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Skills: Revision Techniques

Re-vision is about needing to re-see your text, even if you’ve already spent hours conceptualizing and drafting it. Experienced self-editors know that they need to create some distance from their papers and complete proof-read in multiple stages, each time paying attention to just a handful of specific issues.

Get Some Distance

Set your paper aside for a few hours (or even a few days) and read it with fresh eyes. Imagine yourself in your reader’s shoes (whether that be a professor, an employer, or an admissions committee member). Would you understand everything? Did you provide enough explanation? Is the order of ideas clear?

Reverse Outline

A reverse outline is where you summarize each paragraph based on what you actually see there. Ignore what you meant to write; instead, make notes on what you actually wrote.

Some people reverse outline by making bullet points. Other people use notecards or sticky notes so that they can play with the structure afterwards.

Train Your Attention

Our minds benefit from attending to only one or two things at a time. Plan on making several focused passes through your paper where you pay attention to one thing as you read.

For example:

Spend a focused pass paying attention to one thing that you know you need to work on: topic sentences; citing sources; comma splices; verb tense; concision; etc.

Read your paper aloud

Use ctrl+F (or command +F) to search for repetitive words in your document.

As you can see, the editing process takes time, so block off time to read and re-read your text. Writers improve their writing techniques one thing at a time.

Share your paper with another person.

They can provide the fresh perspective you may need. Our writing center consultants are available for this very purpose! Check our schedule!

Other resources

OWL Purdue: Where to Begin (with Proofreading): this handout walks a writer through some general strategies for proofreading. Be sure to check the related pages in the sidebar for more strategies about how to locate patterns.