Revising? But I Thought I Was Done!

By: Marilyn L. Davis

Why Revise, I Edit?

“Revising is surgery; editing is cosmetic. One is drastic, and the other improves or enhances the article.” ~Marilyn L. Davis

Many writers do simple edits and consider the post ready for publication. They’ve found the typos or grammar and punctuation errors. That’s good. But, I’d recommend that you back up and think more about revising before you edit and proofread.

It's an overview perspective - a step-back, wide-angle look at the entire post. Click To Tweet

revising two drops of ink marilyn l davis

Revisions concentrate on the entire post. Good revisions determine where to add new thoughts, clarify, choose stronger words, and eliminate or change others to better present the writing.

We often realize that only a few paragraphs are germane to the subject. Sometimes, we’ll realize that we’ve lost focus and went off on tangents. While they may be interesting, they may also be confusing to the reader. It’s important to realize if we’ve given the readers more information than they need or were redundant in our writing.

It’s checking the major components of any post:

• Summary:

Does it capture the point(s) of the post?

Are there succinct words that will grab the reader’s attention?

  • Introduction:

Have you stated your argument or concept in the first paragraph?

Is language clear? If technical, did you define for the readers?

  • Content:

Does it include Sub-headings that move the article forward?

Is the argument/opinion/advice clear?

Is it interesting?

Are the ideas fully explored?

  • Conclusion:

Does it reinforce and rephrase the title summary?

Did you issue a call to action or an invitation to comment?

How Can I Keep my Writing and Still Revise?

Revising is simple using Track Changes in Word. Some of you are familiar with getting an edited post from either Scott or me. We use this to communicate with our writers. We may also comment in a “balloon” to explain why we’ve made a change.

two drops of ink marilyn l davis scott biddulph revising

As the writer, you see your original writing and any revisions. If you like the new writing, just accept the changes. If you liked the original, then reject the changes.

For those of you who use Google Docs, there’s a similar function for those, too.

But I’m My Own Editor!

So, how can you use Track Changes if you’re revising your own writing? Before a revision, I think most posts need to sit for a day or two. Sometimes, a mysterious thing happens – words change, context is non-existent, an idea has been repeated without adding any new information, and those dangling participles have multiplied. I don’t understand how it happens, but what made sense at first writing is sometimes not clear in the second reading.

What made sense the first time it was written is now unclear, and if you wrote it, and it’s not making sense with a subsequent reading, how do you suppose the reader feels?

Revising your article, a day or two after you wrote it, can help you determine if you must:

•Remove entire sections
•Restructure the writing to maintain focus

5 Steps for Revising and What They Do


Like most things, there’s a process for revising. I like revising. I’ve got my topic, decided whether to write from depth or breadth, narrowed the scope, and presented my opinions, observations, and research. Creating a summary and making sure that my conclusion circles back and wraps the post up all neat and tidy. You’d think if it’s that stellar, I’d be done. No.

Next, I’ll print the post out a couple of days after writing. Now it’s time to:

  1. Read
  2. Reread
  3. Review
  4. Reflect
  5. Revise

When you’re ready to revise, decide:

• Are those words worth saying?
• Did I write what I wanted to say?
• Will the reader understand what I am saying?

In your revision, you might find that you lost focus three-quarters of the way through your article. You went off on a tangent about something related to your subject; however, it is essentially off topic. William Faulkner and Stephen King refer to revising as, “Killing the darlings.” When you find these extra passages, see if they can’t be used elsewhere.

Revisions help you see where those unnecessary paragraphs contain good information and are well written, they just do not add to the post you’re revising, or they may be a distraction for your intended focus. However, if they are good paragraphs, passages, or even a killer sentence, keep them in a darling file and use them later.

Reading the Draft

When you print your draft, step away from your computer. Engaging with the paper, as well as the words, registers in our brains in different ways. Several studies confirm this, and as the writer, you want to fully experience the post before you publish it, much like your reader will.

If you are stumbling over words, or a sentence sounds clunky, underline it, but don’t run to the computer to change it yet. Insert alternatives if you must, but finish the entire post at this reading.

Now, go make your first changes in Track Changes.

Reread You Second Draft

Print out your second draft with your insertions or deletions.

  • Is it reading smoothly?
  • Do you transition from point to point in a logical manner?
  • Are the sub-headings an alert or interruption of the thoughts?
  • Is there a natural flow to your words?


Reviewing is an assessment of the whole.


When you reflect on your post, what would your opinion be if you weren’t the writer?

Unfortunately, all of us fall victim to the “Wow, didn’t I write a great post” syndrome. No, you won’t find it listed in a medical dictionary, but it’s a real condition that happens when we get too enamored with our own words.

When I reflect, I also use the “find” function and look for unnecessary adverbs, searching for “ly” because many adverbs end in “ly.” Then I search again for my favorite words (however is one), and I try to pay close attention to glib remarks I make.

While I realize that I often use subtle humor in a serious post, there are times that a reader may think I was preachy or pedantic rather than witty.

If I'm uncertain how a passage is likely to be interpreted, I'll often rewrite it so that the message is clear, or I'll simply take out the questionable sentences. Click To Tweet

Final Revision

With all that behind the scenes writing, my final revision is as simple as accepting and rejecting with Track Changes.  Then I feel a measure of confidence that I’ve written as well as I can.

True Test of the Revisions

Although I’ve done a lot of work writing and revising this post, the true test is what the reader thinks and feels.

Will you let me know? Thanks.



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  1. I always have such a difficult time explaining to my students the differences between revising and editing. They get so caught up in spelling, punctuation, and capitalization that they miss all the ways their piece could be improved by moving some things around and taking some things out.

  2. Clicked through to this from a recent blog, and appreciate the reminder of what a solid revision entails. I will see about tweaking my process accordingly. One other thing I do which you didn’t mention but might be useful for other writers is that I read my words out loud. It forces me to read a little more slowly and carefully, and I often catch sentences or even paragraphs that no longer flow the way I thought they did when I was first typing them out.

    • Hi, Shahnaz. Thanks for the reminder to read our post out loud. You’re right about catching awkward phrases, or sentences without a subject, or changing tenses mid-paragraph. Great advice. Thank you for adding to the intent of the post. I appreciate that.

  3. This is really very useful and helpful article. I use to work on computer regular 8 to 9 hour, so this article will help me to improve my eyesight. you have explained all the tips and tricks in detail. thanks for sharing this to us.

  4. Awesome Blog! Thanks for sharing this post. It is an interesting post for everyone. When i read about this post then got more information. These five steps helpful for revising to everyone. We can use your responses to revise us papers by reorganizing them to should make your best points stand out. I like it.

  5. Thank you very much for your great information. You are really a talented person. I will keep following you.

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  7. Good fortunes in your distributing journey. Editing can be overwhelming, however, you will get it. Try not to question yourself, just sally forward.

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    • Hi, Ajay. Thank you for reading and commenting. There’s a lot of good information, by various writers, on better writing. Hope you’ll check out our other posts as well.

  10. Nice Article, Thanks For Sharing This, Very Interesting And Helpful Support Provide By this blog, This was the first blog that I ever followed, Keep It Up Good luck

  11. Hi Marilyn, sorry I’m late to the party.

    I appreciate the explanation of the tracking function. I like this feature when Scott shows me what can improve, what is not needed or a better idea.

    I also love how you simply the process. It came in handy for the fiction story I just finished. I’m using the process you taught us. Thank you. John

  12. Wonderful advice Marilyn. Again you are able to break down an intricate process to make it easy to understand. I also find reading my writing aloud helps in the revision process.

    • Hi, Jayne. You’re right. Reading aloud helps us see if we’re stumbling over the words. Again, if it’s difficult in any way for us to understand, then we know it will be for the readers. Revise.

  13. “You wrote it, and it’s not making sense with a subsequent reading, how do you suppose the reader feels”. This is precisely why I leave my work to germinate for at least 24 hours before going back to it and editing it. Something I recall from the hundreds of business reports I wrote, was the manager reading my report with a puzzled look over his face – I clearly had not explained something properly. when I looked at the page he was on it was clear, the last minute insert didn’t make sense.

    • Hi, Peter. “Clear as mud” as my grandmother used to say when my uncle was talking about fixing something to do with a car. However, when he broke it down and explained, then she understood. It’s the same with our writing.

      My lesson was my editor for the recovery curriculum. I dismissed her advice saying, “Everyone who works in the field will understand that word.”

      She then reminded me that we were editing the Participant Manual; we had finished the Facilitator Manual. I got the message. Be clear and know your audience.

    • Hi, JoAnn. I use the highlighter function when I’m freewriting. I know I want to include the thoughts, but think it might work better elsewhere, so it’s “flagged”. I think we all find what works for us. I’ve been known to change font midstream so I don’t lose the flow, but realize I may have digressed. Just another flag for the revising and editing processes.

  14. Marilyn,
    I always have such a difficult time explaining to my students the differences between revising and editing. They get so caught up in spelling, punctuation, and capitalization that they miss all the ways their piece could be improved by moving some things around and taking some things out. Thanks for this post. It is a good list of how to look at revision and practical steps to use to do it!

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