You’ve reached the point in the writing process where it’s time to make some serious changes. Congratulations!
Now it’s time to pick up that red pen and make some small and big alterations to your writing. This is called the editing process and the revision process.
Here’s where it gets confusing. The terms editing and revising are often used interchangeably. Even I’m guilty of doing that.
But there are key differences between editing and revising. I like to refer to this chart:
But I can also spell it out.
The Truth About Editing
Editing is about making the surface of the words nice and shiny. It’s like washing your car after driving across the country.
- Capitalizing proper nouns such as names, places, titles and months
- Correcting the use of nouns and verbs in sentences
- Adding or removing punctuation such as periods, quotation marks, commas and apostrophes
- Fixing misspelled words and awkward phrases
- Deleting unnecessary words
The Truth About Revising
Revision takes editing beyond the surface level. Revising requires you to focus on the meaning of the words. To put it in another way, revising is like popping the hood on your car to see why it makes that funny noise.
Unlike the editing process, there are two levels to the revision process. That’s because, like a car, fixing that funny noise can lead to another leak you can’t see.
The first level of revising means:
- Adding or removing sentences
- Moving sentences or paragraphs to earlier or later in the writing
- Improving transitions
- Switching sentences from passive to active voice
The second level of the revising process focuses on the big picture of your writing. It’s about making sure that all the parts are in the right places and that it all flows coherently.
The second level of revising (for an essay or college paper) means:
- Stating the thesis clearly
- Ensuring all paragraphs support the thesis
- Fact-checking all sources
- Strengthening your argument
- Interweaving arguments that challenge your thesis and disproving their views
The second level of revising (for a narrative) means:
- Strengthening the plot
- Developing your characters
- Heightening the action and dialogue
- Incorporating believable dialogue, actions and characters
- Creating the connection between reader and story (so that readers care about the story)
So, Does Editing Or Revising Come First?
There’s a lot of debate on this subject. And the right answer hasn’t been established yet.
Here’s what I recommend: Start in reverse. Revise your writing by looking at the big picture. Then revise for sentence flow and order. Wrap it up with editing every letter and punctuation mark.
I find this way saves a lot of time. Why spend hours capitalizing words if you end up cutting out that entire paragraph tomorrow?
Sometimes, the editing and revising process overlaps. I often fix the spelling of a word or shift passive into active voice while I’m heightening the action of a scene.
Finding what works for you takes time as well as some trial and error. Even our processes can use some revising and editing.
What do you think the real difference is between revising and editing? Share your thoughts below.