Homework Center: Writing Skills: Revising your first draft

Updated February 11, 2017 | Infoplease Staff
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Revising your first draft

After you have written your first draft, you will need to revise it. Read your draft carefully to make sure that it is well organized.

  1. Remember, an essay is a group of related paragraphs about one main idea. The introduction states the main idea. The body paragraphs contain the subordinate ideas that support the main idea. The conclusion restates the main idea and indicates the end.

    Essay Introduction main idea
    Body supporting idea
    supporting idea
    supporting idea
    Conclusion main idea, the end

    If ideas don't flow in a logical sequence from paragraph to paragraph, move the paragraphs around until your main points fall into a clear pattern. For example, you may want to organize your ideas chronologically, according to how things happened from start to finish in time, or you may want to talk about your ideas in order of their importance.

    Of course, you should organize your ideas in an outline long before you sit down to write. If you need to, you can change your outline as you write your essay.

  2. Just as an essay is made up of related paragraphs that develop a central point, a paragraph is made up of related sentences that develop a central point. If a sentence in a paragraph does not provide evidence for the main idea of the paragraph, delete it, rewrite it, or move it to another paragraph.

    Paragraph Topic Sentence main idea
    Supporting sentences supporting idea
    supporting idea
    supporting idea
    supporting idea
    supporting idea

  3. Check to make sure you have not accidentally left out an important point. If so, add a sentence or paragraph to clarify your meaning or provide further evidence for your main point.
  4. Check to make sure that all your subordinate ideas support the main idea. If you have accidentally included something that does not support the main idea, delete it.

    Sample Revision

    The two paragraphs below compare the two main characters in the novel The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken.

    The main idea of the first paragraph is that Bonnie comes from a wealthy family and is spirited, especially in defense of others. Note that the actual topic sentence comes in the middle of the paragraph ("Although the family had a lot of money, Bonnie was not spoiled."). Sentences that don't relate to this main idea have been deleted. An incident from the book was added at the end to give support to the idea that Bonnie is not afraid to act when she sees one person treat another person badly. Bonnie Green had been raised in a wealthy aristocratic family in the north of England. She lived with her parents Sir Willoughby and Lady Green on a large country estate. The family lived on a large estate and had servants. Bonnie had her own maid. Lady Green was a very sick woman and had been in delicate health. Her doctor ordered Sir Willoughby to take her to a warmer climate so that she could get better. Sir Willoughby was a very cheerful and robust man. Although the family had a lot of money and servants, Bonnie was not spoiled. She was basically a good and generous child. She did have a temper, though, and could act very impulsively. Once, when Miss Slighcarp the haughty governess hit Bonnie's maid, Bonnie responded by throwing a pitcher of water at the governess. In this situation, Bonnie reacted angrily without thinking because someone she cared for, her maid, had been hurt.
    The second paragraph focuses on Sylvia, who lives with her poor aunt and is meek. All of the sentences in this paragraph support the topic sentence "Sylvia was very different from Bonnie." Specific examples from the book prove that Sylvia was poor (she didn't have enough food or heat) and timid (she was afraid of the man and the wolves). Sylvia was very different from Bonnie. Sylvia's parents died when she was very young. She lived in London with her Aunt Jane. Aunt Jane was very poor and they often didn't have enough to eat. It was also very cold in their apartment because they couldn't afford to heat it. Sylvia was a very timid and quiet delicate child. She helped Aunt Jane sew her own clothes before she took On the train journey to her cousin Bonnie's, she felt shy about eating her meager sandwich in front of the strange man who sat across from her. Despite the fact that she was very cold on the train, she was afraid to complain. She was also afraid of the The train journey was long and uncomfortable. Sylvia was very cold and there were wolves outside the train. Sylvia was very glad to finally arrive at her cousin Bonnie's.

    Finally, note that the first paragraph flows naturally into the second. When you are comparing two characters, it is logical to describe the first character and then the other without any intervening paragraphs on a different topic. The third paragraph might be about why Sylvia goes to live with Bonnie, or it might be about what happens after Sylvia goes to live with Bonnie.

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