Revision is an important part of the writing process, and revision strategies can be applied to written documents, preparation for presentations, and visual communications like exhibition posters.
Revision can seem like an unwieldy, daunting task. Especially if you wait until the last minute to revise, it can be difficult to know where to begin. First, it’s important to mention that it is highly advisable to give yourself ample time for revision. While the pre-drafting and first drafting phases are important, it is vital that an at-least equal amount of attention is also placed upon the process of revision. In fact, some writers choose to move quickly through the first drafting phase, just because it helps them to have something down on the page, even if it is extremely rough content. For some, the step from a blank page to one with content on it is a challenging hurdle to cross, and not having the stare at a blank page anymore is a great relief. Once they have this “raw material” to work with, they can begin sculpting and refining in the revision process. Others choose to take a more balanced approach, putting equal amounts of effort into planning and developing the first draft and then revising it. Whatever emphasis you choose though, it is probably most important that there is plenty of time and energy left after the first draft for a proper revision to take place. After all, revision is the last step before sending your work out for others to view and evaluate.
In order to make the revision process more manageable and methodical, it can be helpful to break it down further. Some distinct phases within the process are: revising, editing, and proofreading.
Step 1: Revising
“Revising” refers to large, fundamental changes that are being made at the level of composition development. Organization and content development are primary areas that undergo revision. It revising, it is important to gather feedback from others, such as peers, managers/instructors, or writing or career development professionals. There are several web services that offer feedback on compositions as well. Note that these are not “editing” services (although editing services do exist). The difference between revision feedback and editing is that those giving revision feedback won’t change your work themselves; they will instead give you their opinion of your work and suggestions for development steps you may want to consider taking.
Once you have gathered feedback, it’s then time to decide if and how you will revise your work based on that feedback. You my use the feedback to help you think of more ideas for development yourself, as well. As this stage, you may want to sit down and create a plan for what you plan to do in your revision. You’ll also want to take into account all of the details of your rhetorical situation (or all of the environmental factors at play in your communication, including audience, purpose, and genre) and keep checking back to make sure that the content, framing, and organizational patterns you present meet your goals in an intentional way.
Step 2: Editing
After all major revisions have been made, it is important to edit your work. It is true that some professionals send important documents and publishable materials to editing firms to be polished, but, in most cases, you will need to do editing tasks on your own. Some of these tasks include formatting according to style guides like the IEEE or other professional styles and careful investigation at the sentence-level to make sure that clarity is achieved and that all grammatical and punctuation structures are correct. See suggestions for working at the sentence-level for more about this, but, in general, checking for complete sentences that identify a subject and a verb/action are important along with the use of more precise and specific terms in place of less precise ones wherever possible. It may also be valuable to ask peers, colleagues, or writing center advisors for help identifying confusing or incorrect structures at this stage.
Step 3: Proofreading
You’re almost done! So don’t let easy-to-fix typos spoil the professionalism, credibility, and effectiveness of your work. It can be helpful at this stage to force yourself to read through your document slowly, one word at a time, to make sure everything is present and correct. You may also want to try “reverse engineering” all of your sentences and the organization of your document at this stage to make sure that all of the structures are correct, consistent, and formatted/punctuated adequately. Lastly, don’t forget to make sure that you are sending/submitting the correct file version and and that what you send appears correctly after you send it. Below are some additional resources for tips on the revision process. Happy revising!
- R. E. Dulek, “Could You Be Clearer? An Examination of the Multiple Perspectives of Clarity,” in Writing and Speaking in the Technology Professions, D. F. Beer, Ed. Hoboken, NJ, USA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2015, pp. 30–33.
- S. Dressel and J. Chew, “Authenticity Beats Eloquence,” in Writing and Speaking in the Technology Professions, D. F. Beer, Ed. Hoboken, NJ, USA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2015, pp. 299–300.
- R. Irish and P. E. Weiss, Engineering communication: from principles to practice. Oxford University Press, 2013.J. G. Nagle, Handbook for Preparing Engineering Documents: From Concept to Completion. John Wiley & Sons, 1996.
- J. Knapp, “Can Engineers Write,” in Writing and Speaking in the Technology Professions, D.
- J. M. Lannon and L. J. Gurak, Technical Communication, 14 edition. Boston: Pearson, 2016.
- A. D. Manning, “The Grammar Instinct,” in Writing and Speaking in the Technology Professions, D. F. Beer, Ed. Hoboken, NJ, USA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2015, pp. 34–38.
- R. E. Masse, “Theory and Practice of Editing Processes in Technical Communication,” in Writing and Speaking in the Technology Professions, D. F. Beer, Ed. Hoboken, NJ, USA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2015, pp. 247–255.
- M. M. Pierson and B. L. Pierson, “Beginnings and Endings: Keys to Better Engineering Technical Writing,” in Writing and Speaking in the Technology Professions, D. F. Beer, Ed. Hoboken, NJ, USA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2015, pp. 24–29.
- A. D. Reilly, “Clarification Questions That Work,” in Writing and Speaking in the Technology Professions, D. F. Beer, Ed. Hoboken, NJ, USA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2015, pp. 235–237.