The Art of Re-Seeing

Revising is the rearrangement and fine tuning of a fully developed—if not totally completed—draft so that the thesis or hypothesis is aligned with the writer’s purpose, the development of the argument and its persuasive conclusion, and the audience’s needs and characteristics.

Often, writers perform the multiple drafting, revising, and editing stages concurrently. Similarities among these writing tasks permit such concurrent task performance.

The Art of Revision

Revising a written document sometimes closely resembles the multiple drafting stage of the writing process. The main difference between drafting and revising probably lies within the completeness of the document itself. Rough drafts are characterized by varying degrees of completeness, which the writer attempts to finish in a less-than-polished manner. The overriding need to write details down on paper or record them in electronic form drives the writer during the rough draft stage. The task during the rough draft stage is to include all the features of the proposed thesis and supporting details. These rough drafts are akin to an unformed block of stone into which the artist is chiseling an image that is not yet fully recognizable to the audience.

Revised drafts are based upon a completed rough draft that now needs to be chiseled into a fully recognizable work of art. During the revising stage, the chiseled image becomes clearer, more developed according to the controlling thesis, and less defined by unnatural, awkward angles. However, the ultimate task of the revising stage is to make that recognizable but still ill-defined image into a beautiful work of art.

The writer considers the succinctness of the thesis (meaning precise and concise wording), the adequateness and relevance of the supporting details, the fluency of development, and the concluding finishing touches during the revising stage. Paragraph structure and transitions are also considered. So too are diction and rhetorical strategies examined for appropriateness to the task. Sometimes, these considerations might lead the writer to rewrite the entire piece, including the thesis or hypothesis, once the writer realizes that the purpose and the audience require a more focused or different written expression. When such rewrites occur, many writers engage in a recursive process of drafting and revising, often simultaneously. Some writers might even begin again with the pre-writing stage as they realize that this rewrite is actually a completely different writing task.

A Critical Step

Revising, for many writers and teachers of writing, is the critical step in any writing process. It is the step that often frustrates many writers because it can be tedious and tiresome to pay such close attention to details that might become lost or unrecognizable in the repeated examination of what one has written.

Many writers at this stage find it beneficial to have someone else read a document that is too close to the writer’s controlling thoughts and frayed emotions. The intellectual and emotional investment into one’s writing is typically the reason why many emotionally developing students accuse an English teacher of disliking the student when the teacher critiques or grades an assignment.

The need to revise undeniably acknowledges that one’s writing is not perfect as presented in the latest draft. One’s willingness to revise means that the writer recognizes the dynamic nature of communication, which requires revisions in order to clearly articulate ideas and meet the expectations of the audience. Effective written expression is the result of careful revisions.

A Three-Step Revision Process

The following video recommends writing 3 additional drafts (yes, after your first and working drafts are already done!) to fully revise an essay. The final stage recommended here conforms to the Proofreading stage of the process, so it’s a way of completing multiple steps at the same time, as noted above.