Avoid sitting in in front of the screen in anguish, reading and rereading the draft and hoping that it will rewrite itself.

As you immerse yourself in the revising phase of the writing process, shaving words, repositioning information, and making other alterations, here are few things to keep in mind to help you produce a document you are happy with.

  • Be sure it is unified around one idea. Read it carefully and make sure that your writing is focused, built around one central message, or meaning. Anything that doesn’t pertain to that core idea should be removed. The main thought should be a thread that winds through your piece of writing and unifies the details.
  • Read it aloud. If there are flaws in sentence structure or punctuation, you will hear the awkwardness.
  • Read slowly and ask questions. Is anything missing? Does the writing flow gracefully from one sentence to the next? Are any words or concepts unfamiliar to the reader? Will the central meaning be immediately clear? Would a different punctuation mark make the meaning clearer?
  • Ask others to read it. Find someone whose knowledge of writing you trust, and reach out for constructive criticism. A second pair of eyes will often notice things quickly that you overlooked, or they will make interesting observations that will stir your thinking. Many people won’t ask others to look at their work because writing is our personal creation, and we don’t want to feel vulnerable by encouraging people to critique it. But when we don’t ask for a second opinion, we lose an opportunity to learn from our colleagues.
  • Set it aside. Rather than continuing to stare at the same text on the screen, you can turn away and revisit a checklist of important questions you should be asking about a draft. You can go to the cafeteria for a snack, sit alone, think about what you wrote. Or you can close the document for the night, think about it overnight, and return to with fresh eyes tomorrow.

Taking steps to make the most of the revising phase helps ensure that we don’t waste time rereading the same text, as our eyes start to glaze over.