Monday, November 3, 2008

Transforming Substance into Significance, Part 8: Integration—Connecting Revision Elements

Revising, says writer and editor Susan Bell (2007), is “a conversation”—an interaction between the writer and text that generates waves of improvement in the text (p. 6). The writer approaches the draft as a critical reader and “converses” with what was previously written. The “conversation” initiates improvements in significant issues, such as the writing going astray, and text-level improvements that strengthen the writing, such as a change in word choice. The writer does not engage in self-pity or self-condemnation for these issues, but attacks the draft, determined to give his voice the best possible expression.

But what does the writer look for during revision? Author and writing instructor Gloria Houston (2004) describes the components of a written piece as points within a continuum (p. 10).

Macro-level elements address the work’s conceptual and structural elements, such as structure,clarity, and tone. Micro-level elements address specifics that strengthen or weaken the work, such as using the most immediate verb tense, editing modifiers, and avoiding There and It as sentence starters. Macro-level revisions strengthen the writing’s effectiveness. They address the question, “Do the ideas and their presentation communicate effectively?” Micro-level elements are specifics—details that compose larger units. They address the question, “Can the specifics be improved to strengthen communication?”

Complete instruction connects macro- and micro-level revision elements. Students learn to consider the influence of every choice a writer makes on other aspects of the writing (e.g., If I use this specific word, will my clarity be affected positively or negatively?). Students learn to “converse” with their writing multiple times to sharpen their revisions for effective and powerful writing.

Up next: Teachers as Writers

Bell, S. (2007). The artful edit: On the practice of editing yourself. New York: W. W. Norton & Co.
Houston, G. (2004). How writing works: Imposing organizational structure within the writing process. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

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