Revision: it should be so easy, yet sometimes it is so hard. It’s hard to find the time, and hard to find the motivation to do it. Your paper is written. You are ready to hand it in. A quick scan for mistakes…. But wait! Slow down. Revising your writing can be the most important step, the one simple act that turns a good paper into a great one.
Finding the time to revise a paper before you call it “done” is an easy way to become a better writer. I used to think that I could just sit down, write a paper, maybe from an outline, maybe not, spell-check, and be done. When I started to get in the habit of revising my work; however, I soon came to understand just how important taking the time to revise really is. Here are some simple pointers to help make revising a part of your writing routine:
Make sure to leave time torevise! You may have heard this a million times, but if you write a paper the day before it is due, you will not have the time to revise. Try to get in the habit of getting your first draft done at least a few days early. That way, you can look over your paper a few times, and work on some details. You might be happy with your first draft, but if you keep working on it, you can take it to a whole new level.
Try something new! Shifting how you look at your paper physically can change the way that you think about it mentally. You could print out your paper and do your revisions in pen, and scribble all over it if you need to.
Find someone who will listen to you read your paper aloud. Having a friend listen to your paper can be a great way to get feedback and to make sure that you are getting your ideas across. But reading out loud could also help you make new connections and find areas that don’t flow as well. If your friends are tired of hearing about your academic endeavors, make an appointment at the Writing Center. We always have open ears.
Give your paper a close-read. Ask questions about your paper. Do you have a thesis? Does it make sense? If your target audience was reading your paper, what questions might they ask? Make sure that you have covered everything. What is missing? What is misleading? Look for words that could be more specific, and try to replace vague, clichéd or over-used words with ones that are more creative or precise.
Keep revising! Don’t think that revising is something that you do once and then it’s over. Be ready to give up parts of your writing. Don’t keep something just because you like how you wrote it. Does it really belong in your paper? Be bold. Be brave. If you have to re-write a whole section of your paper, do! Keep working on a paper by coming back to it again and again. I don’t think that anything is ever finished.
Remember, writing is a process, and the biggest gift that you can give yourself as a writer is time to revise!