’s the Difference? (overview)

  • Revision (or, "re-visioning") often deals with "big picture" issues:
    • Organization
    • Clarity and conciseness
    • Audience awareness and tone
    • Effective thesis, intro, and conclusion (or lack thereof)
    • Effective integration of research/adequate research and support
    • Addressing the assignment prompt (what your instructor wants you do do)
  • Proofreading (or "editing") often deals with surface errors and typos:
    • Run-ons and other sentence structure issues
    • Spelling and capitalization mistakes
    • Verb tense issues
    • Citation errors (in-text and Works Cited)
    • Locating/fixing awkward or unclear phrases and sentences
    • Spell- and grammar-checker? One tool only, and a limited one at that.
  • Think of it this way: Proofreading is just one part of a greater revision process.
  • When should each of these occur?
    • Revision occurs some time after the rough draft is finished (several possible rounds).
    • Proofreading comes last. Why spend time “polishing” text that won’t make the final cut?

General Tips and Techniques:

  • Get some distance:
    • Allow the paper to "rest" for a while. Don’t revise or proofread (and definitely not both) directly after writing a paper.  It’s all far too familiar.
    • Came back later with fresh eyes. Read it as a stranger might.
  • Choose a medium that works:
    • Computer? Hard copy?  Tablet?  Phone? All of the above?
  • Try a new look:
    • Regardless of medium, before you either edit or revise, try changing one or more features of your paper—the font style or size, the spacing (single or double?), the color, etc.
    • Why? This might trick your brain into thinking it’s seeing a new document (“fresh eyes”).
  • Quiet time?
    • Do you revise or edit while multi-tasking? Try to find a quiet space and focus only on the task at hand.  Eliminate distractions.
  • Block your time out:
    • Avoid doing both—revising and proofreading—together, and if you’re working on a longer paper, allow several sessions to finish the work. Don’t wear yourself out.  Try working in short bursts.
  • Running short on time?
    • Pick and choose only the most important objectives and get those accomplished.
  • Have you had a professional tutor look it over? Why not?

Specific Tips and Techniques for Revision:

  • Locate your main points:
    • Locate/ID your thesis. Locate your topic sentences as well.  Does all your evidence and support align with your main points?  Is your essay organized clearly?  Do the main points connect logically?
  • Who is your reader? What is your purpose?
    • Have you written from a reader’s point of view? (audience awareness). Detach yourself from your own writing, and remember: The reader’s wants and needs come first.
    • Are you making an argument? Analyzing?  Synthesizing?  Evaluating?  Each purpose will lead to vastly different essays.  One size does not fit all.
  • Consider the evidence:
    • Does the evidence in the body of the paper support the topic sentences? Does those, in turn, support the thesis?
    • Do you have enough evidence? Too much (over-reliance)?
  • It’s okay to throw out junk:
    • No one wants to omit their hard work. But, throwing out clichés, vague language, repetitive phrases, and excessive quotations will make your paper stronger in the end. 
    • Economical writing (like cars or construction) involves as little waste as possible.
  • Spice up your style:
    • Are most of your words precise and accurate? Or, lifeless and dull?  Words are your building blocks.  Use the best ones possible and build something amazing.
    • Variety is … yes, that’s right. Mix things up.  Short/long.  Fast/slow.  Powerful/subdued. 

Specific Tips and Techniques for Proofreading:

  • Read aloud:
    • To yourself, your significant other, a recorder (actually a good idea). HEAR what the paper sounds like.  Let others hear it, too.  Reading silently (and quickly) will allow you to skim over errors or problems that would normally be obvious to a new reader.
  • Separate your essay/paper into separate sentences (time-consuming?):
    • Make each sentence its own paragraph/line.
    • Try using a ruler or other object underneath each line you’re focusing on.
  • Circle and check every mark of punctuation (also time-consuming?):
    • Forces you to examine each mark—does it work? Is it correct?
  • Read your paper backwards (by sentences, not words):
    • Again, this draws focus to each separate sentence. You’ll more likely HEAR any issue you might be having (fragment, awkward construction, etc.).
  • Know the rules.
    • Study them. Do your research.
    • Knowledge = power? At least a better grade.