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Revision is the stage in the writing process where the author reviews, alters, and amends their message, according to what has been written in the draft. Revision follows drafting and precedes editing. Drafting and revising often form a loop as a work moves back and forth between the two stages. It is not uncommon for professional writers to go through many drafts and revisions before successfully creating a written piece that is ready for the next stage: editing. Revision itself is not indicative of the quality of the text.
In their seminal book, The Elements of Style, William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White acknowledge the need for revision in the writing process: “Few writers are so expert that they can produce what they are after on the first try. Quite often you will discover, on examining the completed work, that there are serious flaws in the arrangement of the material, calling for transpositions... do not be afraid to experiment with your text.”
For an essay, a successful revision involves:
Identification of thesis. The purpose of the essay should be re-considered based on what has been written in the draft. If this purpose differs from the original thesis, the author must decide from which thesis to continue writing.
Consideration of structure. The author should identify the strengths of the draft, then re-consider the order of those strengths, adjusting their placement as necessary so the work can build with auxesis to a crescendo.
Uncovering weakness in argument or presentation. Once the strengths of the draft have been identified and placed in the strongest order, the author can re-examine the work for weaknesses in argument or presentation. Faulty logic, missing transitions, and unsupported or poorly supported assertions are common weaknesses. Identifying these weaknesses during revision will inform the next draft.
In general, revision of written work can be guided by the following questions:
- Is the writing clear? Does it make sense?
- Is there enough information to describe ideas?
- Is there too much information so that the writing wanders off topic?
- Are the ideas or the narrative flow in a logical order?
Successful revision is not improving grammar or diction. Those will be the focus of later editing. However, there are instances when the writer or the author employs a strategy that involves a reviewing process. There are scholarship and theories citing this particular theme such as the case of the three-component model identified by Hayes and Flower and the James Britton's model of the writing process as a series of stages described in metaphors of linear growth, conception - incubation - production. Here, a review by the writer or a third party, which often entails corrective annotations, is part of the process that leads to the revision stage. Recently, due to the collaborative capabilities offered by the Internet, there are writers who "crowdsource" reviews from several people, who contribute digital annotations.
- Allal, Linda; Chanquoy, L.; Largy, Pierre (2004). Revision Cognitive and Instructional Processes: Cognitive and Instructional Processes. New York: Springer Science and Business Media LLC. p. 190. ISBN 9789401037761.
- Atlee, Nancy (1998). Beginning Writing Lab. San Luis, CA: Prufrock Press Inc. p. 44. ISBN 1883055296.
- Rijlaarsdam; Bergh, Huub; Couzijn, Michel (2007). Effective Learning and Teaching of Writing: A Handbook of Writing in Education. New York: Kluwer Academic Publishers. p. 105. ISBN 1402027249.
- Perl, Sondra (1994). Landmark Essays on Writing Process. Davis, CA: Hermagoras Press. p. 75. ISBN 1880393131.