The Importance of Revision

Revision is important in good writing. Research shows that good writers often make major structural revisions by moving a big chunk of a document from one place to another. Poor writers seldom make large-scale organizational changes. They typically concentrate on small corrections like eliminating spelling errors, without examining or rearranging the larger structure of their written works (Hayes & Flower, 1986).

What is a big difference between how good writers and poor writers revise? What was Dolch's advice, and how might it be amended in light of modern technology?

The best way to make large-scale revisions is to use an outline. Many years ago, E. W. Dolch, in a book titled Outlining for Effective Writing (1923), advised writers to "construct a good outline, and stick to it," in order to produce clear writing. Based on modern research, one might amend Dolch's advice to read: Construct a good outline, then actively revise it until it "works." Unlike Dolch, you have word processors that make this easy. After finishing a first draft of a long paper (or speech), you can examine an outline of your work and spot ways to improve the organization of ideas. You can easily cut text from one location and paste it into another, until the unfolding structure of ideas in your work is sensible and clear.

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Copyright © 2007 Russ Dewey