What’s the Difference Between Editing and Revising? Important Stages in the Writing Process

A lot of novice writers do not realize that there’s a difference between editing and revising.  In fact, many writing textbooks do not satisfactorily make the distinction for us… So I thought I would provide a few helpful links on the subject…

Revision is an aspect of the writing process.  It involves RE-ENVISIONING your paper in order to RE-WRITE it… Revision does not consist in merely fixing errors, fixing surface-level grammar and mechanics problems, or addressing the teacher’s comments…

Take a look at these links:

On Revising your paper…

On the Difference between Revision and Editing your paper…

Another helpful link on revision that contains helpful links…

Writing Guru Peter Elbow also has a few great suggestions… And check out this article for a scholarly overview of approaches to revision…

Here’s Elbow’s very helpful suggestions for revising while “reading aloud” … Reading aloud can really help improve your writing…

The great writing teacher Donald M. Murray has this to say about revision

Also, Nancy Sommers provides a wonderful discussion of revision strategies

Many students (especially mine!) are skeptical of classroom advice and teaching methods.  Why not?  All English teachers seem to want different things.  One English teacher says it’s fine to use the “I” in an essay and yet another English teacher forbids it!  Why can’t English teachers make up their minds?  Why must they all say different things??  Who does a writer trust?

If you haven’t had much experience with writing classes, then you won’t have much frame of reference to compare methods.  Also, if most of your previous classes have been taught pretty much the same way (dull writing exercises, looking for errors, grammar & more grammar), then you’ll likely expect the status quo–the same old routine.  Blah!

I offer very different approaches than what most students are used to having in previous English classes (and believe it or not…that’s a good thing).   Thus, I’ll try to provide OUTSIDE sources or links that demonstrate that I’m not entirely out in left field.  I’m not saying things that are fantastical, incredible, or useless.  In fact, many of my coaching suggestions will help develop student writing.  And, in that case, students will be better prepared for college level writing demands.  MY objective is for students to make their own decisions and to learn that writing is a problem-solving, thinking process… Most often, we do not know what we’re thinking UNTIL we write down our thoughts or until the ideas come forth from some mysterious region of ourselves–the heart, brain, and perhaps even the gastrointestinal tract… As in Seamus Heaney’s “Digging,” writing requires us to “dig deep” for the good turf within ourselves… I invite students to figure out on their own what it means to “dig deep” and discover what the “good turf” is for them…

First, students must UNLEARN the five-paragraph essay model or “theme”…

Second, students need to learn that not all assignments are equal… we need to understand assignments

Third, often writing can be stressful and evoke anxiety

Although writing can be a solitary activity, we’re never entirely alone.  Fourth, one way out of writing anxiety is the consolation that writing requires PRACTICE which involves a PROCESS … one of the first steps in the writing process is INVENTION or Pre-Writing … one kind of invention strategy is called FREEWRITING … another is called BRAINSTORMING… and yet another involves creating a FACT / IDEA List and then a POINTS-TO-MAKE List… the following is a sample:

Sample Fact / Idea List:


1)      The writer mentions a waitress, welder, and an assembly line worker

2)      Labor requires thought

3)      The writer’s family was hard-working immigrant laborers who had little higher education

4)      The writer wasn’t that great of a student in school—learning was a challenge for him

5)      Hard work requires intelligence, intelligence prevents starvation



1a) The waitress is constantly moving and juggling orders

1b) The welder has to know what and how to weld

1c) The assembly line worker has goals and strategies for efficiency

2a) Physical labor takes brain power

2b) Physical labor isn’t merely physical

2c) I never thought that hard work requires skills and a lot of thinking

3a) He can relate to the blue-collar lifestyle

3b) Hard work puts food on the table

3c) Managing a family takes hard work and intelligence

4a) With his family background he learned that hard work leads to success

4b) Although he wasn’t a great student he made it to college, which shows his determination

4c) He’s thought about intelligence for a long time

5a) Many labor jobs require skills and specialized knowledge

5b) Knowledge is useful / practical application

5c) The writer learned about all this from the jobs/labor his family did (work/home)

And then we can begin DRAFTING and/or use a helpful outline or ROUGH PLAN

Don’t worry about your first opening sentence or the introduction paragraph… all you need to begin is knowing the topic of your paper… and then you can develop a tentative thesis statement… here is a helpful THESIS GENERATOR

Then after drafting your paper… learn to REORGANIZE YOUR DRAFT … Also, you may want to seek FEEDBACK on your draft…

After you’ve done some drafting and have received feedback, then consider your INTRODUCTION and CONCLUSION

These steps should be helpful.  You need to understand that these steps aren’t meant to be more mindless writing exercises that you may have had in the past.  They can help you write a very good college level essay… feel free to be messy and disorganized while drafting your initial ideas in writing …

Also, I’ve discovered that some students need to be aware of what EVIDENCE is… and what it means to persuade an AUDIENCE by means of an ARGUMENT

Before you submit your final draft, read aloud a typed draft … take a break and come back to it… get fresh ideas after a good night’s sleep…

I hope these links help “demystify” the writing process and also help reinforce the suggestions I make in class … and the suggestions I wish I had more time to make clear …


One thought on “What’s the Difference Between Editing and Revising? Important Stages in the Writing Process

  1. I enjoyed reading this blog post. I do not know what I enjoyed more, reading your flawless prose, or reminiscing in the spring of 2012 when I used your writing method. Your writing method was extremely an eye-opener and an invaluable tool. In fact, I continue to use the Fact/Idea list when needed and teach others how to apply it.

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