Monday, November 26, 2012

Re-Vision: Simple Steps for Improving Essays You’ve Already Written

By Meridian Ganz-Ratzat

Have you ever received an essay back from a professor (with a lower grade than you wanted) and had the opportunity to do a revision? You probably quickly looked over the professor’s comments: a few added commas and some questions in the margins. You felt pretty good, until your professor said “When revising, don’t just correct the errors I’ve pointed out. Really engage with the essay if you want a better grade.” You already wrote the essay once, you don’t want to have to start over (and you really don’t have time!).

Don’t fear your revision! We’ve got a few simple steps to help you revise with ease:

  1. Look through any comments you’ve received. If you don’t have comments from anyone, have a friend read over your essay with you or bring it in to the writing center. Rather than focusing on the grammatical errors (commas and phrasing), try to focus on the bigger picture. It’s easy to skim over the larger comments but these will be the most helpful when revising.

  1. Figure out what isn’t communicating. Are there points when you or your reader were confused? These are good clues that something isn’t working and those places are opportunities for you to be concise or give more explanation.

  1. Check to see if you have an obvious thesis and clear topic sentences. Improving your thesis and topic sentences can make a huge difference. Double check that each topic sentence tells your reader what’s happening in that paragraph. If you’re concerned about the flow of your argument, try pasting your thesis and topic sentences into a separate document. When they’re lined up back-to-back you’ll be able to see if they build on one another.

  1. Try approaching your essay from a new angle. This is especially helpful if you’re having trouble explaining yourself or don’t know how to proceed. There are many ways to structure an argument. When building (or revising) yours, think about what information your reader needs to know first. You can also switch the way you present your points. For example, if you’re writing an essay comparing cultures, you could present your points by talking about one culture and then the other or you could organize your argument around qualities of the culture (religion, childhood, ceremonies).

If you still don’t feel prepared to take on your revision with ease, bring it into the Writing Center! We’re always happy to help you break down comments, see your essay from a new point of view, or just be second set of eyes.


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