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  Home > InfoWrite > The Writing Process > Revising Your Papers
 

InfoTrac College Edition

Revising Your Papers

Revising is a key part of the writing process. Revising means "seeing again." Before you begin to rewrite your paper -- read over your assignment.

What is required? What does the instructor expect? Review strategies listed in the textbook. Read over your draft and examine it for areas needing improvement:

Eliminate Unnecessary Details

When writing you may come up with interesting ideas and remember facts that do not relate to your thesis. Although significant, if the ideas don't directly relate to your paper, eliminate them. For instance, consider this paragraph taken from a paper on automobile safety:

Airbags have greatly reduced accident fatalities. Newly designed fenders crumple in crashes, absorbing the impact and reducing injuries. New computer systems display maps and allow drivers to plan trips. Radial tires have almost eliminated blowouts.

The last two sentences clearly do not relate to the issue of safety. Blowouts could cause accidents and a computer location system might lessen driver confusion that could lead to inattentive driving. But at present these ideas do not directly support the thesis and should be rewritten or eliminated.

Fill in Missing Details

In writing it is easy to make statements you believe in without providing enough evidence to support your views. Consider the following statement:

The mayor's corrupt administration has failed the citizens. The next election must bring change.

The assertion that the mayor's government is corrupt needs support to persuade readers to accept the writer's point of view:

The mayor's corrupt administration has failed the citizens. Four of her key advisors have been jailed for bribery. Six of eight department heads are under federal investigation for crimes ranging from selling drugs to operating a car theft ring. Although citizens pay the highest property taxes in the region, they are served by fewer police officers and endure the worst transit system in the state.

Avoid Bias

Bias differs from having an opinion or point of view, because bias reflects prejudice and makes assumptions that cannot be proved:

He was a disgusting man with no right to have children.

What is disgusting? Why should someone have no right to have children? These assertions need to be demonstrated:

He was a violent parent who punished pre-school children with brutal beatings and a constant stream of insults.

Verify Accuracy

Check your facts and quotes for accuracy. Don't repeat statistics or quotes you have heard from friends or seen on television without examining the original source. Did the President actually make that remark? When? Where? Was it taken out of context? This is especially true in using statistics. Realize that numbers can be misleading and misinterpreted. Be suspicious of opinion polls and facts you hear on media sound bites.

Polish Introductions and Conclusions

Make sure your opening attracts attention, limits the topic, and directs the readers into the body of your essay. Avoid openings which rely on the title or simply announce the topic, This paper is about diets. Use brief narratives, quotes, and interesting facts to attract attention.

Conclusions should restate the thesis, suggest a course of action, or end with a prediction. Avoid awkward endings or conclusions that simply repeat the introduction.

Improve Exactness

Make sure that your wording is exact, that you use words that are accurate and specific. Avoid vague and general words and phrases:

Her attitude caused a lot of problems with customers.

What attitude did she have? What were problems? How many problems are a lot? Substituting more specific words creates a much clearer picture:

Her temper generated a dozen customer complaints.

Maintain Explicitness

If you omit key words your meaning will be unclear:

Many more book requests flooded into the library as students demanded more help from their professors.

The statement is not clear. Who is making the book requests, the students? What do the professors have to do with the library? By making the sentence more explicit, the meaning is clearer:

Professors flooded the library with book requests as students demanded more help.

Improve Economy

To write economically, try to eliminate wordy phrases that add little meaning but simply take up space:

During the summer months many people in this country take vacations to relax, to rediscover their country, to recharge their relationships.

The word months adds nothing to the sentence and the phrase in this country has no value. The sentence would be more direct, more interesting, more effective if stated economically:

During the summer, people take vacations to relax, to rediscover their country, to recharge their relationships.

Avoid False Elegance

Elegance does not refer to writing in a flowery style, but writing with smoothness and meaningful imagery:

After losing her job, Nancy felt trapped by bills, pressured by friends, and frightened at the prospect of returning to college.

The words trapped, pressured, and frightened reflect Nancy's state of mind better than a wordy, generalized statement.


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From The Sundance Reader, Third Edition, Web Site by Mark Connelly.