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Revise and Repeat

Revise and repeat

By Shae Parker


Revision. It is difficult and time-consuming, but we all need it when it comes to our writing. Although I have been guilty of cranking out shorter papers the night before they are due, I must admit they are not my best because I skipped over the most important step(s) in writing: revising.

It is so tempting to write a paper in one go and ignore the foundational issues that remain present in our writing. Yes, it may receive a decent grade, but it might not fully represent your knowledge of the content and ability to write. The way we organize and present our ideas strengthens what we actually say in our writing, and the best way to achieve this kind of effective writing is through revision.

The first thing to remember when writing a paper in regards to revision is that the revising process is not just one step. It is a continual, intentional process throughout every stage in writing. For a long time, I believed it only occurred at the end when I had written a complete draft, but I now know revision happens during and after the first draft and in other later drafts. Revision is definitely not a quick task to be delayed until the end of the writing process.

Nancy Sommers provides a great description of how revision is commonly (incorrectly) employed by writers in “Revision Strategies of Student Writers and Experienced Adult Writers.” Her description comes from the way we tend to think of revision in speech: linearly. Because we cannot take back what has been said, revision naturally occurs in a separate, later stage, and Sommers terms this sort of revision as an “afterthought” rather than an ongoing process (379). Sommers then explains how more experienced writers view revision. She states, “The experienced writers see their revision process as a recursive process—a process with significant recurring activities—with different levels of attention and different agenda for each cycle” (386). When I truly revise, according to Sommers’ explanation, I notice drastic improvements in my papers and believe my professors notice as well. If I revise not only in one final stage but through several drafts, my papers are concise, cohesive, and they simply feel better to read.

I think it is important for us as students to understand the reasoning behind revising because if we do not see its worth, we will likely skip important revision opportunities, and, consequently, fail to reach our greatest potential as writers. After we realize that not every word we write is set in stone, we can then accept that each paper constantly evolves; we reorder, add, delete, revamp, and replace words, sentences, and even whole paragraphs. It can feel defeating when you must revise that first draft of a paper with a seemingly unattainable word or page count, but revision ultimately helps you to create a stronger and more enticing piece of writing. And, revising along the way instead of in a single step at the end makes writing an easier and more natural process.

Read some more about Sommers’ findings on how people view the revision process:

Sommers, Nancy. “Revision Strategies of Student Writers and Experienced Adult Writers.” College Composition and Communication, vol. 31, no. 4, 1980, pp. 378–388. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/356588.

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