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Writing Strategies and Grammar

The Revision Process

Revising Your Content

Writing is a multi-step process, so always give yourself time to revise. When revising your content, you want to make sure your argument is clearly stated and well supported.

  • Revisit the Thesis: The first step in revision is rereading your thesis and making sure it is well supported by your body paragraphs. If your body paragraphs seem to be pointing to a claim different from the one you started with, you can
    •  Edit your thesis to match the new claim 
    •  Revise the body paragraph(s) that deviate from the thesis.
  • Expand Your Argument: This is particularly important when you’ve finished a draft but haven’t quite reached the word minimum. If you’re far away from the word count, add additional support to your essay in either of the following two ways:
    • Add More Evidence: Adding an additional source or example that proves your thesis is a great way to extend a paragraph that’s too short. Remember to discuss the importance of the added evidence (which gives you even more words!).
    • Create a New Topic: Consider adding additional topics that give new insight to your argument. Yes, this means adding a new paragraph, but strengthens your argument and gets you to your word count much easier and much faster than adding “fluff” will.

Revise for Organization

After making sure your argument is well supported, it’s time to make sure it’s well organized.

  • Reverse Outlining: After finishing your draft, make a reverse outline by writing out the main idea and supporting details of your now-written paragraphs. This gives you a global view of your essay while you go through the proceeding revision steps.
  • Rearrange: Make sure you aren’t presenting any ideas out of order. Definitions and background details should come before discussions about their concepts. Consider ordering your ideas chronologically, by order of importance, or any other that works for your argument.
  • Signposting: This is a technique to help ease your reader into a new topic by using transitional words and phrases. Signposts usually work well when introducing a topic, transitioning between evidence and analysis, or concluding and transitioning paragraphs. Consider how the following examples help ease the reader into topics:
    • “There are a variety of cleaner energy sources society should embrace.” This signpost let’s the reader know that you are about to introduce cleaner energy alternatives.
    • “Another way technology can benefit the classroom is by engaging students in collaborative learning.” This signpost acts as a transition between ideas while also introducing a new topic.


Learn Grammatical Patterns

Sentence level editing is best left for last, once you know you won’t be making any more major content changes. Take a look at some common indicators of grammatical situations:

  • Dependent Clauses: When a dependent clause precedes an independent clause (like this one), a comma (like that one) needs to separate the two clauses.
  • The Seven Coordinating Conjunctions: Look for “FANBOYS” (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so). Any one of these conjunctions can be used in between two complete sentences, but a comma must be placed between the first sentence and the conjunction (like in this sentence).
  • The Oxford Comma: When listing three or more items, make sure a comma comes between the last item and the conjunction. (Note: no comma is needed when listing only two items).
    •  “Alex needed to buy some eggs, milk, and butter.”

Editing for Conciseness

The final step to gloss up your paper is to tighten your language. Yes, you might have to remove “fluff” words and phrases, but if you meet the word count without such language, you know you have a fully fleshed out argument.

  • Recognizing Redundancy: Information is considered redundant if it’s been repeated too often in a short time span. If you detect any redundancies, ask yourself if they are necessary. Restating a sentence with different phrasing helps clarify your ideas, and the same word can be repeated in a sequence for added emphasis. Just make sure not to over do it.
  • Replace “To Be” Verbs: Use your PC “Ctrl + F” feature (“Cmd + F” for Macs) to search for the following “to be” verbs: is, are, was, were. These words can usually be replaced with stronger action verbs. This can be a tricky step, so change only the ones you’re able.
    • Example: Nintendo is the creator of the Super Mario Bros. franchise.
      • Replace: Nintendo created the Super Mario Bros. franchise.
  • Combine Sentences: Sometimes, two ideas split between two sentences can be presented smoother as one sentence. Not every sentence needs to be short and simple, so if your sentences sound choppy, consider combing them to create a smoother read.
    • Example: Wendy was unhappy with her drawing. She flipped to the next page in her drawing pad, abandoning her current sketch.
      • Replace: Unhappy with her current sketch, Wendy flipped to the next page in her drawing pad.