One of the goals of this course is to help you understand the differences between simply editing a text and revising it..
Editing is work you do on a document when it is near completion. In editing, your goal is to make sure that your piece looks and sounds the way you want it to. At its most minimal, this involves proofreading for spelling and punctuation, but it also includes reworking sentences in order to make them clearer or more elegant, or to make sure that one sentence flows smoothly to the next, that your sentences cohere into well-focused paragraphs. But editing is almost always work on a micro-level—on specific words, phrases, and sentences.
Revising, on the other hand, is work on a macro-level, on your essay as a whole. In revising, the changes you make to a piece are connected, parts of an overall plan. One change leads to the next. In revision you return to a piece to develop your line of thought, to add to or rework your examples, to reorder the parts of your essay, to change or clarify the points you want to make. Revising, that is, is as much work with ideas as with words.
When you write a second draft of one of your essays for this course, then, I want you to develop and extend the work you’ve done in your first draft. Your second draft should be 1500 or more words long—which, means for most of you, that you will need to add 500 words or so to your first draft. Make those words count. Use them to develop your line of thought, to add to your examples, to make connections to Berger. Indeed, you may sometimes decide that the best thing you can do in revision is to start a piece over, more or less from scratch (although it won’t really be from scratch, since you will have already done much thinking, reading and writing about your subject). I always admire a student who is willing to make such a bold move.
You will have time to edit and refine your essay in its third draft. Indeed I will push you hard to do just that. But for now, you want to make sure that you have a piece worth the hard and meticulous work of editing .
In this course, then, there are three basic ways to revise:
- Develop: This is probably the most common form of revision. It involves identifying a piece you find promising or interesting, and then adding to or extending the work you’ve done in it.
- Refine: As you continue to work on a piece, perhaps as you take it to a third or fourth draft, you may find your attention shifting towards points of clarity and style .
- Restart: Sometimes, after having tried a particular approach to a piece, you may realize you now have a better idea about how to go about it. You are always free to start over in revision—although you will now be doing so for a letter grade rather than simply a check.
Revision is the moment where you begin to commit yourself to a piece. You can develop a line of thought, or change it, or sharpen and refine it. But it is still a moment where you have serious work to do, indeed perhaps harder and more engaging work than in the more playful stage of drafting, when you were simply trying to generate words and ideas.