by Melissa Wyse
It’s important to remember that revision and proofreading are actually two distinct stages of the writing process.
Often, after finishing a difficult draft, it’s all too easy to conflate these two steps, skim through the paper draft for any obvious errors, change a couple of words or sentences, add a comma, and call the paper finished. However, this approach deprives you of one of the most pleasurable stages of the writing process: revision.
Revision calls for more than just a few minor tweaks and changes; it’s an opportunity to re-see your paper draft – to step back and take a look at your work so far – and make creative decisions about where you want to take the paper next.
And, unlike writing the first draft, during the revision stage, you don’t have the burden of starting with a blank page – or a cursor blinking at the top of an empty Word document.
Proofreading comes after revision. This is the final stage of the writing process. A big part of proofreading is looking for grammatical errors and typos.
But the proofreading stage also offers you opportunities to make creative stylistic choices in regard to word choice, sentence structure, and phrasing. It gives you a chance to check your paper one last time for clarity, and to polish your writing.
It’s a good idea to save this polishing until the end of the writing process because, after all, there’s no point in polishing a beautiful sentence that you wind up deciding to delete during the revision phase.
More tips and suggestions:
1. Leave some time between each stage of the writing process. If possible, take a few days away from your paper between the draft and the revision process – or at least get a good night’s sleep before you try to revise. This is important because it gives you a chance to get some distance, so that when you do revise you can truly have a fresh view of your paper draft.
It’s also important to take some time between revision and proofreading. When you’ve just spent a lot of time reading and re-reading your paper, you start to see the sentences the way they ought to be, and not the way they’re actually written. It’s all too easy to skim over typos and grammatical mistakes because – frankly – at this point you’re sick and tired of looking at this paper draft. After a couple days away, or at least a good night’s rest, those errors will jump off the page and you’ll be able to see and fix them much more easily.
For tips on managing your stressful workload so that you’ll have adequate time to revise, check out August's blog post by Shannon McMahon.
2. Check out The Writing Center’s Handouts on Revision and Proofreading, which are available on our website and in the Writing Center. These handouts contain strategies that other writers have found to be effective when tackling these two stages of the writing process.
3. Make an appointment with one of the consultants at the Writing Center. We’re available to help students during all stages of the writing process: brainstorming, formulating a thesis, and outlining through revising a draft, identifying patterns of grammatical error, and polishing the final paper.
Remember, the Writing Center consultants won’t fix your paper for you, but we can serve as valuable coaches and walk alongside you through the stages of your writing process. Just call x2991 to set up an appointment!