How to revise

Revision means 'change'. The revisions that the text goes through during the editing and proofreading stage are made to improve the text, especially regarding structure, language and referencing.

Below is a list of aspects that writers commonly need to revise, with links to appropriate AWELU sections.

Revising text structure

Focus and structure

In order to gain precision and focus, texts often need to be somewhat restructured. Check that there are topic sentences in all paragraphs, that each section has an overall structure and, of course, that the text in fact does what it sets out to do. For information on structural aspects of texts, go back to:

Fluency and readability

Texts that lack transitional devices are difficult to read. Go through your text and make sure there are transitions when needed between paragraphs and between sections. For useful phrases and words, see, for instance, the subsection on Conjuncts here:

Revising language


Although it might be difficult to make substantial vocabulary changes at the revising stage, repetitive use of certain words and expressions can be corrected. At this stage, most writers consult reference books of various sorts. A good dictionary is a must, but other tools are also useful. The AWELU sections below focus on vocabulary and include a discussion on different types of reference material, both printed and electronically available.


To avoid typos and spelling mistakes, it is wise to use the spell-check function in Word (or other software used). Make sure to check that it is set for English and the preferred spelling (British or American).

Read more about spelling rules and commonly confused words here:


It is important to make sure that the language used in an academic text is grammatically correct. Although most standard word processors include a grammar checker, you cannot trust it to catch all potential mistakes. The following AWELU resources provide some help:

Sentence structure and punctuation

Two common problems related to sentence structure are fragments (that is, sentences that are not complete) and run-on sentences (which are sentences that follow after each other without being separated by a full stop or a coordinating conjunction). Writers who make these mistakes often find punctuation rules difficult too.

To find out how to correct these errors, look at the following resources:

Checking formal aspects


Departmental guidelines usually state requirements regarding word count, line spacing, font size, etc. Note that these are usually not seen as recommendations but actual requirements; thus, a text that is too long will probably have to be cut down. As a complement to departmental guidelines, the following information can be useful:


Make sure that the use of references (both in-text references and the reference list) is correct as well as consistent. Read about aspects of referencing that need to be checked here:

Example: Proofreading practices (click to expand/contract)

If the proofreading is done by hand, the following list of common proofreaders' marks may be useful:

If texts are commented on electronically, there are functions in the software that can be helpful. In MS Word, for instance, the "Track changes" function is useful, as is the Comments function.