Tips & Strategies for Revising

Tips & Strategies for Revising

Revising is more than checking to see if your work has any technical “mistakes.” Revising includes looking over the written work as a whole.

Of course, you want to proofread and edit your work. Computers or online programs can offer a lot of help in this regard; however, these have their limitations, and the overall quality of your finished product requires a human mind.

The subject and the purpose of your work will dictate the choices you’ll want to make during revision. For this reason, there are no set rules or a specific formula that can provide you with all the answers. Having said this, there are a few strategies that you can use to assist you in revising your writing.


Whether you are writing a personal essay, a news report, or an in-depth exploration of a novel, you want unity. Ask yourself if the article you have written holds together. Are all the parts (sentences, paragraphs, examples, quotations, etc.) logically related to one another? Have you connected the dots so that the points hold together?


This is closely related to unity; therefore, having unity is one step in the right direction. Still, sometimes the ideas and concepts are related, but they are not delivered coherently. In other words, as yourself if the reader (audience) will understand the message you are trying to convey.


questionAnother question you should ask yourself is what kind of effect you want to have with a particular piece of writing. Is it intended to entertain? Is it meant to inform? Perhaps, it is supposed to clarify? Are you trying to persuade the audience to take action?

Of course, an essay, report, or fictional account can have more than one purpose; however, what is your primary goal? Have you achieved it?

Beyond reading and rereading your work, there are a couple of methods you can use to see if you have reached these goals. The first is to record yourself and then listen back to the recording. This works best if you set it aside for a period of time and then come back to it and just listen. Alternatively, you can have a computer program read the article to you. Hearing the sentences and paragraph read back to you can help you find technical mistakes, but it will also give you an overall feel for the message and effect.

Another method is to ask someone to read your work and provide you with any helpful comments. After reading your article, you can ask pertinent questions to see if the reader experienced the results you aimed to achieve. Whenever possible, try to choose a reader that fits the intended audience.


Sometimes, your writing requires more elaboration. There are various reasons for this. Your intended audience might not have had the same experiences as you, so you need to provide some context. What seems obvious to you might not be so to others.

You thought you had fully explained or explored a concept; but, when hearing your words back or receiving feedback from a test subject, you realize the explanation is not complete.

Your current knowledge on the topic is not sufficient to the task at hand. In this case, more research is required.


scissorsRevising can mean adding more information or details, but it can also mean reducing. Often, we write the way we speak, and this can lead to a lot of unnecessary words and phrases that don’t work well in more formal writing. Look for repetitions, empty phrases, or padded language that adds nothing to your sentence or paragraph. I have listed just a few of these in the chart below.

Too wordy


The car was small in size.

The car was small.

In the event of rain, the game will be cancelled.

If it rains, the game will be cancelled.

It is a fact that sixty percent of the participants disagreed.

Sixty percent of the participants disagreed.

Please, accept this free gift.

Please, accept this gift.

What an unexpected surprise!

What a surprise!

All your answers must be written down.

All your answers must be written.


Use the active voice more often than the passive. Active sentences are more concise and powerful. Passive sentences have their place, but try to limit them. I have written and created videos about active and passive sentences before, but here is an example and a couple of links.

Passive:     The novel was praised by the critics.

Active:       The critics praised the novel.

Should You Be Passive?                  Active or Passive?

Watch for sentences beginning with “There” and “It.” These can often be rewritten more concisely.

There were three hundred people running in the marathon.

Three hundred people were running the marathon.


Choosing your words carefully is important. The diction you use can dramatically alter not only the meaning of the text but also the informative or emotional impact.

Here are a few tips in this regard.

  1. Don’t overuse words. If you find too much repetition, try to find synonyms.
  2. Use pronouns to replace nouns. One note of caution is to ensure that your pronouns have a clear antecedent. There are times when you will need to repeat a noun rather than use a pronoun if its use would create confusion.
  3. Avoid overworked adjectives. Words like “nice,” “cool,” and “big” are not very descriptive and too common. Replace them with more lively words.
    Nouns and verbs should also be vivid and precise. Avoid the overuse of “went,” “said,” “walked,” “looked,” and so on.

A good thesaurus can help you find alternative nouns, adjectives, adverbs, and verbs.


When using a thesaurus, be careful to choose an alternative that has the connotation you intend. Not all synonyms are created equal!

One more note before I sign off this blog. Remember that whatever you write is yours, so you want to ensure that it has the desired impact. If a repeated word or lengthy expression adds emphasis or produces a style that you like, by all means, leave it in. As always, rules are occasionally meant to be broken.

This week's video:

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