Good writers make sure they divide their writing in different phases, because of efficiency and effectivity. Without going into all the different phases of the writing process (I will do that in another blogarticle, or if you can read Dutch, you will find information about that here), you might know that revising is one of the main phases in the writing process.
One of the biggest secrets of good writing is that the more you revise, the clearer, more fluid, and more natural your writing will be. With revising it’s not about inspiration, but about hard work. That is the only way to get readable text. And what might be good to know: revising takes as much time as writing your first draft, so don’t forget to plan enough time for the revising bit.
A warning: only start revising when you are more or less sure that your text is going to be in your thesis or article in this form; don’t start earlier, because chances are big that you will change your text again, and that you are doing a lot of unnecessary work.
Here you will find a list of revising tips that might help you. It is based on the book ‘Writing your dissertation in fifteen minutes a day’ from Joan Bolker.
- Consider leaving the revision of both the introduction and the conclusion until last
- When you are unsure of your argument, try making an outline of what you have. Problems show up much more easily and clearly in an outline form, as well as in the process of making the outline.
- Use the outline also on a smaller scale: try reducing each paragraph of a chapter or article to one sentence. When you can’t do it, you’ll discover your paragraphs are incomplete or fuzzy. By writing one sentence to cover each paragraph you’ll be able, by looking at the sentences you’ve created, to scrutinize the flow of your argument.
- Leave editing at the individual word level for last, unless the word that concerns you is one crucial to your argument.
- Similarly, leave smoothing out the transition from paragraph to paragraph for a late stage, because paragraphs will come and go, and they will move around as you work your argument. There’s no pint in making an elegant transition you won’t be able to use.
- Have someone else read your work and look for phrases that you’ve unconsciously overused or arguments you’ve repeated. It’s hard to notice such thing when you’ve written them.
- Keep a thesaurus, a dictionary, and a style manual at hand when you’re revising. Check out with style manual is standard in your own field.
- Don’t use complex language or jargon when simple words will make your point equally well. Rather than using putting-on-airs language, go for elegant simplicity.
- When you think you are done editing, read the chapter or article again. And then again. It is amazing how many times you can go round and still catch errors or infelicities you’d be embarrassed to discover in the finished work.
- Remember the saddest rule of editing: less is more. Delete any word that isn’t necessary (particularly adjectives), and you’ll strengthen your point.
- And, paradoxically, realize you’ll never get your dissertation perfect, that at some point you have to quit fiddling with it and send it off into the world.
Will you let me know if you have any additions to this list? Please let me know!
Foto via Flickr, thanks to mpclemens