7.1 Revising Your Draft(s)

Melanie Gagich & Emilie Zickel

You have a draft! In many ways, you have done a lot of the hard work by getting ideas down on paper or on the screen.

There are many steps to drafting and revising, so try to resist going straight to the editing, in other words, looking for grammar errors or a misplaced or misused word. Those are important things to look at eventually, but in the early stages of revision, you have the opportunity to focus more on major concerns (we sometimes call them global concerns): idea development, essay focus, coherence among your ideas, whether or not you are meeting the assignment goal and purposes.

Here are some strategies for approaching the first revision, the “shape up” phase of your draft. There is a lot of opportunity here, for you to add, delete, rearrange, expand, and realize what you would like to rethink or express differently.

Early Draft Questions: Reading Your Draft to Look at Structure and Content

In your introductory section of the essay:

  • Do you have a working claim? Does that claim respond to the question on the assignment sheet?
  • Are you beginning the paper with an introductory paragraph that leads the reader up to your claim?
  • Is your claim at the end of the intro?

The body of the essay:

  • Does each paragraph focus on only one idea? In an argumentative or persuasive paper, paragraphs often explore reasons, which support your claim. When you begin to discuss a new idea/reason, do you make a paragraph break?
  • Do all of your reasons support your claim, and are your reasons supported by evidence?
  • Have you cited the sources that you have integrated into the draft as evidence?
  • Do you have a Works Cited page for those sources you referenced?

The conclusion of the essay:

  • The conclusion may be the last thing you write. Some writers choose to take sentences that feel out of place or perhaps repetitive and paste them into a draft conclusion paragraph that can be edited later. Do you already have a conclusion? If so, great. If not, keep working on it for the final draft.

As you continue working on your paper, try using your rhetorical skills and examining your work.

Early Draft Revisions: Reading Rhetorically

  • What is your main point? Is the point held consistently throughout the text, or does it wander at any point?
  • What information do you provide to support the central idea? Making a list of each point will help you analyze. Each paragraph should address one reason, and all paragraphs should relate to the text’s central idea.
  • What kind of evidence are you using? Is your evidence based more on fact or opinion? Which type of evidence does this assignment require? Where does your evidence come from? Are the sources authoritative and credible?
  • What is your main purpose? Note that this is different than the text’s main idea. The text’s main idea (above) refers to the central claim embedded in the text. Your purpose, however, refers to what you hope to accomplish in your essay (or assignment). Do you need to be objective or persuasive? Be sure to revisit the assignment if you are not clear on what the assignment’s purpose is!
  • What is your tone in the piece? Authoritative? Sarcastic? Are you using simple language? Informal language? Are you too passionate? Sometimes one’s outrage or belief in the righteousness of their claim prevents the reasonableness of an argument. Make sure that your claim is supported by reasons and well-researched evidence versus merely personal belief in the integrity of your claim. Does the language feel positive or negative? Most importantly, is the tone that you are using appropriate for the audience for your text?

Once you have gone through your own early draft review, peer reviews, and any other read-throughs and analyses of your draft, you may be ready for the final stage of revision. This is not simply editing—checking for misspelled words or missing commas.

Once again, you have the opportunity to “re-see” your paper, to look closely and deeply at it to make sure that it is making sense, that it flows, that it is meeting the core assignment requirements, to re-envision what the paper can be. You still have time to make major changes, such as providing additions or deleting entire sections. Those are all wonderful things to do at this final revision stage in order to make your paper stronger.

Later Draft Revisions: Making Final Changes and Getting Ready to Submit the Assignment

  • Carefully consider all feedback—Based on that feedback from readers (peer reviewers, tutors, your instructor, friends, etc.), where can you make your essay more reader-friendly? Where does it need more effort and focus?
  • Revisit the assignment—If there are evaluation criteria, use them to evaluate your own draft. Identify in the paper where you are adhering to those criteria, where you feel like you still need work.
  • Consider your sources—Are you engaging with required source materials as much or as deeply as you need to be? Would your paper be stronger if you reread the sources another time to better understand them? Do you need more source support in the paper? Do you need to enhance your source integration (signal phrases, citations)?
  • Revisit feedback on previous papers—Often, we make consistent errors in our writing from paper to paper. Read over feedback from other papers—even from other classes—and review your paper with special attention to those errors. There is still time to come talk to your professor about fixing them if you don’t understand how to avoid them!
  • Visit the Writing Center—It never hurts to have an objective pair of eyes look over your work. Bring the assignment sheet with you so that the Writing Center tutors can see what the instructor’s requirements for the assignment are. Communicate to the tutor about your key areas of concern or areas of focus.
  • Read your paper aloud, slowly—This can help you to hear any missing words or components. We often miss things when we only read because we read so quickly. If, when reading aloud, something sounds off, it probably is. Revisit those sentences that sound clunky on the tongue.
  • Ask for instructor feedback—If there are areas of your paper that you are struggling with, talk to your professor and ask for some guidance. It is best to visit office hours or schedule an appointment with your professor several days before the due date of the essay.

Attribution: Melanie Gagich and Emilie Zickel are the original authors of this section. This page is licensed under a CC-BY NC 4.0 license. It has been lightly edited by Dr. Adam Falik and Dr. Doreen Piano for the LOUIS OER Dual Enrollment course development program to create “English Composition II” and has been licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Creative Commons license


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7.1 Revising Your Draft(s) Copyright © 2022 by Melanie Gagich & Emilie Zickel is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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