Revising means improving the content, organization , vocabulary, sentence structure and clarity of your paper. It means going back and revising every word you have written and looking for ways to make it better.
Editing involves two steps: proofreading for grammar, sentence structure, punctuation, spelling and capitalization mistakes.
If you are writing out of class, the revision process comes first. Proofreading and editing are the final steps in the entire writing process.
However, if you are writing in class, the process is reversed. Because you are writing under pressure, you won't have much time to revise your content, other than to make a few quick changes. You must, however, make time to proofread and edit, or there is a strong chance you will fail the writing test. Grammar and sentence structure matter.
Rewriting In-Class Paragraphs or Essays
In most ESL writing classes, instructors return students' papers with symbols indicating grammar and structure errors AND with comments, or questions giving suggestions about how the content and vocabulary should be revised. We then expect the student to rewrite the paragraph or essay. The rewrite should include revisions to the content, organization and vocabulary as well as corrections of grammar mistakes.
How to Revise
When you revise a paper, you go back and look for ways to make it better. If you are revising a paper that has been handed back, you often get some guidance from an instructor. However, even if all you get are comments such as " too vague" " needs more details", weak vocabulary , " work on your organization,". you can still make changes by rereading your essay with those specific comments in mind.
Most new writers assume their readers know what they are trying to say because they know and understand the content so well themselves . Unfortunately that is not true for readers. They can't see, or read what is in your mind. Nor can they ask questions. Vague, general ideas or sentences leave them confused, and unsatisfied.
One of the first questions you should ask when you are revising your writing is: " Am I writing for myself, or for someone who doesn't know anything about this topic? A second question should be: "Have I provided enough real detail for my reader to understand this, or would he/she have questions?" Put yourself in the readers' shoes, and ask " if this was someone else's paper and I were reading it, what questions would I ask." If you think the reader might have questions, ask what they are. Then, answer them in your revision.
Other things to do:
- Change general, vague information and ideas to more specific, detailed, meaningful ones. For example, don't say something like "The people in my hometown are very hospitable " without providing some proof of ways in which they show this quality.
- Add extra or missing details so that your information is complete. For example, if you are writing about your hometown, make sure you tell to the reader its name, and where it is located. Don't just write about "my hometown" as if the reader knows.
- Get rid of sentences and even entire paragraphs that do not support your point. These details might be interesting, or great in another piece of writing, but they are irrelevant to the point you are making in this particular essay.
- Get rid of sentences that simply repeat what you have already said. Repetition isn't support, nor is it extra detail. Repeating your point might make your writing look longer, but it doesn't add information.
- Add topic sentences, or thesis ( main idea) sentences if they are missing, or improve them if they don't seem to mean anything.
- Move sentences, and even paragraphs around so that they make better logical sense and flow naturally.
- Add transitions and other sentence connectors help connect ideas, and help the flow.
- Replace weak verbs such as "is/are, have, get, do + noun. Use real verbs. Find better words for overused words such as "nice, beautiful, interesting, sad, happy etc.
- Try to add sentence variety so that all your sentences don't sound the same. Combine short, choppy sentences into sentences with adjective, adverb or noun clauses. Shorten very long sentences with two many connectors and too many ideas.
As ESL writers, no one expects you to write as many drafts of a paper as a professional writer. But, your instructors do expect you to rewrite at least once, or even twice or three times if they think you can benefit from the process.
When your instructor asks you to rewrite, he or she means pay attention to the comments and questions on your paper, and do something about them. Revise. Improve the content, the organization, the vocabulary, or the sentence structure as needed. Then, edit and correct the grammar, punctuation and spelling mistakes.
If you go through the complete process rather than limiting yourself to grammar corrections, your writing will improve much more quickly.