Adapted in part from Wendy Bishop’s Acts of Revision, 2004.
Many experienced writers report that they spend most of their writing time
on revising. That is, once they have a working draft—once they have
a sense of what they are writing about and how they will write it—they
spend lots of time making new and better choices to improve that draft. Revising,
then, is more than mere proofreading, or checking for surface errors. Revising
is truly re-seeing the draft—fresh—and re-considering the choices
made for content and organization and language use, given the purpose and
audience for the piece. The following activities, then, are designed to help
you improve the working draft based on the important elements of any piece
of writing: content or development; organization or structure or coherence;
and language use.
Key Terms: help focus important ideas…
Circle three or more
Freewrite at least a page for each one.
When you have completed all the freewriting, identify any new
ideas that you might wish to include in your revision.
Metaphors: enrich your writing…
Create or identify two possible
metaphors that illustrate an important idea in
For each metaphor, rewrite appropriate sections to make effective
use of the
ADD: Action, Description, Dialogue
Add Action where needed
Add Description where needed.
Add Dialogue where needed.
(from Toby Fulwiler ’s “Provocative
Revison ” ____ )
Descriptive Outline: (adapted from Elbow
and Belanoff, Sharing and Responding)
A Descriptive Outline is created after you written a complete draft
of your essay. It is a mini-analysis of your essay; it describes what you have written, paragraph by paragraph, and why you have written
creating a descriptive outline allows you to re-see the both
the content and function of each paragraph—what each paragraph says and what each
paragraph does. In turn, this mini-analysis allows you to reconsider whether
each paragraph is saying and doing what it needs to in terms of what comes
before and after it and how it relates to the whole piece.
Instructions for the Descriptive Outline:
Begin with the entire essay:
Write a “says” sentence
for the entire essay. That is, write a one-sentence summary of what
the whole piece is saying—its main point
or central idea, its overall content.
Example: The entire essay is saying that schools should not ban
controversial books from the curriculum.
Write a “does” sentence for the entire essay.
That is, write a one-sentence summary of what the whole piece
is doing, or trying to do, its
Example: The entire essay is trying to make the readers feel urgent
the importance of the freedom to read about and discuss controversial
works of art.
Continue the same for each paragraph:
Write a says sentence for paragraph 2. Focus on the ideas of
Example: Paragraph 2 states the other side of the
argument by listing two
reasons why many school boards ban certain books.
Write a does sentence for paragraph 2. Focus on the form or function
of the ideas, but not the ideas themselves.
Example: Paragraph 2 provides some balance to my argument and shows
that I am informed and fair about the other side.
…and continue for each paragraph in the essay.
Once you’ve completed the descriptive outline, reconsider
the value of each paragraph. Do you need to make any changes?
Language Use and Voice
Name the tone you have intended for this work. What emotion or
feeling do you wish the work to evoke? How formal or informal
do you want it to sound,
or how informal or formal should it sound, given your
purpose, audience, subject, form? Does the tone or voice sound like
you, the writer?
To what extent do you achieve your intention for the voice
or sound of this piece? Identify the actual words
or phrases that help create this
Look for other opportunities in the work where
you can use particular language or sentence style
to help create
the sound or voice you’re
Language Use and Correctness
Share a copy of your text with a partner.
Read your text aloud to a listener who notes on her copy any
you changed what was on the paper as you read aloud,
as well as places that you stumbled during your own oral reading.
Review you partner’s copy and discuss if changes
are needed in these places.
Complete a Process Writing.
Editing with Partners:
Share your writing with two partners.
Read aloud one sentence at a time, and all three of you closely
interrogate the quality of that sentence—for sentence structure, punctuation
use, word choices, spelling. Consider, also, the context of each of the sentences—what
sentence came before and what sentence follows.
Revise the piece, choosing the best editing
in mind the integrity of the whole —content, coherence,
tone or voice.
Application and Reflection
After you have completed all of the revision
activities, review your work for what you have newly discovered about
and need to do to improve the draft, to better meet its potential.
Identify the ways in which
you will make use of these revision activities: what
changes will you make?