Revising can be one of the most challenging steps in the writing process, and sometimes one of the most confusing. To clear some of that confusion, it helps to understand the difference between proofreading, editing, and revising.
Proofreading refers to checking for things like spelling and punctuation (“The Writing Center”). While this is an important step before turning in an assignment, it should be the last step in the writing process. If the ideas expressed in the paper aren't clear or if they don't meet the assignment requirements, proper spelling and punctuation will not add missing content or substance. More work than proofreading is often needed.
Editing is a part of the revision process, but it is not the only step. Editing basically involves rewording to avoid repetition or to be more precise and professional (“The Writing Center”). Unfortunately, editing alone often falls short when it comes to making sure ideas flow and that a paper meets the assignment's requirements.
Revision means – literally – to “re-see” the paper. It involves asking several questions about the writing (“The Writing Center”), and it is often best done when one can take multiple breaks during the writing process (“Steps for Revising Your Paper”). This way, a paper can be re-approached with fresh eyes and a clearer mind. Getting an early start on any assignment is always a good idea, but it is particularly important for longer papers because the revision process takes time.
At the Eastern Michigan University Writing Center, revisions are broken up into three levels: Higher Order Concerns (HOCs), Middle Order Concerns (MOCs), and Later Order Concerns (LOCs) and are usually addressed in that order. HOCs refer to “big picture” issues like purpose, audience, focus, and genre conventions (“Levels of Concern Handout”). In other words, can the reader tell what the paper is for, is it clear who the paper is aimed at, does every paragraph relate to one central point, and does the paper look like and meet the expectations for other similar papers?
Once HOCs are addressed, the paper can be checked for MOCs. These concerns relate to evidence and examples, organization and flow, transitions, and voice and style (“Levels of Concern Handout”). In short, this second step makes sure that the author's claims are somehow backed up, that points are made in some kind of logical order, that the author guides the reader from point to point, and that the tone of the paper is appropriate for the subject and audience.
This is also a good time to review the assignment sheet or rubric and use it as a checklist to see if the paper includes everything the instructor is asking for. If any of the items are unclear or absent in the paper, more details need to be added and more research may be required.
Once HOCs and MOCs are covered, the LOCs can be addressed. These include spelling, grammar, punctuation, and citation style (“Levels of Concern Handout”). Though this phase comes last, it is still very important. HOCs and MOCs work to develop ideas; LOCs work to express them clearly and conventionally.
For more information about revisions, please see Purdue OWL's "Steps for Revising Your Paper" , University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Writing Center's page on Revising Drafts , or visit the Eastern Michigan University Writing Center .
“Levels of Concern Handout.” Eastern Michigan University Writing Center. n.d. Print.
“Revising Drafts.” The Writing Center. The Writing Center at UNC Chapel Hill, n.d. Web. 2 Nov. 2013.
“Steps for Revising Your Paper.” Purdue OWL. Purdue University, 1 Mar. 2013. Web. 2 Nov. 2013.