September 11 2009

Three easy ways to revise

by Barbie in Editing

Your first draft is complete, but you’re concerned that your paper still needs work. Even if you aren’t a skilled proofreader, you can still make the most of the revision process. Here are three common writer pitfalls that you can focus on as you revise:

1) Identify passive voice.

Passive voice is not only less direct than active voice; it also can create unnecessarily wordy (and, therefore, confusing) sentences. Make note of all passive sentences in your paper, and revise them to an active construction. (Last week’s blog explained how to identify passive sentences in Microsoft Word.) This revision will instantly create a more engaging, reader-friendly paper.

2) Eliminate ambiguity.

Ambiguous pronouns can confuse readers. As you read through your draft, check for pronouns like “it” and “this.” Even though you understand what these pronouns represent, your readers might not. Replace these pronouns with more distinct nouns, or qualify them. The ambiguous “this” can become “this report,” thereby improving reader comprehension.

3) Look at the big picture.

When you’re composing your first draft, you are focused on getting all of your thoughts on paper. At times, this focus can lead to unnecessary additions that drift away from the main point. During the revision process, look at each sentence with a critical eye to determine whether it supports your purpose. If it doesn’t, consider revising the sentence or removing it altogether.