What Is the Difference Between Editing & Revising?

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Students often use the terms “editing” and “revising” interchangeably but also incorrectly. You should edit every paper you write for school; it's a perfunctory quality-control step. Revising usually involves more substantive changes to content or organization.

Revising With Care

  • If a teacher has instructed you to revise a paper, you should edit it at the end of the process. In the meantime, follow her instructions carefully because she is likely asking for changes that she believes will improve the quality of your paper. Also, a revision only to the beginning and middle of a paper might be necessary, and not to the end. But in general, think of revising as different from editing in that it addresses the “heavy duty” issues of a paper. Revising usually centers on the issue of clarity, so focusing on the thesis statement is vital. Once the thesis statement is clear and logical, the evidence, or supporting information, might need development to ensure that promises made to the reader in the thesis are delivered upon. The structure and organization of a paper also come under the microscope during a revision, as should the issues of transitions, sentence and paragraph flow and unity of ideas.

Editing With Precision

  • With the substance of a paper mostly complete after the writing and revising process, editing involves fine-tuning the details of a paper and, in a word, supplying polish. Editing involves more than mere proofreading for typos, misspellings and errors centering on punctuation, grammar and usage. No one should ignore these issues during editing. However, editing is all about precision --a step when wordiness, sentence structure and clarity must be evaluated. Unlike writing and revising -- when a writer's focus is mostly on putting words on a page -- editing involves turning an ear to how those words read and sound together. For example, an essay written strictly in the active voice might come across as stern, impersonal and overactive. To provide a pleasing mix of sentence styles, a good editor will take a step back and view a piece holistically to improve its myriad parts.

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