The Difference Between Editing and Revising



          Hello, Marauders! Welcome back to another info session. Picture this: You’ve just finished writing a paper. What do you do then? Do you simply turn it in and be done with it? Maybe. Or do you go back and edit it? Reread it? Look it over to check for any mistakes or things you missed or need to add? Picture this: You submit your paper, but then you get feedback that tells you to edit and revise your paper. Are those things the same or different? What is editing and what is revising? Today we’ll be talking about the difference between editing and revising. These are two major steps in the writing process that are very important to distinguish! 


          So, what is revising? Basically, it’s when you look at your paper after you’ve finished a draft and you think, “What can I do to improve this? Does anything need to be changed? Does anything need to be eliminated?” MIT Global Studies and Languages states that when you revise, you are “re-seeing your paper in a new way.” 

          Think of it as big-picture stuff. Imagine the contents of your paper: your introduction, your thesis, your body paragraphs, your conclusion, etc. When you revise, you look at these sections more critically and analytically. You have all the information written down, so now you just need to refine it and flesh it out even more. You can ask yourself things like: 

        • Is my paper structured and organized in a way that makes it easy for the reader to follow and understand? 
        • Does my introduction give an adequate background or summary of the overall purpose/goal of my paper?
        • Is my thesis statement clear and concise? Or is it too broad or too vague? 
        • Do my body paragraphs and evidence support my thesis? 
        • Do I need to expand on certain ideas? 
        • Is this information important/relevant to my topic or do I need to cut it because it doesn’t fit within the scope of my paper? 
        • Does my conclusion summarize the main points of my paper and end with a strong concluding statement? 

          In short, revising focuses on improving the ideas and organization of your paper. When I’m revising, I always like to look back over the rubric to see if I’ve met all the major requirements. Have I answered all the prompts? Does my paper include all the necessary components (introduction, body, conclusion, etc.)? It’s also helpful to have someone read over it to help you find places where the paper works and where it doesn’t, like if it flows well, if it’s well-organized, and if it’s easy to follow and understand. 


          Now, what about editing? Whereas revising is big-picture stuff, editing is small-picture stuff. Editing is when you go through your paper and look for sentence-level issues, such as

        • Punctuation, grammatical, and spelling errors  
        • Sentence clarity 
        • Proper citations 

          Editing is getting nitty-gritty with your paper on a much smaller scale. At this stage of the writing process, you might be exhausted and ready to be done. I always like to advise people to read their paper out loud; it helps to catch places where it doesn’t flow as well, or if there’s a place you need another comma, or if you accidentally missed a word. Again, it doesn’t hurt to have someone else look over your paper–a fresh pair of eyes can catch things you missed even if you did read your paper out loud, and they might even have other suggestions on how to improve your writing.


           So, just to recap: Revising is looking at your paper as a whole and searching for ways to improve your ideas and organization. Editing is looking at your paper at the sentence level, searching for errors, and asking yourself if your sentences make sense. Please visit the Writing Center any time from 1 pm – 9 pm on Mondays through Thursdays, and on Fridays from 1 pm – 4 pm for editing and revising help! I hope this helps clarify the difference between these two important writing steps! Happy writing!