WriteCast Episode 58: Steps for Revising, Part II: The Small Stuff
© Walden University Writing Center 2018
CLAIRE: Welcome to Write Cast: A Casual Conversation for Serious Writers, a monthly podcast by the Walden University Writing Center. I’m Claire Helakoski,
KACY: and I’m Kacy Walz.
CLAIRE: Today we’ll discuss proofreading and revising strategies to help you apply feedback and advance your work.
KACY: Hi everyone! Today our topic is revising for smaller order concerns like APA, grammar, clarity, and spelling. Claire, to start us off, do you have any general thoughts on this topic?
CLAIRE: Thanks, Kacy, I definitely do. I was thinking a lot about this topic before this podcast because it’s kind of a hard process for me to think about breaking down into pieces. And I was thinking about why I was having a hard time coming up with concrete advice for, you know, these smaller order revisions. And I think it’s because I’ve been writing and revising for such a long time, and that involves a lot of revision. So I’ve spent a lot of time writing new stuff, and revising, and getting feedback, and taking in that feedback, and because of all that time I’ve put in, for me, the more fine-tuning proofreading is a revision step that I’ve really internalized. So, I had to really think back about how to break it down from a, you know, earlier perspective in my process. And, I don’t mean to imply that I don’t revise my work or that I don’t have revisions to make, because I do. But, for me I’m just, I’m so aware of the patterns that usually come up in my own writing, that it’s easier for me to spot them and make a quick change as I’m going through my proofreading process. So, I know what methods work for me, I know what to kind of look out for without having, like, a physical check list, or even without any other feedback. I’m just really aware of kind of my own writing habits and ticks , you know, when I’m being repetitive, and what sort of things to find and revise.
So, we’re going to go over some stuff today to help all of you listeners, but I wanted to also kind of provide you with a little bit of inspiration that, after a certain amount of time and energy put into your writing and revising, these steps will become part of your process, and they’ll take less and less time as you go on and take less mental energy. So, it will still be something that you need to do, but it won’t take as long, and you will start to be more and more aware of your own writing patterns.
KACY: Yeah, I think that’s really interesting, Claire, what you’re saying about making it so that it’s in the same process of your general revision, so that those more polishing steps and more specific steps kind of work their way into your revision, rather than having a separate editing stage. And I think that that is kind of how I’ve been writing for a long time as well. But I’m actually trying to go back to making it a different step, and I’ll try to explain a little bit about what I mean. So, I think, one thing that I’ve discovered as I’ve been writing my dissertation, is that I can get really bogged down in the details. So, making sure that my commas are in the right place, that my spelling is correct, even things like word choice, sometimes, will make me stop for longer than I really should be. And in terms of a draft, and particularly when you’re working on such a large project, those kinds of constant pauses or interruptions in, kind of, the “flow” of your writing, are really problematic—at least they have been for me. I’ve been writing this dissertation for what feels like forever. So, I’m actually trying to move away from that idea that I want it to be, you know, perfect on the page the first time I write it, or as I’m revising it. And just focus on those bigger order things. And so, I think talking about this today will be really helpful for me in trying to get back into that mindset of revising as a separate piece to editing, and editing really being that polishing, final step that you don’t really have to worry about until you’ve got pretty much your completed project.
CLAIRE: Definitely. And, I didn’t mean to imply either that I, like, am polishing my work as I go. I do not do that.
KACY: Oh! Ok!
CLAIRE: I do not do that. I mean that when I go to revise my work, and I know that I’m happy with the content and the organization kind of generally what I’m doing, and I’m ready to submit it or turn it in or whatever it might be, then that process, I just read through my draft and I look for those kinds of specific habits that I know that I have in my writing. Once in a while I’ll notice them when I’m writing these days, but usually I just, I save it for later. And I definitely don’t recommend, yeah, trying to make sure your commas are perfect, because you’re going to potentially change a whole paragraph, or you know, move things around, or rewrite your thesis. And if you’re at that stage, then this process is for later. It’s for when you have that draft, feel comfortable with the content and organization and all those, like, bigger order things, and you really want to focus in and say, “Ok, now I want to polish this and make it even better.” And that is something you should work into your writing process, which I know is hard, with our timelines and turning things in, but try and incorporate it and it will become a habit over time.
KACY: Definitely. So, as you’re starting this process, we wanted to go over a few steps you could follow to start internalizing those writing patterns. So just like with our last revision episode, the first step here is to make a list. So, one strategy for creating this list is to start out with maybe some larger categories. For example, you might go through and look for specific APA issues, or you might go through and look for specific grammatical issues. And then you can become more specific as you’re actually revising. And, you can look for, as Claire was pointing out, those patters, so that you become aware that these are things that you need to especially look out for as you’re revising.
CLAIRE: Right, and that’s a really important step to help keep you from feeling overwhelmed. And to kind of make that physical checklist or digital checklist, of what to look for, so that you can keep track of those writing patterns which, eventually you’ll internalize so you don’t need that list. But it’s a good idea to start with the list, so you can focus on one aspect at a time. It’s really hard to read through your draft and look for grammar, andAPA, andspelling, and anything else that’s a little more minor, that you can think of. So, I recommend trying to come up with those categories and then thinking more specifically in your categories. For example, you might focus on, if you’re focusing on APA as your bigger category, you might notice that you are, you know, forgetting the comma before “and” in a list of three or more items. So that’s an APA rule and it goes for citations as well as in your text itself. And that could be something you forget to do sometimes. So, if you know that’s a pattern, that’s something you can specifically go through and look for in your work. Likewise you can look for introductory clauses, maybe you kind of had some issues with those being unclear, maybe you start your sentences with -ing verbs that create kind of a lack of a clear subject, and these are the kind of feedback items that are hard to find on your own, but your faculty or a Writing Instructor has probably given you some feedback about those things. Or maybe you’re noticing them on your own, and then you can really go through one at a time and read through your draft to make those edits. So, Kacy, can you kind of walk us through how that might sort of look? We can just pick one of these ideas and talk about how you would go through our draft.
KACY: Sure! So, one thing that I particularly like about this technique is, it allows you to kind of get a sense of accomplishment that I feel like we often don’t get in our long writing projects. And so, you might set up your list and pick a certain item that you specifically want to focus on, for example, Claire was talking about that Oxford or serial comma that comes before “and” in a list of three or more items. So, maybe you will be looking through your paper specifically for those kinds of lists. And then you can make sure that you have that comma in place. Or you might decide that you want to focus on all of your citations. And so then you’ll being paying really close attention to each specific citation, making sure that it’s formatted correctly, making sure that it has the proper information so that your reader can find the corresponding reference in your reference list, and things like that, and then you kind of get to check that off! So, of course, you always want to be careful and make sure that you aren’t missing anything as you’re kind of doing that more skimming-looking, if you’re specifically just looking at citations, but I personally just find that really enjoyable, and kind of, I don’t know, like, it helps motivate me to continue on with revising process.
You can also try out some different tools. I always want to place a little caveat on using tools like Grammarly or search and replace…just because these are technical, computer-y things that I am not super familiar with, but also know that it’s not a person. So, Grammarly and Word’s spell check and grammar check are going to make mistakes every once and a while. So, you don’t want to rely too heavily on them, but they can be really, really helpful tools as you’re working through this process.
CLAIRE: Definitely. And, to kind of help you get a handle on this process as you’re going through it and keep track and make your list, we do have a revision journal that you can use, or you can make your own. To kind of keep track, you know, of those major categories and those little things that you find that you’re fixing, so that next time you go through to polish your work, you can just look over that checklist of things you’ve noticed in your work in the past and have wanted to edit and go through item by item to make sure that you’re following through with that. And, I want to mention too, that this is high level work and it can be time consuming. Which is again why I don’t recommend doing this type of work until you have a draft that you are generally happy with. This is the editing part of the process, later on, in your revision cycle. It’s after you’ve had some people look at it, it’s after you’ve considered and reflected, and made some changes on your own that you want to really polish things up. Or, for example, if you’re working on your dissertation or in those higher-level capstones, then you really want to make sure you’re taking time to polish things up after you have the kind of basic content all set up. And, I know that this process probably sounds really tedious, and like something that you don’t have time for, but it really does get easier over time. I promise that that’s true, just like anything with writing or APA or learning any skill. It gets easier over time, and actually both Kacy and I didn’t really use APA before we came to work here at Walden…we’re both from MLA-based fields. So, we had to learn APA for this job and we were learning right along with all of you. And now I can spot an APA error really easily and quickly because I do it all the time. And I’m just really familiar with how things should look. I’ve just internalized what an entry should look like or what a citation should look like, and even as I’m just reading through I’ll notice something’s off and then I’ll take a closer look.
KACY: That’s so true, Claire, and when you’re focusing on your own writing, this will become true even faster, I think. Because you’ll become more familiar with those patterns of errors and eventually maybe you won’t need to go step by step and look just at commas and look just at your citations, but you’ll be able to, like Claire said, look through your draft and just notice, “ok, something’s not quite right here” and then be really specific about the specific error. As Claire mentioned, I come from a background of MLA and I was very familiar with the specific rules for formatting, my citations, and my reference list. And MLA is pretty similar to APA, but it’s just different enough that I could get myself into some trouble if I tried to rely too heavily on what I considered to be something I was really good at, was really familiar with. When I was training, I found our interactive grammar modules, and modules for APA style, and references and citations to be extremely helpful. In those modules you get to first test yourself to see what areas you’re already pretty strong in, and then you can also see which areas that maybe you need a little bit more work, or maybe you need some refreshers on. And then you walk through step-by-step with different examples and you get to try out specific style rules and fixing grammatical errors. And I really think that that’s the best way to learn these kinds of things, is by doing them, at least that’s what I’ve found to be in my experience. So, I would definitely recommend, if any of this is seeming really overwhelming to you, or you’re not sure where you even want to start—maybe even the idea of categorizing your different errors seems like it’s going to be daunting or confusing—check out those interactive modules. I think they will be great tools to set you up for success here.
CLAIRE: I also love our modules, and I used them when I was training. They were actually piloting when I was training, because I’ve been here a long time…and I, I’m a really interactive learner, like Kacy, and so those worked really well for me, to kind of ingrain those APA and grammar nuances. However, we do have resources, all kinds of resources, as those of you who listen to our podcast and have used our center before, know. So, if interactive learning doesn’t work as well for you, you know, we have webinars, we have blog posts, we have static pages with common reference examples. We have all kinds of things. And, of course, you can use our paper reviews and we will identify some of those larger and smaller order items to kind of continue working on.
And for help with Microsoft Word, whether that’s different settings or trying and using search and replace, you can visit the Academic Skills Center tutoring at academicguides.waldenu.edu/academicskillscenterhome and when you get to their main webpage you can click on the tutoring tab specifically for assistance with Microsoft Word. You can also visit our blog at waldenwritingcenter.blogspot.com and check out when and how to conduct revision and proofreading, or our top 10 proposal fixes for capstone writers parts 1 and 2, if you’re in that phase of your work.
KACY: So, thank you so much for joining us for our December episode of WriteCast! So, until next year…keep writing!
CLAIRE: Keep inspiring!
KACY: WriteCast is a monthly podcast produced by the Walden University Writing Center. Visit our online Writing Center at academicguides.waldenu.edu/writingcenter. Find more WriteCast episodes on iTunes,Stitcher,TuneInor your favorite podcast app. We would love to hear from you. Connect with us on our blog, Facebook, and Twitter, and at [email protected]. Thanks for listening!