by Lisa Geren, Writing Center tutor
“The beauty of writing... and life... is working with what you have, through revision and practice, polishing as you go.” – Ernest Hemingway
Hemingway rewrote the last page of Farewell to Arms (1929) 39 times until satisfied. "My aim is to put down on paper what I see and what I feel in the best and simplest way."
The difference between student writers and professional writers:
"Professional writers ask: What does my essay need as a whole for form, balance, rhythm or communication? Details are added, deleted, substituted or reordered according to a sense of what the essay needs for emphasis and proportion.” -- Nancy Sommers
Many student writers believe that revision means editing for grammar.
Professional writers are not done with revising until their editor says, “Times up!”
Some student writers think their essay is done once they hit print for the first time.
Revising for Higher Order Concerns
- Thesis and Focus
- Audience and Purpose
Tips for Editing:
- Take a break.
- If you edit your work straight after you’ve finished writing, you don’t see it clearly. Everything looks good at 3am; it is best when you approach your work with fresh eyes
- If you’re editing on screen, proofread a hard copy as well. Unfortunately when self-editing and proofreading, we don’t see things as clearly on the screen.
- Some people find it helpful to read:
- Whatever you are writing, go back and read it. Then read it again. Then read it again. After the third reading, you will begin to find spelling errors and grammar mistakes.
- Most writers make the same types of mistakes. If you know that you have a problem with subject/verb agreements, make a special effort to look at those specifically.
- Word-by-word: Use your finger as a guide to detect specific grammar errors.
- Colored ruler: Use a clear colored ruler to high light each line.
- Start reading from the bottom of the paragraph, sentence by sentence. This will isolate each individual sentence of the context of the paragraph, making it easier to catch errors.
- Read aloud
- Have another person read to you while you follow along with another person, where one person reads and the other follows the text.
It’s an Issue of Style
- Active and Passive voice
- Sentence clarity
- Word choice
How to Find Common Grammar Errors
- Spell Check: When Word highlights a spelling error, make sure that you choose the correct word in the pull-down screen.
- Choosing the right word: I have often seen where writers choose the wrong word; for example: champagne instead of champion.
- Typos: It also does not check for sound alike words, like their and there or typing form instead of from.
- Jargon: Also, keep in mind that sometimes vocabulary for particular subjects like psychology or business or science may not be in the spell check dictionary. So, you may need to look the spelling up elsewhere. If these words are something you are going to use often because say for example, psychology is your major, then you can add commonly used terms to your Word dictionary.
- Grammar check: Be careful relying on Grammar. Although, I suggest you pay attention to when Microsoft Word highlights these errors, use your own judgment, especially when Word suggests a grammar change; the suggestions are not always accurate.
- Article and determiners and countable and no count nouns
- Dangling and misplaced modifiers
- Modals: helping verbs
- Parallel sentence structure
- Pronoun use and agreement
- Punctuation: Comma, Semicolon, End punctuation, Quotation marks, apostrophe’s, dashes.
- Relation pronouns: that, who, whom, whose, which, where, when, and why
- Run-on sentences, comma splices, and fragments
- Subject/verb agreements
- Tense shifts
- Word form
Check for the following errors: see links for worksheets.