Revision vs. Editing


No matter what you are writing, after you’ve finished your rough draft, you’re ready to begin the revision and editing process to tighten and clean up the manuscript. But do you understand the distinction between the two tasks?

Revision is basically “re-seeing” your manuscript as a whole. Taking some time away from your writing should allow you to return and “see” it in a new light. When revising, focus on the big picture; don’t worry about grammar and mechanics issues.

Revising should address higher order concerns—is your thesis or focus sound? Have you addressed successfully the audience and purpose, organization, and development? Do you provide sufficient supporting evidence? Rebuttal information? If not, revise, reorganize or rewrite to improve.

One tip that may help is to do a “reverse outline.” Outline your paper as you have written it, identifying your thesis, the topic sentences of your paragraphs, main points and evidence. If something seems out of place or unsupported in the outline, you’ll know where to revise.

Editing begins moving toward lower order concerns such as word choice, clarity,conciseness, and eventually grammar and mechanics. In this stage, focus on the individual sentences. Are they clear? Concise? Does your word choice convey exactly what you meant to say? Could you re-order your sentence structure, and/or syntax, for more emphasis?

Paramedic Method: A Lesson in Writing Concisely

Use the Paramedic Method (originally developed by Richard Lanham in Revising Prose) to edit any kind of professional writing. The Paramedic Method can help reduce word count by eliminating unnecessary words; activate sentences by eliminating passive voice and redundancies; and make sentences more persuasive and user-centered. Follow these steps to improve sentence readability. <insert diagram>

1. Circle the prepositions (of, in, about, for, onto, into)
2. Draw a box around the “is” verb forms
3. Ask, “Where's the action?” “Who's kicking whom?”
4. Put the “kicking” action into a simple active verb, making the “kicker” the subject.
5. Start fast – no slow windups.

Here’s a fairly simple example:

Reduce 37 words to 17 words and put the action into a simple active verb: can change
Diagram of a sentence: After reviewing the results of your previous research, and in light of the relevant information found within the context of the study, there is ample evidence that important, significant changes can be made to our operating procedures.

Result: We can change our operating procedures significantly, according to earlier research results and the current study’s findings.


After completing the revision and editing stages of the process, proofread your manuscript to catch any remaining grammar, mechanical, or typographical errors.