Revision: A Necessary Evil

I’ve never liked revising my work. When I spend a long time on a paper and turn it in thinking it’s perfect, I don’t like somebody telling me all the things I could improve. This is especially true when there is no incentive for revision, like a better grade. I always think, “Why cause myself stress about what I’ve done wrong, when nothing good will come out of changing it?”

But then I think about my experiences at my high school newspaper. When I started sophomore year I was given no training on writing news articles. I would spend days writing one short article, get it back covered in purple pen marks, revise it, turn it in, get it back, revise it, again and again and again. I would re-write every article at least 4 or 5 times. It was exhausting. But by my senior year, I hardly needed to make any changes. I had come a long way, and had learned a lot about writing journalistically.

I notice the same things in Writing 220. With each draft my writing improves and my argument strengthens. Revision was especially important with the Why I Write paper. I spent a long time on my first draft and did not want to make any changes. I thought “revision” would mean writing the whole paper over again. But, my peer group was able to show me where my writing was not clear, where I had made connections between points in my life they did not have enough information to understand. In the second draft, I knew to provide more details and explanations so the reader did not have to guess the significance of each point.

What I’m trying to say is, I have a love/hate relationship with revision. Though I don’t like my hard work being criticized and critiqued, paying attention to my teachers, my peers, and my readers is the best way I’ve found to improve my writing.

Revise, Revise, Revise

In high school we were able to retake exams for math classes. I was so opposed to this, mostly because I would study really hard and get a B+ on a calc exam but I would feel a guilty pull to study again and retake it simply because I could. Everyone else would of course redo the test, so I would be behind if I didn’t as well. It didn’t make sense to me… why put any effort into the first exam when I knew I could just see what kind of questions would be on the test and then study only that material for the retake? Just another instance where high school failed at preparing me for the “real world.”

My professor for a PoliSci class last year set a date for one of our papers. I agonized over this piece until 3 a.m. the morning it was due. When I got to class – surprise! – we were going to peer edit during class and then turn in our final versions two days later. The teacher thought she was doing everyone a big favor, but we all literally groaned. Seriously, a collective mumbling of “ugh are you serious” made the teacher step back. We passed our papers around, realized how many mistakes we had made and what improvements could be implemented. I was thankful ultimately that we had a chance to shore some things up before we turned it in, but honestly the last thing I wanted to do was look at that paper again until it had a pen mark in red telling me what my grade was.

That being said, every time, and I mean every time, a teacher allows me to revise a paper, I take advantage of the opportunity. I sometimes end up with a better grade, but I think it’s mostly a really good chance to actually be forced to reflect on my paper (things I liked, things I noticed about my writing that weren’t so favorable, etc.). If I know I don’t have to revise a paper, I’m so much less likely to read the instructors comments in depth, digest them, and make changes in my future writing. It’s so silly of me to not do that in the first place, but for some reason it’s a habit of mine. Does anyone else get like this?


Top Five Worst Parts About Revision: 

  1. The moment when you cringe while reading a paper you’ve already turned in and realizing that you made a grammar mistake. 
  2. Looking at comments from professors and kicking yourself for not thinking of their suggestions the first time around.
  3. It is more work. Plain and simple. 
  4. It just completely defies the logical, “there are no redoes in life” concept that I have had drilled into my head from years of school. 
  5. You thought you were done with the paper. Then you have to actually open it back up on your computer, re-read it, identify what went wrong, and then revise it. Is that a cruel joke? 


Justification for Revision: You don’t just learn the material you need to write the paper, you learn how to improve your writing as well.


This semester I have learned an incredible amount on revisions. I am also enrolled in English 325, Art of the Essay in which we spend a lot of time workshopping and making revision suggestions for each other and ourselves. I’ve always viewed the revision process as a time to make the grammatical changes and suggestions from my teacher in my paper and leave it at that. I was very wrong.

One of the most important things that I have learned in my revision process is focusing in on the theme and even changing it. I wrote a paper for my 325 class about my physical ailment of a lazy eye and wearing glasses. The first draft I explored different ideas of lazy eyes. In my second draft I changed my idea entirely to circling the idea of glasses in society. I used my personal experiences as well as pop culture to explain how different people see glasses.

My revision process created nearly an entirely new paper that I was so proud of. It takes a really long time to get your thoughts organized and drafts are ways that you get closer and closer to a narrowed idea. I also spent a lot of time scratching outlines throughout my writing.

I’ve learned the revision process is incredibly important.

Thoughts on Revision

So this week I was a little confused and turned in a revision of my Re-Purposing paper, instead of the Why I Write revision that was due.  Luckily I’ll still be able to make revisions once the comments for that paper are returned, but I actually thought it was interesting what I found while revising my paper last weekend.

What I actually did for this paper was set it aside for a long time (I really hadn’t looked at it in depth since I turned it in) and then came back to it in order to do revisions.  Now, I’m sure this is actually what many of you do for papers, especially since I remember my teachers since high school explaining what we should use this strategy to gain a fresh perspective on our own papers.  However, I can honestly say that I’ve never done something like this.  I always rush to revise and feel like it’s better to get everything done at once — which really isn’t that helpful the more I think about it.  After going back last weekend and reading through the paper again, I found myself agreeing with some comments and having a clear enough mind to answer some of my questions that I had.  I also found myself being a little to critical I felt at times, with different features like tone sounding good to me after some time away from the piece.  I really couldn’t believe how much clearer my mind felt after not thinking about the essay for about a month!

I am really this late to the game?  Is this a strategy that mostly everyone uses?  I can’t believe that as a junior in college I am just now figuring out that this can be a really helpful tool for revision!  I hope that in the future I can continue to keep this up and practice this skill in different ways with papers and assignments… it was a really interesting thing to learn as I revised this paper!

Self-Reflective Comments

I’m not big on revising essays and often find the revision process to be the hardest part of writing. However, I have found that self-reflective comments are a very effective method. I’m so glad I learned about this revision tactic during the intro to the minor in writing course. I recently wrote a paper about dance for my personal essay course and was unsure how to go about reworking the essay and then I remembered how helpful self-reflective comments are.

I reread my essay as if I was a reader and not the writer in order to see it from an outsider’s perspective. I went through my paper and marked every place where I had a question–everything from punctuation to grammar usage to content. I think this will allow me to make more effective revisions the next time I tackle my essay. It’s as if I had another person look over my paper and give me feedback. Using self-reflective comments has been extremely helpful for me as a writer. What do you think about self-reflective comments?

You Can’t Rush Art

Throwback. You Just Can’t Rush Art…

As I sat and listened to the two speakers at last night’s How I Write session, I could not help but admire what they both had accomplished at relatively young ages. After getting lost in the hopeless maze that is North Quadrangle I missed the introductions to both of the writers. But, as I listened to Perry subtly reference all of his achievements while speaking, I was enamored with the breadth of subjects that he succeeded in.

Read More