Four Crucial Things to Consider When Revising an Essay

The prospect of revising an essay probably doesn’t fill you with joy.

But it’s incredible how many students rely on the first draft of their essay and fail to invest time refining and perfecting it.

Here’s a fundamental truth: Absolutely nobody produces writing that is perfect the first time around.

In fact, the most established scholars will tell you that the first draft of any essay, thesis, or dissertation doesn’t matter at all; the real writing starts during the revision process.

And it is for this reason you should never submit an essay that hasn’t been through a thorough revision process.

But what exactly does that involve?

Before we delve into the specifics of what you need to take into consideration when revising an essay, it’s important you understand there is a fundamental difference between proofreading an essay and revising an essay.

Proofreading involves reviewing the text for minor grammatical, punctuation, and spelling mistakes. However, revision isn’t about identifying and correcting errors; it’s about making the essay much, much better.

The Differences Between Revising, Editing, and Proofreading an Essay

Before you submit your essay, you thoroughly revise it, then edit it, then proofread it. Here are the main issues you will be concerned with during each stage of the process:

Essay Revising

Essay revising is performed at the holistic essay level.

Your main question during the essay revision stage should be: Does the essay meet the requirements of the assignment?

  • Read the essay within the context of the big picture and attempt to view your essay through the eyes of your reader.
  • Take an objective look at how your paper is organized. Is the information presented logically and coherently? Will the reader be able to follow your main points?
  • Ensure the formatting and structure of your essay are suitable.
  • Refine your introduction and thesis statement to ensure that it is clear and responds appropriately to the main question/prompt.
  • Add additional details, including citations, facts, and data, that support your main argument.
  • Remove any unnecessary or confusing detail.

Essay Editing

Essay editing is performed at the sentence and paragraph level.

Your main question during the essay revision stage should be: Do the sentences flow well and lead the reader through a structured argument that is clear and consistent?

  • Do not start the editing process until you are satisfied with the structure, flow, and content of the essay.
  • Read each sentence in turn and question the function it performs within the wider paragraph. Can you refine the sentence to better achieve your goal?
  • Analyze each sentence in the context of the preceding and following sentences. Are the connections between each point clear? Or do you need to add more effective transitions?
  • Ask yourself: Are the sentence lengths varied and effective? Long sentences can be great for forming connections between ideas but may obscure the critical points. On the other hand, short sentences can help to make a strong point, but overreliance on them can lead to unclear connections and a stilted flow. The golden rule is to reduce all unnecessary phrasing.

Essay Proofreading

Essay proofreading is performed at the sentence and word level

Your main question during the proofreading stage is: Is the final draft free of punctuation, spelling, and grammatical errors?

  • Read through your essay s-l-o-w-l-y to find any loitering grammar, punctuation, or spelling errors.
  • Format footnotes, cover sheets, citations, and references according to the required style guide.
  • Remember: Proofreading does not consist of simply passing your paper through automated spelling and grammar checks. Software will help you find many errors; however, it is not capable of viewing your paper within the context it was written and does not represent a substitute for a human review.

For more comprehensive details of the essay editing process, check out our in-depth guide to editing an essay.

If you want to learn more about what proofreading involves, read our comprehensive guide to proofreading.

At Vappingo, our professional essay editors perform revision and editing at the same time. They then pass through the document a second time to proofread it for any remaining minor errors. Our process is very distinct, and is as follows:

Vappingo three-step editing and essay revision

The rest of this article will cover the aspects our editors consider during the combined editing and revising process.

Revising an Essay in Four Simple Steps

Now we’re clear on why revising an essay is important, let’s take a look at the four things you need to take into consideration when you do so.

Four Things to Consider When Revising an Essay

Essay revision: Four things to take into consideration

Structure and Organization

Your essay needs to be effectively structured, clear, and easy to understand. The flow of the argument should gradually lead the reader from the introduction to the conclusion in a logical and systematic manner. The writing process is, by its nature, chaotic. You may find that the draft version of your essay contains some sections that present a stream of conscious as opposed to a planned and structured argument. Your top priority during the revision process is to refine that draft to ensure your essay has a clear beginning, middle, and end.

Questions to Ask Yourself When Revising the Structure of Your Essay:
  • Does the essay have a clear introduction that outlines the thesis or central proposition?
  • Does the introduction prepare the reader for the content of the paper?
  • Does the body of the essay follow a logical flow and build a progressive argument?
  • Is each of the points of significance in the essay clearly connected? Is the relationship between each of the points made clear?
  • Is the analysis limited to one leading point per paragraph?
  • Is there a clear transition between paragraphs?

Language and Formatting

Far too many students completely misunderstand the importance of ensuring the formatting of the essay is meticulously revised according to academic standards such as APA. You may have written the perfect essay; however, if you do not ensure that the references and citations are formatted according to your university’s guidelines, the font and styling are appropriate, and the tables and figures are presented effectively, you will lose valuable grades. When it comes to essays, language use can have a significant impact on the final result. It’s not merely a case of putting a stream of words together to put your argument forward; it’s about ensuring you have used the right words. Using effective transitions, the correct terminology, and varied terminology can help you take your essay to the next level.

Things to look for when revising the language of an essay

As you go through the process of revising your essay, make sure it does not contain any of the following:

  • Slang. Academic papers should not contain any slang expressions such as unreal, kudos, and props.
  • Casual references and expressions. Essays are formal documents; as such, you need to ensure the language you use is also formal. Write “it is not possible to draw a conclusion” as opposed to “before we jump to conclusions.”
  • Contractions. Use it is as opposed to its, they are in place of they’re, and have not instead of haven’t. Contractions represent a casual form of speech and, as we have already established, informal language has no place in an essay unless the nature of the paper calls for it.
  • Clichés. Again, cliché expressions, such as reading between the lines, only time will tell, and the writing’s on the wall, do not hold any tangible meaning and can undermine the flow and strength of your argument.
  • Misused words. You can read more here: Link to Vappingo guide to misused words.
  • Vague words. Some words are rather vague and do not convey the strength of the argument particularly well. Look out for the use of words such as good, bad, interesting, thing, etc. and replace them with more specific vocabulary. For instance, instead of stating, The test was repeated later (when? Three days? Three months? Three years?), write The test was repeated 24 hours later.
Questions to Ask When Revising the Language and Format of Your Essay
  • Is the language clear and easy to understand?
  • Have you explained the logic that underpins your opinions?
  • Is the argument presented in a way that is aligned with the needs, understanding, and interests of the intended audience?
  • Has the paper been fully proofread to ensure that it does not contain any punctuation, grammar, or spelling mistakes?
  • Have all the references been accurately cited?
  • Has the paper been formatted according to the requirements of the style guide?
  • Have you used consistent formatting and citation throughout the paper?
  • Have you ensured that you are clear as to what are your ideas and what are those of the authors you have referenced?
  • Have you met the word limit requirements?
  • Have you checked that all the data provided in the bibliography is accurate?

Coherence, content, and analysis

When an essay is coherent, the main ideas flow effortlessly, and the reader is left with no uncertainty about how the paragraphs are linked. The most effective essay writers are those who use transitions to efficiently clarify how the ideas they are presenting in the distinct sentences and paragraphs are linked. In addition to enhancing the flow of your essay, refining the transitions during the essay revision process will help to take your writing to a superior level, and you will come across more measured, sophisticated, and scholarly.

In terms of the content and analysis, you should be asking yourself if the key facts, data, and arguments you have put forward are compelling, relevant, and concise. Make sure every single claim you make is fully supported by indisputable evidence.

Useful Transitions to Add When Revising an Essay

Essay transitions cheat sheet

You can read more about essay transitions in our essay transitions cheatsheet.

Questions to ask when revising the coherence, content, and analysis of your essay:

  • Do the paragraphs transition well? Are the connections between them clear?
  • Do you start each paragraph with pertinent topic sentences that lead on from the discourse provided in the previous paragraph?
  • Is the discussion logical? Does it progress well?
  • Does each sentence clearly lead on from the one before?
  • Does each paragraph present a clear argument that is supported by sufficient evidence?
  • Are the transitions between sentences and paragraphs clear?
  • Is the quoted material suitable for the argument that has been put forward?
  • Have you supported the claims you have made with citations, data, or examples?
  • Have you ensured that the sources you have used are credible?
  • Are the data and statistics you have provided relevant and up to date?


Every essay should achieve its underlying purpose. Whether you were trying to persuade the reader to prescribe to your point of view, inform the reader about the findings of a study, explain the process of research, or present a specific analysis, while revising an essay, you should verify that you have achieved that purpose. Ask yourself whether the reader would be able to summarize your main points using just a couple of sentences. Have you responded to the question properly? Have you covered all the main points of the prompt?

Questions you should ask yourself when revising the purpose of an essay
  • Does the introduction contain a clear outline of my proposition, thesis, or main argument?
  • Have I taken a position on the topic of interest? If so, is this position evident throughout the paper?
  • Do the main points I have presented in the essay clearly contribute to the achievement of its primary purpose?
  • Have I summarized the argument in a clear and compelling way in the conclusion? Does the conclusion pull all the main ideas together?

If you cover all four aspects described above while revising your essay, you will significantly improve the final paper and, subsequently, your grade.

Here are all the main points to consider in a quick and simple essay revision checklist. Simply click on the image below to download the PDF.

Essay Revision Checklist

Essay revision checklist free

Key Takeaways:

  • Revision typically takes place after you have completed the first draft of your essay.
  • You may need to revise the essay several times before you progress to proofread the final draft.
  • You should revise and edit the essay before you proofread it. Proofreading always comes last.
  • If you spot any grammatical, spelling, or punctuation errors while revising your essay, correct them there and then. However, your main focus during the revision process should be on structure and organization, language and formatting, coherence, and purpose.
  • Proofreading does not consist of simply passing your paper through automated spelling and grammar checks. While software can help you find many errors, it can’t view your paper within the context within which it was written and does not represent a substitute for a human review.

For more help, see our free essay editing checklist.

Haven’t got the time, inclination or patience to revise your essay? Get an expert to do it for you.

Vappingo’s editing services include substantive revisions that cover all the aspects outlined above. In addition to checking and amending the structure, organization, language, formatting, coherence, and purpose of your essay, we’ll proofread it and correct any spelling, punctuation, typography, and grammatical errors. It’s quick and simple, and surprisingly affordable. Check out our editing and proofreading rates now.


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