GENERAL WRITING & REVISION TIPSThis presentation contains a few generalwriting and revising tips for students in AmyGoodloe’s WRTG classesPlease note: the samples in this presentation are meantto illustrate strategies and techniques, not content.
All Good Writing is Re-writing The only way to improve your writing is to rewrite it over and over until it achieves the depth, substance, clarity, and conciseness your audience expects from a writer of your level of education. These slides will give you some strategies to apply during the revision process.
Strategy #1: Use Fresh Eyes The best tip I can give you for making more productive revisions is to give yourself substantial breaks between drafting and revising “Substantial breaks” last days or even weeks or months, when possible When you return to your writing, you’ll do so with fresh eyes, which will enable you to read it the way your audience will
Strategy #2: Use the Highlighter CHECK OVERALL STRUCTURE Use the highlighter tool to make sure your overall structure is easy to follow. Highlight your first previewed point in yellow, second in green, third in turquoise, and so on Then use the same colors to mark areas in the body where you discuss the previewed points Consider which of the two following papers you’d most like to read, based on how well organized they’re likely to be:
Use the HighlighterCHECK PARAGRAPH STRUCTURE The highlighter strategy also works to check paragraph structure. You can tell in the sample that the first paragraph has good structure, with a preview of two points in the first sentence, followed by a discussion of the first point and then the second. The second paragraph does not fulfill the promise of the opening sentence and needs revision. Principle: The opening sentence of a paragraph should predict its content.
Use the HighlighterCHECK FOR SKIMMABILITY Studies show that readers expect an entire paragraph to be about whatever appears in the first few sentences. That’s how readers skim: they read first sentences only to help them decide whether they want to read further.
Use the HighlighterCHECK PARAGRAPH FOCUS By definition, a paragraph should focus on only one idea. When you start a new idea, even if it’s only a slight shift, start a new paragraph. Check your paragraph focus by highlighting the main idea in yellow and all related ideas in yellow. If you come across a new idea in the same paragraph, highlight it and related ideas in green. If you come across a third idea, highlight it in blue. Then reorganize so that you have one idea per paragraph.
Use the Highlighter Paragraph lacks focus The writer only touches on a few ideas that need to be further developed in their own paragraphs
Use the HighlighterParagraphs are focused Once the writer has identified four distinct points, she can then work on developing separate paragraphs for each point. The sample shows only the points, not the fully developed paragraph for each point.
Use the HighlighterAPPLIES TO ALL WRITING The highlighter strategy to check a match between previewed points in a thesis and actual points covered can be adapted to all kinds of writing, not just standard college essays. Readers are far more likely to read your writing and to think favorably of you as a writer if you use good organization, but keep in mind that organizing is a revision strategy. No one writes organized first drafts.
Strategy #3: Use a Mind Map Use a free mind mapping tool to map out your structure visually. Start with your main point in a top level bubble and use subordinate bubbles to map out points and support. The map to the right was created using Bubbl.us
Strategy #4: Apply the “Study” Test Here’s another way to think about structure: Imagine your readers will be quizzed on the content of your paper and consider: How easily will they be able to identify your main points? How easily can they distinguish between major ideas and supporting ideas? What would they highlight while reading? Revise to make your writing more “study” friendly.
Strategy #5: Trust Your Ear Reading your writing out loud is a proven method for testing how effectively you use language, as your ear is a better judge than your eyes Even better: record yourself reading your essay, using a simple audio recording app on your computer or your smart phone, and then listen to the playback a day or so later. You’ll immediately notice ways to improve your structure and style.
Strategy #6: Proofread To effectively proofread, you need to find a way to view your writing outside of its typical linear context, so that you don’t get distracted by the flow of ideas and can focus on surface level issues. One effective method is to start with the last paragraph and proofread it. Then proofread the second to last paragraph. And so on. The best method is to give yourself as long of a break as possible between finishing the project and proofreading it, so that your eyes are more fresh and capable of spotting surface level errors.
Strategy #7: Consult a Handbook When in doubt about surface level issues like grammar, punctuation, citation formatting, and so on, consult an online handbook. You can find many free handbooks by searching Google, but the Purdue OWL is known to have good resources, so you could just search for it.
Strategy #8: Consult an Expert In addition to receiving feedback from your peers and your instructor, you may take your writing – for any class – to the PWR Writing Center in Norlin Library for feedback from a writing tutor. These search terms in Google will take you to the link: Norlin writing center