Revision Checklist | Webster University

Revision Checklist

Adapted from The Bedford Handbook, ed. Diana Hacker, 6th edition

Do Global Revisions First

Consider your overall purpose for writing and your audience. Look for opportunities to:

Sharpen the Focus

Compare the introduction, especially the thesis, to the body of the paper and to the conclusion. Ask: Does my paper fix my reader's attention on one central idea without straying from that point? Does my paper fulfill the promise of the thesis? If not:

  • clarify the introduction, especially the thesis
  • Delete text that is off the point

Improve the Organization

Read only the topic sentences of your paragraphs. Ask: Does my argument flow logically from one idea to the next? If not:

  • add or sharpen topic sentences
  • move blocks of text to link connected ideas
  • add or strengthen transitions to show how one paragraph relates to the next
  • consider adding sub-heads to improve flow and visual appeal

Strengthen the Paragraphs

A paragraph should address only one topic. Check to see that paragraphs are:

  • unified around one subject or theme (new subject = new paragraph)
  • logically connected with strong transitions
  • the correct length (as a rule, if a paragraph is more than 3⁄4 of a page long, it is too long. If it is only one or two sentences, it is too short.)

Strengthen the Content

Ask: Is my argument or analysis thorough and complete? Have I deepened my thinking by asking hard questions? Have I avoided making my claim too sweeping or too general? Have I considered the opposing point(s) of view? If not:

  • add specific facts, details, and examples
  • deepen your ideas by asking hard questions (“how,” “why,” “so what?”)
  • emphasize major ideas
  • rethink your argument or central insight
  • clarify your point of view

Engage the Audience

Ask: Does my paper pass the “So What?” Test? A good paper should:

  • let the audience know why they are reading
  • grab the reader's attention
  • motivate readers to keep reading

Do Sentence Level Revisions Next

Focus on making your sentences as effective as possible. Look for opportunities to:

Strengthen Sentences

  • avoid unnecessary repetition of words
  • cut empty or inflated phrases (very, basically, generally, etc.)
  • use more active verbs
  • eliminate passive voice**

Clarify Sentences

  • balance parallel ideas
  • supply missing words
  • untangle mixed constructions and repair misplaced or dangling modifiers
  • eliminate distracting shifts in tense, person, or number

Introduce Sentence Variety

  • combine choppy sentences
  • break up long sentences
  • intersperse long sentences with short ones, and vice versa
  • vary sentence openings

Refine the Style

  • choose language appropriate for the subject and audience
  • choose exact words
  • eliminate jargon and clichés
  • introduce metaphors, similes and other figurative language when appropriate.

Finally, Proofread for Mistakes

  • Check for typos and errors in spelling, tense agreement, plurals, etc.

**For more information on sentence structures and passive voice, see our handout titled “Sentence Structures and Agreement.”

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