30 Revise
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30 Revise I can’t understand how anyone can write without rewriting everything over and over again. —Leo Tolstoy If you’re like me, you can keep your nit-picky, perfectionist critic from interfering in the early stages of your writing only by promising that eventually you’ll let the critic out of its cage, give it a magnifying glass and a red pen, and let it rule the day. That time is now. Whether you’re writing an important email, an essay exam, or a report, you’re shooting yourself in the foot if you don’t leave yourself time at least to proofread what you’ve done. The little blunders you catch on a ninety-second proofing of your email may seem irrelevant compared to the big content issues, but if you don’t catch the spelling error or the decimal out of place, your reader may see nothing but the mistake. We have to remember that our readers have their own picky internal critics, probably uncaged, and those critics’ whisperings may drown out any other response to your work. The time you spend perfecting may pay off in reader response better than anything else you do. Your creative products are who you are—they’re worth perfecting. Revise    249 Purposes of Revising I almost didn’t include a “purposes” section in this chapter because I thought that the purposes of revising were so obvious. You want to make your work look good and read well so that your message will be taken seriously by its audience, not dismissed for being sloppy or inaccurate. Some writers argue that polishing is for copyeditors, and they’re just interested in explaining BIG IDEAS. But their ideas will never to get to the copyediting stage if they’re not polished. Much more happens during this stage than meets the eye. Changing a single verb from passive to active may highlight a relationship you’d never thought about and lead to a whole new line of thought. Making sure your beginning and end connect can lead to changes not just in those two parts but throughout the piece, as the thread becomes clearer in your own mind. Looking up the spelling of someone’s name can remind you that you were going to check one more source about that person. You may be surprised to find that revising includes analysis as well as editing. We need to see what we have before we can decide if it needs to be changed. Revising should give the writer a satisfying sense of completion that may elude the writer who scrambles to meet a deadline or sends the piece off knowing it’s half-baked. It’s no surprise that our cliché for meticulously getting things right is “dotting every ‘i’ and crossing every ‘t.’” The final stage in writing allows compulsives to shine. And it pretty much forces writers to leave lonely learning. Almost no one revises without some input from a friend, writing partner, or editor. Revising Writing Unless you’ve skipped all the previous chapters and have come to this section to find a quick fix to your writing problems, you know that I advocate putting off the revising stage until you have your writing focused, organized, and chock-full of meaning. It doesn’t hurt to correct spelling and punctuation mistakes as you go, but most people need as much momentum as they can accumulate to make it through the drafting stage. Revision is, literally, re-seeing. When you re-see your writing, you might decide to approach it from a different point of view, cut 90 percent, or expand one paragraph into a dozen. Often, revision is the difference between a “C” paper and an “A” paper, between a report that does an adequate job and one that moves the audience to action. Most professional writers see revision as central to the work they do, but many beginning writers have a difficult time believing that more advanced writers revise again and again, sometimes throwing out most of a draft, sometimes turning what was a tangent into the main focus. Rather than make distinctions among the slippery terms “rewriting,” “editing ,” and “proofreading,” I have included all my suggestions about revision in this one chapter, the moves starting with re-seeing both process and product and evolving toward more specific suggestions for later in the revising process. 250    MOves Many writers find revision particularly satisfying because you can do it in short...



Subject Headings

  • English language -- Composition and exercises -- Study and teaching.
  • Literary form -- Study and teaching.
  • Language arts.
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