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.”