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
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:
Does it capture the point(s) of the post?
Are there succinct words that will grab the reader’s attention?
Have you stated your argument or concept in the first paragraph?
Is language clear? If technical, did you define for the readers?
Is the argument/opinion/advice clear?
Is it interesting?
Are the ideas fully explored?
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.
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:
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.
- Does the post stay on track?
- Is there sufficient information?
- Did you offer eye relief with images or white space?
- Does this post accomplish your objective?
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
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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