Home / Blog / May 2014 (1) / Edits: Revision, Salt: Ingredients

Edits: Revision, Salt: Ingredients

My idea of revising a paper, until my sophomore year in college, was to fix the letters under the marks my professor made. I would add a space here, insert a word there, and add whatever idea was proposed missing from my paper. Only what was necessary. That’s what the professor wanted, or so I thought.

Then I met Dr. Gloria Shearin, who told me she didn’t want the same paper back. She wanted me to revise. What did she mean? Did she not want me to fix what she marked wrong? My first attempt at “real” editing loosely resembled my first draft. In return, the grade on that first attempt resembled that of the first draft too. I went to my professor’s office to confront her about this assault on my skills. I was good at English and good at writing. Fixing errors was my method, and it had worked for me all those years. She happily set me straight. I will attempt to explain her answers using an analogy.

If you were cooking for food critics who said your food had great flavor but simply needed salt, you would know that the dish worked and that simply adding salt would fix the dish (editing). But if those critics spit the food back onto their plates (hint: it was disgusting), you would go back to the recipe and make serious changes, i.e. revision.

Okay, so I am clearly not a member of the SAT board with this analogy, but the message is sound. In plain English, editing is what you do when all of the components of your assignment are solid, you have answered all the questions you sought to answer, and you have made your point.  Revising is the chopping-up of paragraphs, ridding the piece of all unnecessary words and ideas, and going at your subject from a different angle. For this, you must be willing to adapt new ideas into what you thought was a finished product. You have to be willing to trust your reader more than your own ego.

Rest assured. It won’t always be as difficult as it sounds. There will be times when simply tweaking a couple of paragraphs will make your essay or analysis sound and precise. But the challenge is knowing when to add a little salt, and when to change up your ingredients and begin again. 

 

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