Question: What are some practical methods for revising and editing my work?
Answer: I have already discussed the following steps: 1. analyze model; 2. brainstorm topic; 3. construct main idea and supporting topics; 4. draft, including final summary paragraph and introductory material. Today, I will discuss 5. revising and editing.
5. Revising and Editing.
Revising: to be practical, I define revising as deleting, inserting, replacing and moving text. My focus in revising is on meaning, including unity and clarity, and style, including smooth expression and elimination of the uses of "there," "thing," "it," "get" and words unnecessarily repeated.
Editing: I define editing as correcting grammatical problems, including usage, punctuation, sentence structure (run-on sentences, fragments, dangling modifiers, parallel structure, etc.), capitalization and spelling. The purpose of editing is to polish your written expression by removing distractions to the reader.
The purpose for both revising and editing is to establish "flow" in which the reader begins to read and continues, undistracted, from start to finish.
In revising, I have developed some techniques to help writers check unity, clarity, and smoothness. With editing, I have some suggestions for spelling and grammar.
Unity. Work with a partner. Fold a sheet of paper in half. On one side of the folded sheet of paper, write the main idea of your composition. Without looking at your version of the main idea, your partner reads your composition and on the the other side of the folded paper writes the main idea of the composition. Now open the paper and compare the main ideas as written by you and your partner. If the main ideas are similar, the composition is probably unified. If they differ, you probably need to change the main idea or thesis sentence, topic sentences and/or the concluding paragraph.
Clarity. Your partner reads your composition silently. Ask your partner not to express any judgment as to whether the composition is good or poor and not to point out mistakes in grammar or spelling. The partner's only responsibility is to read the composition and to place question marks in the margin whenever he or she has a problem understanding ideas that you have expressed. You decide whether to clarify the ideas that have been questioned.
Smoothness. You read the composition aloud to your partner. Whenever you stumble while reading aloud or have to go back to re-read, you should underline that part of the composition. Later, you can decide whether the language of the underlined sentences or phrases should be revised to improve smoothness of expression. A variation of this step is to have your partner read the composition aloud and underline whenever he or she stumbles or has to re-read.
Spelling. You or your partner begin looking for misspelled words by reading from the last word in the composition to the first word. Reading normally from beginning to end will cause you to miss the details of words as you supply their meaning. Reading from the last word to the first will enable you to read the words without the meaning, causing you to see the details of each word. This technique is a pain, but it is also probably the only way to avoid misspelled words and typos if you are not using a computer. And even if you are using a computer, you should still read from last word to first word in case you used "to" instead of "too" and "of" instead of "off." The spelling checker will not pick up those mistakes.
Grammar. On the other hand, grammatical problems, I think, are best detected by reading normally. You will be able to note if you have left out one of the commas in interrupting expressions and, if you hesitate while reading, you will, more than likely, need to examine the structure of your sentence for a possible grammatical problem. For example, you might have inadvertently used the passive voice ("It was decided to give random drug tests...") when the active voice ("Mr. Jones decided to order random drug tests....") would have been more direct and clear.
Keep in mind that the purpose of revising and editing is to polish your expression.
In using the writing process with exposition, I have suggested the following steps: 1. analyze model; 2. brainstorm topic; 3. construct main idea and supporting topics; 4. draft, including final summary paragraph and introductory material; 5. revise and edit.
All the best. RayS.