How to Nail Your Essay Revision

Writing papers is a huge part of college—just about every class you take will expect at least one paper, if not several. Whether writing is your niche, or you’re more of a numbers or art type of person, you’ll still have to participate in at least a few essay revisions over the course of your college career.

Revising your paper can feel complex and potentially overwhelming. All those red marks and comments from your professor could mean hours of critical thinking and research on your end. So how can you approach your essay revision without breaking into a cold sweat?

We’ve put together a list of tips for you as you consider revising your essay. Don’t worry—you can do it! And we’re here to help along the way.

1. Don’t knock peer reviews

It can be easy to look at the peer-review process as a sort of blind-leading-the-blind kind of exercise. The thing is, though, you’d be surprised at how much stuff you’ll catch in your classmates’ papers—and vice versa! Doing a simple readthrough can help with a whole bunch of different things: overall tone, spelling and grammar errors, thematic issues.

The thing is, peer reviews are actually more of a learning experience for you as you review someone else’s work. The process is reflexive and it causes you to think critically about how someone else could write better, which might open some doors to “aha” moments for you when you’re writing and revising your own paper. On the flip side, even if you doubt your classmate’s ability to edit your paper, it’s still important to read and consider all feedback. You never know what your partner might catch, and it just might save you the grade.

2. Make a list of all requirements

One thing that can feel overwhelming about paper writing and the revision process is making sure you include all the requirements listed by your professor. Most likely, you were given a sheet with all the assignment guidelines, so before you get started on your revisions, make a list of everything included in the guidelines and check each box off as you go. It can sometimes help to look at the guidelines in list form versus trying to pick out all the requirements in a paragraph format.

Have you clearly supported all your claims with evidence? Is your citation page properly formatted and organized? When it comes to papers, the details count, so make sure you’ve caught everything.

3. Talk to your professor or meet with a tutor

The beautiful thing about college is that you’re not left out in the cold to figure everything out on your own. Colleges and universities these days are great about making sure there are plenty of resources you can tap for help on things like essay revisions. Your professor is going to be one of the best individuals to visit with because he or she has already read your paper, assigned it a score, and he or she created the original requirements.

Don’t be afraid to take up your professor’s time—he or she is in the business of education, and learning is what professors want to help you do!  The same goes for visiting with a tutor. There is absolutely no shame in working with a writing tutor, and if you have free access to one, it’s wise to make an appointment. At the very least, take advantage of time with a tutor for one final readthrough before you turn your paper in. They might catch a major mistake your brain kept skipping over as you read through it!

4. Read your work aloud

The brain is a tricky beast, and sometimes our minds fill in gaps where our fingers forgot to type. Once you finish working on your paper revisions, start at the beginning and read your entire paper out loud. It’s best if you can do it somewhere where you can speak above a murmur so you’re not tempted to phase back into reading inside your head. Clunky sentences and misspelled words will rise to the surface once you start hearing what you wrote out loud. For an extra layer of protection, enlist a friend to read what you wrote to you and see if any additional errors pop out.