; All writing advice really boils down to three words: revise, revise, revise. Revision is what separates good from mediocre writing, and what turns good writing into great writing. Even the simplest, the clearest, the most natural seeming prose conceals beneath its surface hours of hard and painstaking revision. Revision isn’t just about rearranging words—it’s about rethinking
your whole argument, and making sure you’re really saying what you want to say. It’s a meticulous process of examining your work paragraph by paragraph, sentence by sentence, even word by word. It starts with reading what you’ve written. If you’re lucky enough to have somebody else offer to read your draft, take them up on the offer—and make sure your reader
knows that you want serious, honest reaction to your argument and how it unfolds. There’s no
single best way to revise. Some people like to get a complete draft in place before they start revising, and some like to work with smaller units of the essay. Lots of writers like to wrestle the whole argument into shape and only then turn to fine-tune editing and polishing of individual words and sentences. If that suits your style, great. In my case, I find it difficult to separate out big-picture editing from detailed reshaping of individual sentences. The only way I can really get into the guts of my argument is to scrutinize it sentence by sentence, so I find myself doing “big” and “little” editing at the same time. The rest of this guide, especially the upcoming sections
on Style and Structure, can help you learn to revise. The bottom line is simple: If you want to write, learn to revise. Francis Bacon’s comment that writing makes “an exact man” is true if we realize Bacon meant not only the first bloom of inspiration, but also the hard, necessary labor of revision.