Revision and editing checklist for a narrative essay

Frequently, a sentence will be improved and your meaning will be more clear, more forceful, if you replace passive constructions with active verbs. But not always. Review the section on passive verbs to see those uses of the passive that are appropriate. If you've used the passive construction in an appropriate way, leave it alone, no matter what your grammar checker says.


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Go through the essay with an eye for proper punctuation, especially for errant commas. Again, whether you tend to leave out commas where they belong or use commas where you don't really need them is a personal matter that requires your personal attention. It wouldn't be a bad idea to print out the section on Comma Usage to have it on hand when you proofread your paper. Being careful about commas forces you to be thoughtful about the way your sentences are put together.

Whether you have a grammar checker or not, it is a good idea to know the problems that bother you most as a writer and do your best to eliminate those difficulties as you go from assignment to assignment.

The Essay Revision Process

Try to grow as a writer with each assignment, eliminating the little glitches that your instructor caught last time and trying different methods of expression. Stretch your vocabulary a bit, try for an interesting effect in parallel style. Never throw out an old writing assignment. Whether its grade made you happy or not, there is always something to be learned from it.

Revising & Editing 101

If your Grammar Checker does not check for expletive constructions sentences beginning with "there is" or "there are" or "here is" , you can do a simple search for the word there in the initial position and try to change clauses with those weak beginnings. Usually it's a matter of eliminating the expletive construction and then saying something useful about the real subject of the sentence.

There are students on financial aid at that college. The students on financial aid at that college have applied for renewal of their scholarships. You can also do a simple search for apostrophes, checking to make sure that your possessive forms are built correctly and that any contractions in your text are appropriate. Some instructors feel that contractions are signs of lax writing or inappropriate informality and thus should be avoided in academic prose. See Tone. How much rewriting you do on the computer screen before you print out the paper for the next step in revision is going to depend on how comfortable you are reading text on the computer screen.

Most writers find it too easy to skip over problems on the monitor and they need to have copy in hand, literally, to catch all their errors. It is probably a matter of practice, but some writers will always want to move quickly to the next step of working with paper copy. Once the written assignment on the computer screen looks the way you want it, it's time to print it out and put it through some additional steps of the rewriting process.

Make sure the paper is double-spaced or even triple-spaced at this point and you've given yourself some marginal space for scribbling notes.

Revision Checklist for Essays

Again, look for the problems that have given you grief before and try looking at your paper as if you were your own instructor, looking for the same old stuff. Review the section on Confusion: Sources and Remedies while you're in the middle of rewriting your paper. Word-processing makes fixing things later on easy, even fun, so don't hesitate to do some serious scribbling, re-ordering of paragraphs, etc. If, when you go back to the computer, you're unfamiliar with the techniques of highlighting and moving blocks of text, consult the software manual or ask a computer lab assistant to help you out.

Share your paper with a friendly editor, someone who has your interests at heart and who has the time to review your paper carefully and who is willing to ask questions and to challenge what you said and how you said it. This person should be a friend, but not too much of a friend.

Strategies for Global and Local Revision

After all, you're hoping for useful criticism here. Girlfriends, boyfriends, and parents make notoriously bad editors; they think whatever you write is wonderful, not to be improved. This is no time for coddling on their part or defensiveness on yours. This person is not to rewrite your paper for you, but you can hope he or she will catch an occasional glitch in punctuation or lapse in reasoning. The main purpose of this "outside editor," though, is to challenge your argument. Does the paper really make sense, is the argument sound? After all, you know what a sentence or paragraph meant and that means you are less apt to catch a confusing phrase or momentary lapse in the argument than someone else would be.

If possible, watch your editor's face for confused looks or glazed eyes as he or she goes through your paper. It might mean that clarification is called for, that you skipped over something in your development, or that you've gone too far. Share a copy of the Deadly Sins with your outside editor or use the more extensive Checklist provided below. If you don't have a friend who can go through this editing process with you, try reading your paper into a tape recorder and then play it back to yourself, slowly.

It's important to hear your paper as well as to see it on the page. Your ears will catch clumsy phrasing and botched sentences before your eyes will. If your outside editor and you can apply both ear and eye to your paper, that's four separate faculties being brought to bear on the matter.

Project topics

Your chances of catching problems before they make their way into final text have just improved remarkably. There is a fine line between letting someone else rewrite your paper and asking someone to collaborate with you in the editing process. Most tutors become expert at this after a while. And probably more than one colleague, more than one time, will be involved.


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Nothing is more important in this process, however, than your personal involvement and improvement as a writer. Some instructors will provide an opportunity for peer editing, a process by which students make suggestions about their classmates' work. Sometimes, in fact, a student's effort in peer editing is an important part of the grade.

Have you used precise descriptive details to make your narrative interesting and convincing? Have you used dialogue to report important conversations? Have you used clear transitions in particular, time signals to tie your points together and guide your readers from one point to the next? In your conclusion, have you clearly explained the particular significance of the experience you have related to the essay? Are the sentences throughout your essay clear and direct as well as varied in length and structure?

Could any sentences be improved by combining or restructuring them? Are the words in your essay consistently clear and precise?

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Academic Writing

Does the essay maintain a consistent tone? Have you read the essay aloud, proofreading carefully? Continue Reading.