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Essay writing: Revising & editing

Revising and editing are the two tasks you undertake to significantly improve your essay.

Scott Maclean, Business English for Success

Once you have written your first draft, the next stage is all about revising and editing: i.e. making what you have written better. This can involve deleting a lot of what you have already written but it is still less daunting than staring at the empty screen.

Revise and edit in stages

Don't try to revise and edit everything at once. You can work through your draft several times, looking at different issues on each occasion. We recommend you consider content, overall structure, paragraph structure, clarity, style and finally citations and references.

Visual representation of the points made here

Question mark in a square


Have you really answered the question? Is your position clear throughout? Are you persuading the reader of your answer or just informing them of what you have read? Check out our Analysing titles and Developing your own argument pages for more help. 

Essay layout in a square (intro, main body, conclusion)

Overall structure

Answer each of the questions here to check that your overall structure is correct. Try reverse outlining (where you pull out the key point of each of the paragraphs of your essay) to check the sequence. 

  • Do you have a clear introduction, main body and conclusion?
  • Is your main argument clearly stated in your introduction?
  • Is it clear how each paragraph adds to your argument?
  • Are paragraphs in a logical sequence?
  • Is your conclusion an obvious summary of your arguments?
P E E L in a square

Paragraph structure

Are you using PEEL paragraph structure?

Does every paragraph have at least a point, backed up by evidence and an explanation of why it is relevant?

Try to make sure your explanation is more than just a sentence too - the more critical analysis you have, the more marks you will get!

Use the Highlighter tool in MS Word to colour each one a different colour. You should be able to see at a glance if every paragraph contains some of each.

P = Point (topic sentence)
E = Evidence/Example (info from other sources)
E = Explanation (critical analysis)
L = Link (to the next paragraph)

signpost in square


Is the meaning of everything clear and concise?

Are you using enough signposting to make your argument clear to your reader? We have our own signposting web page and here is another good resource on using signposting sentences from De Montford University here: Signposting sentences.

mortar board in a square


Are you writing academically?

Academic writing is not like other forms. It needs to be in a formal style yet not too complicated.

quotation marks in a square

Citations and references

Do you have an entry in your reference list for every citation in your essay? (Search for each one to check.) 

Are you referencing correctly? Go to our Referencing pages to make sure.