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revise and edit an expository essay

What steps should a writer follow to revise and edit an expository essay prior to submission?

Feb 01, 2013 - Posted to  Essay Writing
Expository writing is a substantial branch of writing that involves many commonplace forms of essays. Some of these include the comparison and contrast essay, how-to essay, definition, cause and effect, and reflective essays - all working to satisfy the goal of explaining, informing, or describing something. When preparing to submit your expository essay, whether for professional or academic purposes, as with any type of publication, some general precautions should be taken. These include taking your essay through a comprehensive revision and editing process prior to submission.

So aren't revision and editing the same thing?

A common misconception that several people have when preparing a work for publication or correcting a failed school paper is that revising and editing are one and the same. This is an honest mistake as the two actually involve very similar acts of changing an altering the composition of a paper. The main difference is that revision is on a large scale and editing is on a smaller scale (and proofreading is on an even smaller scale!). So if you understand this point you'll also realize that revision can sometimes take a bit longer than editing.
Likewise, analyzing the definition of the two terms may also be beneficial. Coming from its Latin origin, the word revise actually means 'to look back at' and 'to see again', and the most relevant of the two meanings is the idea of 'seeing again.' If you think of your revision in this way you can really grasp the concept of thinking over the entire paper, or considering what needs to be done on a larger, more vast scale. Editing on the other hand has its roots with terms that mean 'publish' or 'give out' which is also very appropriate as editing means to prepare something for publication. So by looking at the definitions of the two you can quite easily see that they do work to achieve two separate goals-both essential for publication.

Step#1 Revise on a large scale

Before you turn your essay in for submission you will definitely need to look at the overall makeup and construction of the paper-which sometimes can be very difficult. Primarily because you may find out that you're paper actually is in critical condition and needs a lot of work done to it. This can set even the greatest writer back.
Essentially the revision stage can be broken down into two parts; minor level revisions and major ones.

Major Revisions

  1. Objective and purpose: Clearly one of the most important things you want to accomplish is to actually fulfill your goal of writing. Why are you writing this essay? Is your intention to inform, describe or explain; did you accomplish one of these objectives? What are the details of the assignment? Did you answer all of the questions or address all of the points requested? These are some of the basic questions you should ask yourself when checking for purpose.
  2. Argument: The second most important issue is the strength and soundness of your argument. One way to check to see if your argument is sound is to ensure that all of your statements or claims are clearly backed up and supported by evidence. Also that your explanations are presented to the audience in a logical and easy-to-understand manner.
*Expository essays come in many forms; so each argument may differ slightly from the next, but in general your argument should at least have (1) a clear thesis statement in the introduction (2) supportive evidence and (3) a counterargument.

Proportion & Organization

Other things to consider for major revisions have a lot to do with the physical structure of your essay. Are all sections of your essay properly proportioned out? Meaning, did you give the same amount of attention to each section, and was each major point as thoroughly explained as the previous one? Secondly, the organization of your paper should be checked to ensure that it is logical and coherent. Each idea and concept should flow in an orderly manner. *Some basic types of organization are; order of importance, problem-solution, cause and effect, spatial and so on.

Step# 2 Revise on a small scale

Minor Revisions

  1. Section changes: This includes making small changes to the introduction or conclusion sections; for instance, taking out a few sentences or adding a more compelling opening sentence and so on. Or perhaps revising an awkward transition paragraph in the middle of your essay by taking it out altogether or adjusting it in some other way.
  2. Active voice vs Passive voice: In the revision stage you may find yourself changing several sentences or an entire paragraph from passive voice to active voice or vice versa. You may find that one works over better than the other. Depending on the type of essay you are writing you may prefer passive voice (for example when explaining) or you may prefer active voice (for example when informing or describing); often times when reading your paper out loud you'll quickly discover which one will work better for your essay.
  3. Argument weak spots: As an addendum to the major revisions of your paper, at times you may see the need to tweak one particular area of your argument. This may include some fact-checking to ensure that the evidence you presented is correct or more precise 'link' sentences to connect a point to your overall argument.

Step #3 Edit

Editing is a constant process for most people. As you begin writing your essay at one point or the other you may stop, and then come back to it, deciding to rearrange a few things or even take out a few words-this is all part of editing. Some people tend to do it as they go along while others wait until the end. The main goal is to make what you've written clear and pleasing to your audience.
Though people's definition of editing may differ slightly (especially for those that edit as a profession) in general if you're editing your own work you should be doing some of the following.
  • Check transitions to ensure that each paragraph connects well to the next one
  • Replace unclear wording with more precise terms
  • Remove any 'filler' words that don't really need to be there
  • Rearrange the order of sentences and paragraphs
  • Make your content more interesting-maybe you decide to underline or bold a title, convert text to a chart, turn a paragraph into a check list and so on
In addition to the steps provided above, you may also find it helpful to utilize a writing rubric to check for common errors in your expository essay. Rubrics are often used by instructors in the process of grading and examining a student's work, and are usually concise and easy to understand. If you find yourself short on time this may be another considerable option for your editing and revision needs.
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