Hege Library & Learning Technologies

Guilford College Writing Manual

This is the official Guilford College Writing Manual. A collaboration between the English Department and the Hege Library.

Revising Checklist

Revising checklist


            To get us started thinking about what revision can accomplish, here is a general list. Good writing is:

            1.  Clear. Instantly understandable.

            2.  Unobtrusive.  A good writer tries to be invisible.  Good writing is writing that seems not to have been written at all.  It's like a window.  You see through the words to grasp the meaning.  You're unaware of the language.

            3.  Grammatical.  Almost invariably.  A truly good writer is not hide‑bound by grammatical rules.  But students must know the rules before they can ignore them.

            4.  Well‑organized.  Structure‑‑what you say where in a piece of writing‑‑is as important as the language you use.  Some people have said it's more important (Hemingway:  `Prose is architecture, not interior decoration').

           Specific things to emphasize:

  • Use active verbs (not passive ones).
  • Be wary of adverbs.  Don't use them to shore up weak verbs.
  • Be wary of adjectives.  Don't use one because you can't find the right noun.
  • Keep subject and verb close together.
  • Anticipate the reader's questions and answer them promptly.
  • Don't use two words when one will do.
  • Don't use unfamiliar words.
  • Read your prose aloud before you edit (the ear often picks up problems that the eye misses. It's also important to hear the voice of your prose)
  • Remember that rhythm in writing isn't there only for beauty. It facilitates understanding.
  • Remember that any good writing --fiction, essay, term paper--any type of writing, begins with good reporting, meaning good observa­tion, good analysis, good study.

            If you are not yet convinced about the importance of taking time with your writing, here's a last word on cramming everything into a single sitting from a higher authority, the Book of Ecclesiastes:

            There is one that toileth, and laboreth, and maketh haste, and is so much the more behind.


Self-conference sheet

            When you’re revising a standard expository paper, you may find the following list helpful. Thanks to Janet Cochran, long-time writing teacher at Guilford for providing it.

  • Does my TITLE relate directly and specifically to my thesis?
  • Does my OPENER state the obvious or will it attract the attention and interest of the reader?
  • Have I made a commitment to the reader by stating my THESIS (main idea) clearly in my first paragraph?
  • What is my PURPOSE in writing this paper?
  • Do each of my PARAGRAPHS relate to my thesis?
  • Do each of my paragraphs have UNITY, with every sentence relating to the topic sentence?
  • Are there SPECIFIC EXAMPLES in my paper?
  • Are there CONCRETE DETAILS in my paper which will make it vivid to the reader?
  • Does my CONCLUSION restate the thesis idea?
  • Does my CONCLUSION answer the "So what?" question?
  • Does my CONCLUSION have a sense of finality and closure?