Three Easy Steps to Better Revising

You probably do most of your writing and revising for school on the computer, so shouldn't you be taking advantage of all of the tools at your fingertips? Through effective cutting and pasting you can of course organize your work and rework its structure.  But one of the most effective - and perhaps most overlooked - tools you have at your disposal is the wide range of highlight colors.  When you use the colored highlighter function, you can immediately self-evaluate and revise your own writing more effectively.

Create a simple color-coding system and track the elements below.  You'll be able to ditch the "feeling" that your essay may be missing something, and instead know for certain where you stand.  For the most effective results, complete one color-coding activity at a time, and un-highlight when you are finished with each so that you only have to track one element of writing at a time.

Details vs. Commentary

As you wrote your rough draft, maybe you deviated from your outline some.  Maybe you wandered away from some of your original ideas, and now you need to double check that every statement you made is supported, and that each concrete detail is explained with analysis.  Choose one color for facts and another for your commentary, excluding topic and concluding sentences.  When you look at each body paragraph, you will immediately be able to see if you have the right number of details (usually three), and whether you have corresponding commentary for each detail.  Your paragraphs should contain more commentary than concrete detail, and the colors will allow you to gauge this easily and accurately.

Transitions

Did you use transition words and phrases to connect your ideas? Choose a highlighting color for the beginnings of sentences and go to town.  The first type of feedback you'll get is whether you have any transitions.  Then, you can see whether they are spaced evenly throughout each paragraph.  Finally, check to see that your highlighted transition words and phrases are varied.  If not, find some alternatives to keep your essay interesting and dynamic with the Transitions Resource.

Repetition

Did you read your essay back to yourself and end up with a feeling that you used one word or expression too many times?  Color-coding will give you facts, not feelings.  Choose a different color for each repetition "suspect", and then actually count your uses of the highlighted words or phrases.  Maybe you find that you only use a certain word twice in your essay, but that the two usages are within one paragraph.  The same word used twice in close proximity can give the reader a feeling of repetition, so it's a good idea to find a synonym to replace one of the usages.