Online Academic Resources - Writing

Revision Activities

Adapted in part from Wendy Bishop’s Acts of Revision, 2004.

Many experienced writers report that they spend most of their writing time on revising. That is, once they have a working draft—once they have a sense of what they are writing about and how they will write it—they spend lots of time making new and better choices to improve that draft. Revising, then, is more than mere proofreading, or checking for surface errors. Revising is truly re-seeing the draft—fresh—and re-considering the choices made for content and organization and language use, given the purpose and audience for the piece. The following activities, then, are designed to help you improve the working draft based on the important elements of any piece of writing: content or development; organization or structure or coherence; and language use.


Key Terms: help focus important ideas…

  1. Circle three or more key terms.
  2. Freewrite at least a page for each one.
  3. When you have completed all the freewriting, identify any new ideas that you might wish to include in your revision.

Metaphors: enrich your writing…

  1. Create or identify two possible metaphors that illustrate an important idea in
    your text.
  2. For each metaphor, rewrite appropriate sections to make effective use of the

ADD: Action, Description, Dialogue

  1. Add Action where needed
  2. Add Description where needed.
  3. Add Dialogue where needed.

(from Toby Fulwiler ’s “Provocative Revison ” ____ )


Descriptive Outline: (adapted from Elbow and Belanoff, Sharing and Responding)
A Descriptive Outline is created after you written a complete draft of your essay. It is a mini-analysis of your essay; it describes what you have written, paragraph by paragraph, and why you have written it. Thus, creating a descriptive outline allows you to re-see the both the content and function of each paragraph—what each paragraph says and what each paragraph does. In turn, this mini-analysis allows you to reconsider whether each paragraph is saying and doing what it needs to in terms of what comes before and after it and how it relates to the whole piece.

Instructions for the Descriptive Outline:

Begin with the entire essay:

  1. Write a “says” sentence for the entire essay. That is, write a one-sentence summary of what the whole piece is saying—its main point or central idea, its overall content.
    Example: The entire essay is saying that schools should not ban
    controversial books from the curriculum.
  2. Write a “does” sentence for the entire essay. That is, write a one-sentence summary of what the whole piece is doing, or trying to do, its overall function.
    Example: The entire essay is trying to make the readers feel urgent about
    the importance of the freedom to read about and discuss controversial
    works of art.

    Continue the same for each paragraph:
  3. Write a says sentence for paragraph 2. Focus on the ideas of the paragraph.
    Example: Paragraph 2 states the other side of the argument by listing two
    reasons why many school boards ban certain books.
  4. Write a does sentence for paragraph 2. Focus on the form or function of the ideas, but not the ideas themselves.
    Example: Paragraph 2 provides some balance to my argument and shows
    that I am informed and fair about the other side.

…and continue for each paragraph in the essay.

Once you’ve completed the descriptive outline, reconsider the value of each paragraph. Do you need to make any changes?

Language Use and Voice


  1. Name the tone you have intended for this work. What emotion or feeling do you wish the work to evoke? How formal or informal do you want it to sound, or how informal or formal should it sound, given your purpose, audience, subject, form? Does the tone or voice sound like you, the writer?
  2. To what extent do you achieve your intention for the voice or sound of this piece? Identify the actual words or phrases that help create this tone.
  3. Look for other opportunities in the work where you can use particular language or sentence style to help create the sound or voice you’re intending.

Language Use and Correctness

Reading Aloud:

  1. Share a copy of your text with a partner.
  2. Read your text aloud to a listener who notes on her copy any miscues—places you changed what was on the paper as you read aloud, as well as places that you stumbled during your own oral reading.
  3. Review you partner’s copy and discuss if changes are needed in these places.
  4. Complete a Process Writing.

Editing with Partners:

  1. Share your writing with two partners.
  2. Read aloud one sentence at a time, and all three of you closely interrogate the quality of that sentence—for sentence structure, punctuation use, word choices, spelling. Consider, also, the context of each of the sentences—what sentence came before and what sentence follows.
  3. Revise the piece, choosing the best editing advice—keeping in mind the integrity of the whole —content, coherence, tone or voice.

Application and Reflection

After you have completed all of the revision activities, review your work for what you have newly discovered about you can and need to do to improve the draft, to better meet its potential. Identify the ways in which you will make use of these revision activities: what changes will you make?