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DEVELOPING A REVISING & EDITING TOOLKIT
WHAT’S THE PURPOSE?
After working on the same paper for days on end, it can be difficult to identify ways you might rewrite,
reorganize, or expand. Even harder is finding spelling and punctuation mistakes: after a while you
just read the paper the way you know it goes, glossing right over missing words and extra
apostrophes. One way to take better stock of your writing is to use a revising “toolkit,” a collection of
strategies based on your own writing needs and goals. Some suggestions for building a personalized
toolkit are described below.
IDENTIFY AVAILABLE RESOURCES & SEARCH FOR REVISING TIPS THAT MATCH YOUR NEEDS:
With the number of colleges hosting online writing labs, there is no shortage of helpful, free
information available on the Internet. College writing handbooks and style guides are also
good sources of information – and can often be found cheap in used bookstores. As you skim
through available materials, look at the different writing issues they suggest. Which seem
most applicable to your writing? Which strategies might really help? Write down good ideas or
make copies of especially useful pages and put them in a notebook.
Purdue Online Writing Lab: http://owl.english.purdue.edu
This Purdue University website offers an extensive collection of writing links and handouts – find
information on everything from developing a thesis to overcoming writer’s block to documenting
Dave’s ESL Café: http://www.eslcafe.com/
Submit questions about English grammar & usage and get a reply back from an instructor,
usually within 24 hours.
Ten Tips for Effective Editing: http://darkwing.uoregon.edu/~sschuman/tentips98.html
A short article by UO professor Sharon Schuman on higher-level style issues.
Departmental Writing Guides: http://wic.oregonstate.edu/wic_dept_writ_guides.html
This Oregon State website offers specific guidelines for writing college papers in different
disciplines: philosophy, anthropology, chemistry, political science, botany, engineering,
sociology, and others.
MAKE A LIST OF SPECIFIC “HIGHER ORDER” REVISING TASKS: “Higher order” refers to the
global aspects of your paper: content, support, organization, unification around a clear and
interesting central idea. Because it’s generally more efficient to work on these larger issues
before fiddling too much with sentence-level details, you’ll probably want to focus on them first.
In your notebook, make a list of specific things you can do that will help you pick out higher
order issues to work on. For example:
TO FIND YOUR THESIS: Underline the sentence or two that best captures the paper’s main idea. If
you can’t find a statement that expresses your main point, write one now.
TO CLARIFY THE MAIN IDEA/MAKE THE THESIS MORE PRECISE: Once you’ve underlined your thesis,
rewrite the idea in at least two different ways. Then compare. Which most precisely captures
the main idea? Which sounds best?
TO REVISE FOR SUPPORT: Put an EX at the end of each line that could be illustrated with a
specific example. Put a QU at the end of each line that could be backed up with a specific
quote from the text.
TO REVISE FOR ORGANIZATION: Given the draft you have now, write an outline that follows your
existing pattern of organization. Does it make sense? OR, cut the paper into pieces, paragraph
by paragraph. Try rearranging the paragraphs – do any other systems of organization work
TO REVISE FOR UNITY: Put a U? next to the sentences that pull the essay furthest away from your
main idea. What is their function? Are they necessary? If no, cut them out. If yes, consider
how you might revise your thesis to reflect that this is an important direction the essay is taking.
MAKE A LIST OF SENTENCE-LEVEL EDITING STRATEGIES: Identify common problems you have
with grammar, punctuation, and spelling and come up with concrete steps you can take to
work on each skill. Again, give yourself concrete tasks that will help you catch your mistakes.
TO EDIT FOR PLURAL ENDINGS: Read through the paper line by line and circle all nouns. Then, go
back through the paper, asking whether each noun refers to one thing or many.
TO EDIT FOR SENTENCE FRAGMENTS: Read the paper backwards, one line at a time. Highlight any
sentence that sounds incomplete by itself. Then, check these sentences against your fragment
handout. Are they complete thoughts? Or do they need to be added to another sentence to
KEEP A LEARNING LOG: Keep a list of trouble spots you have encountered in your writing,
along with how you fixed them and a rough explanation why. This helps you find solutions to
mistakes you make often and allows you to gradually learn from them.
Problem word or phrase Correction Explanation
After the thief robbed, he ran After the thief robbed the old The verb rob takes an
away. man, he ran away. object.
The solution’s benefits The solution’s benefits The apostrophe in “it’s”
outweigh it’s drawbacks. outweigh its drawbacks. represents a contraction
(not possession): “it is.”