By Annie Tarbox and Mike Jackman
There are two main types of revision in writing: global and local revision. These are sometimes also referred to as revision and editing. Global revision encompasses the entire composition. It looks at the entire piece of writing in terms of how well it answers the rhetorical situation. Does the writing say what the author intends it to say? Does it accomplish its purpose? Does it have the desired effect on the audience? These are some of the questions that come up during a global "re-visioning" of a piece of writing. The writer not only focuses on stylistic concerns, but also continues to mold the text to its purpose and audience. Global revision makes changes such as adding, deleting, replacing or rearranging materials in the writing.
Local revision pays attention to words and sentences within paragraphs to further refine the writing. In an often-quoted study, Nancy Sommers points out that student writers, in contrast to experienced writers, are more likely to edit than to revise (or to concentrate on local types of revision as opposed to global). They approach revising primarily as a matter of rewording: eliminating repetition, finding synonyms, deleting words. Less frequently do they deal with rearrangement or addition of material. Experienced writers, on the other hand, continue to search for the shape of their discussion as they revise, making changes primarily by adding and deleting sentences.
Revision is a re-seeing of a piece of writing. Revision means that the author looks at what he/she has written from the perspective of reader, instead of as author. During the drafting process, the writer tends to suspend his or her evaluative judgment in order to get thoughts (or content) down “on paper.” During revision, the writer distances himself/herself from the text and attempts to evaluate the writing in terms of its rhetorical effect. This means that the author looks critically at the writing to determine some key information about the text. Does the writing meet the needs or terms of the assignment? Is the content sufficiently developed? Will the writing have the desired effect on the intended audience (to entertain, to inform, to persuade)? Once the author has looked at the text critically, he or she can then make some decisions as to what to change, add, rearrange, or delete from the essay in order to make it stronger.
It is important to remind students that revision doesn't just occur between the first and second drafts. It occurs all the time during writing . . . and even during thinking. It occurs during invention, drafting, and even during the final stages of editing and publishing. Any time a writer changes an idea or direction or focus, even during brainstorming, there is a re-visioning going on.
The following examples of global and local revision can help illustrate to students what it means to revise instead of merely editing their writing. Students can also benefit from seeing an actual sample of writing which has benefitted from both types of revision. Giving students a model for revision, especially of the type and caliber of revision you are seeking, will help them to become more effective readers and revisers of their own work. As students become more adept at critically reading their own writing they will also become more skilled critical readers of other texts.
Examples of Global Revision
Changing the focus of the writing, perhaps by rewriting the introduction and/or modifying the thesis.
Re-ordering the writing to create a different effect for readers.
Eliminating a portion of the argument in the writing.
Substituting or adding arguments to the writing.
Examples of Local Revision
Correcting sentence fragments, fused sentences, comma splices and other grammatical concerns.
Making verb tenses consistent.
Refining word choices.
Adding concrete language, descriptive adjectives, figurative language, etc.
Sommers, Nancy. “Revision Strategies of Student Writers and Experienced Writers.” College Composition and Communication 31 (1980), 46-49.
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