Revising and editing are distinct actions.
Revising means changing text in significant ways, such as adding or deleting words, sentences, paragraphs or even whole scenes. Revising means changing weak verbs to stronger, specific verbs. Revising means changing sentence order or sentence beginnings or combining sentences or separating too many ideas in one sentence. Revising means making big changes and should be done before editing.
Editing means polishing text in subtle ways, such as changing punctuation, spelling, and choice of synonyms and antonyms. Editing means deleting most -ly adverbs, many adjectives, and obvious information. Editing means making small changes, sometimes stylistic changes, and should be done after revising.
Which are revising and which are editing?
|Deleting backstory from the beginning of text||✔|
|Using simple Anglo-Saxon vocabulary instead of longer, more complicated words||✔|
|Replacing abstract nouns with concrete verbs||✔|
|Deleting vague, qualifying words (e.g. some, never)||✔|
|Deleting “that” except when needed for clarity||✔|
|Combining sentences to delete unnecessary words||✔|
|Adding information for clarity||✔|
|Using “said” instead of “told,” “related,” “cried,” and other words saying how a person spoke||✔|
|Replacing forms of the verb “to be” with specific verbs, action verbs if possible||✔||✔|
|Rewriting sentence beginnings for variety||✔|
|Replacing most compound sentences or compound predicates with complicated simple sentences||✔|
|Deleting overused words like “so,” “then,” “just” and “like”||✔|
|Rewriting conclusions to add meatier ideas||✔|
|In dialog between two people, not identifying who is speaking for each line of dialog||✔|
|Writing direct dialog rather than indirect dialog.||✔|
|Calculating words per sentence to keep within 15 to 20 words on average.||✔|
|Looking for the kind of grammar mistakes you often make, such as run-ons, and fixing them.||✔|
|Showing, not telling.||✔|
A mistake student writers make is to edit as they write, losing the flow of their thoughts. It’s better to keep going, even though you know you spelled a word wrong and are tempted to look it up. Writing is harder than editing which is why writers are tempted to edit as they go. This is particularly true of perfectionists.
Editing before revising is a waste of time. Good revising will delete many early edits. Write first, revise second and third and forth, and edit last.