Understand the Difference Between Revision and Editing


Understand the Difference Between Revision and Editing

Posted on May 14, 2008

Understand the Difference Between Revision and Editing

There is a clear distinction between revising ideas and editing conventions. Students need to understand the difference so that they know what to do during the two very different stages.

Revision makes the piece SOUND a whole lot better--which addresses the traits of ideas, organization, voice, word choice, and sentence fluency. Editing makes the piece LOOK better (conventions). Because kids already confuse the difference between revision and editing, the more you can do to separate the two, the better. Announcing that writers are to "revise and edit today" will only continue to mislead students as to the two different roles these stages play in improving a piece.

One way to help students SEE the difference between editing and revision is to discuss revision strategies v. editing strategies. For example, to REVISE a piece, you might have students:

  • Add spider-leg sentences to develop ideas more completely (trait of ideas).
  • Apply story surgery where whole chunks of text are cut, added, and rearranged to improve the flow of ideas (trait of organization).
  • Vary sentence beginnings (trait of sentence fluency).
  • Strike through dinky words and replace them with stronger words (trait of word choice).

These are signs of revision because they improve the clarity and quality of the message. For a primary example, click here.

Revision Strategies Primary Spider Legs Example

However, using editing marks like the triple line for capitalization, the paragraph sign to show a missing indent, or circling a word to check spelling are all signs of editing. They improve the correctness of the message.

Remember, revision improves the writing dramatically, making it sound better (but might make it look worse). Editing makes the writing look better or more correct.

Great Teacher Comments:

Here's a funny one from second grade teacher Laura Bazant (Warren Elementary, Highland, IN).

"I taught my students spider legs yesterday and had boys saying, I don't like writing, but this was fun!" They asked, "What are we doing tomorrow?" And I told them, "Story surgery." They are very intrigued!

The goal of revision is to make the piece sound better, more clear, more thorough. Revision shouldn't be about rewriting or recopying. Teach students ways to create space within a draft so they can add, change, and cut content without recopying a word.