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14 Revision Strategies to Improve Your Writing

What is one strategy for writers looking to revise and improve their writing draft?

To help you improve on your writing, especially as a professional, we asked experienced writers and content professionals this question for their best insights. From scanning your copy for active vs passive voice to asking a partner to read your writing aloud to you, there are several revision strategies that you may apply as a writer to improve the quality of your writing.

Here are 14 revision strategies these writers use in improving their writing:

  • Scan Your Copy for Active vs Passive Voice

  • Tighten Your Copy

  • Do a Reordering

  • Read Your Writing Aloud to an Imaginary Crowd of Target Readers

  • Read Backwards and Aloud

  • Take a Break

  • Focus on Individual Paragraphs

  • Listen to Your Writing as a Text-to-Speech

  • Don't Edit the Writing the Same Day You Write It

  • Print Out a Copy to Work on

  • Hook Your Readers With a Creative Opening Line

  • Make Sure There's a Narrative that Speaks to Your Headers

  • Be Open to Feedback

  • Ask a Partner to Read Your Writing Aloud to You

Scan Your Copy for Active vs Passive Voice

Sentence structure plays a big role in the tone of your writing. Using an active voice makes your sentences clearer and more compelling. This helps to command your readers' attention in a direct way. In technical terms, the subject of a sentence performs an action in the active voice.

For example, an active voice sounds like: The writer sends the invoice. In a passive voice, the sentence reads: The invoice is being sent by the writer. Your audience is less likely to get lost in your copy or bored by the words when you stick to the active voice.

Tighten Your Copy

Another phase of editing is to tighten the copy. Writers will use some phrases by habit, such as "very tired," when "exhausted" works better. Some editors denounce the word "very" completely. Do a "search + replace" for "very" in your writing and see what you can tighten. Replace it when you can: "very sad" becomes distraught, "very happy" becomes thrilled, and so on.

Celeste Altus, Freelance Content Marketing Writer and Editor

Do a Reordering

When you first write a draft, you write your thoughts as they come to you. The story you thereby culminate might lack continuity and structure. Snowballing your thoughts sometimes interferes with the smooth flow between chapters and instances. Keeping this in mind, the first step to improving any draft is to correct this factor. Once you are done with a story, write down all instances that you have narrated in that story and see whether a change in their order is due. Rearrange paragraphs or chapters as and where needed. This will substantially increase your work quality.

Sally Johnson, CEO & Founder, Greenlightbooking

Read Your Writing Aloud to an Imaginary Crowd of Target Readers

There are many journalists, social media influencers, content marketers, and SEO strategists alike that have their opinions on how to write the best possible piece of content. I don't doubt that they will all be able to make a great point or two. That being said, the number one most effective technique for developing an engaging draft, no matter what the intended purpose, is to get away from the pen and paper (or word doc/keyboard). Take a step back, clear your throat, and read what you've written. Read what you've written as if you were giving a Ted Talk to your target audience and you had 5 minutes to compel them to act. Really ask yourself if they would resonate with and benefit from each sentence. Do that twice, and you'll have a much better draft.

Ken Marshall, Chief Growth Officer, RevenueZen

Read Backwards and Aloud

As we write, our brains like to fill in the blanks. We'll skim over missing words because we know what we're trying to say, and we've been staring at the page too long. Upend this by reading the copy aloud from the bottom up, one sentence at a time. Reading backward helps your brain spot errors, and your mouth will feel the clunky language. After all, if you are having difficulty saying it, your reader will also struggle.

Melody White, Senior Content Marketer

Take a Break

One of my most impactful editing tactics is taking a break from my work. Once I feel I have a final first draft, I simply walk away from it. I close the tab, physically leave my laptop, and sometimes even go for a walk. When I come back to edit the draft, I have a completely fresh perspective on the piece and can read it from an unbiased mindset as if reading it for the first time. Then, I find plot holes, inconsistencies, or small grammatical errors.

Alli Kelly, Content Writer & Editor, Purpose Jobs

Focus on Individual Paragraphs

The feeling of overwhelm when faced with revising a draft can be monumental for writers. When undergoing the first (or second, or third) round of self-editing, cut down on that pressure by focusing on individual paragraphs. By working on paragraphs individually vs as a whole, you'll be giving yourself greater clarity while refining your ideas. You’ll be more precise with correcting your grammar and be able to pinpoint finer discrepancies in your draft.

As for cohesion? Well, that final run-through of your draft to ensure that your writing and ideas naturally flow will feel much more of an accomplishment when you know that you've given each paragraph the attention they deserve!

Emma Sloan, Copywriter and Editor, The Wee Writer

Listen to Your Writing as a Text-to-Speech

My favorite technique is to listen to it in text-to-speech. Listening to Siri read your work back to you brings out major issues with flow and structure, as well as minor, sentence-level problems. Repeated words, spelling mistakes, and bad grammar jump out at you. To make it easier, I copy the characters "tk" into my buffer, then whenever I hear a problem, I paste "tk" into the draft. While I'm dropping in the tks, I sometimes add short notes like "move higher" or "wordy." When I've finished listening, I do a control-f word find for "tk" and fix all the glitches.

Don't Edit the Writing the Same Day You Write It

Work on the article, finish it up and leave it alone at least until the next morning. Start editing your work the next morning. If you try to edit right after you finish writing it, odds are you'll miss out on many issues with your writing, even some of the glaring ones. But by editing it the next day, you'll be looking at it with a fresh perspective, as if you're looking at someone else's work. This will improve your first draft by a huge margin.

Print Out a Copy to Work on

Sometimes revising your draft is about revisiting structure. Printing out a copy of my work in progress helps me reevaluate the narrative for flow and to see if the paragraph blocks work. I start by underlining discrete points in the article and number them as separate units. This way, if I do need to rearrange the narrative, I can do so easily without losing key ideas. There’s something about sitting down with a pen and a printout and scribbling notes in the margins, that makes revision more fun and efficient.

Poornima Apte, Freelance Technology Writer, Wordcumulus LLC

Hook Your Readers With a Creative Opening Line

It's a fact: the human attention span has shrunk to 8 seconds, down to nearly 25% in just a few years. So, the very first sentence of your write-up is the most important to capture your reader's interest. Since, the power of your opening sentence will set the tone for the rest of your post, focus all your creative energy on crafting that sentence! Here, you can include a startling figure to make your opening line more resonant because people are more drawn to statistics and find them more engaging.

Kartik Ahuja, CEO & Founder, GrowthScribe

Make Sure There's a Narrative that Speaks to Your Headers

What makes for a strong article or piece of writing is that it's a whole cohesive piece and that there's a consistent narrative throughout. Your headers should be guideposts for the narrative of the article as a whole. As you read them, make sure there's a flow through them. If there is and if each section speaks well to that header, then the article as a whole will read much smoother. As you revise, make sure each section speaks to its header and that the headers are telling a story.

Josue Ledesma, Writer and Content Marketer, JAL Creative Services

Be Open to Feedback

As an occasional freelance writer, one strategy I can suggest to writers that are looking to improve their writing drafts is to find someone to read what you wrote while you disconnect from your writing. This person can bring a fresh perspective to your writing if you are open and willing to have a conversation about what you wrote. The feedback that you receive can confirm if you conveyed your message successfully. These conversations can also aid in identifying areas your piece might be missing which allows you, the writer, to trigger your creative ability to maneuver through those obstacles and make your second draft better than the first.

Sheena Pokhan, Employee Engagement Consultant, Upgrade Basic

Ask a Partner to Read Your Writing Aloud to You

I'm surprised that no one has yet said to read the piece aloud, as our ears, more so than our eyes, are finely attuned to the nuances of language. An even stronger method, though, is to ask a partner to read the piece aloud to you. You'll hear each stumble, feel the weight of each objection, and know exactly where to focus your edits.


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