Editing vs. Revising: The Real Difference

Editing vs Revising: The Real Difference blog post via KLWightman.com
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You’ve reached the point in the writing process where it’s time to make some serious changes. Congratulations!

Editing vs. Revising: The Differences

Credit: littlepieceoftape.blogspot.com

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.

Editing means:

  • 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:

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.

Stop Sounding Like a Jerk! Compliment a Writer with Class

complementing a writer
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What I hated about workshopping my stories during my undergrad days were the critics. I’m not a baby. I can take criticism any day of the week. I take it everyday at work whenever I write marketing content.

What drove me crazy was how my critics delivered their criticism. They were so engrossed in their own opinion that they often forgot they were talking about my work in the first place.

Even the compliments were more about them than my work.

Are you making this mistake? Writers are more likely to share their work again with you if you follow these rules when complimenting and criticizing them.

Take Out “I Like” From Your Vocab

The writer doesn’t care if you liked their characters or what their characters said or how they described the setting. You can like a character all day long, but does the character contribute to the story? Writers want to know if the story is working and they are most pleased when you compliment what is working in the story.

Instead of: I like how Nancy is so quirky.

Try this: Nancy’s quirkiness really draws out Chad’s insecurities.

Be Honest

Don’t say something’s great when it isn’t. Don’t try to find a small gem in the work when there’s a glaring error that needs to be addressed. Writers can see through your insincerity and won’t want to share their work with you again. If you don’t have a compliment, then don’t give one. Sometimes talking through an error is a compliment in disguise.

Focus on the Work, Not You

Don’t find a way to tie it back to your favorite writers or even your writing. Strike out every “I” you want to say in your statements. That includes “I think” and “I enjoyed.” Once again, the writer wants insight on the story development. An easy way to remember this is speaking in third person, because you’re really not going to talk about yourself in the third person, right?

Point Out the Details

When complimenting the writer, show that you were paying attention to the story by talking about specific details. Writers love that! Even retelling parts of the story shows the writer that your focus was on their writing while you read it. That’s flattery not taken lightly.

Don’t think I’m complaining. I appreciate all insight in my work, even the bad and ugly. But false positive compliments can be destructive to the story. The writer asks for your opinion because they trust it, and that’s a compliment in itself to you.