I'm sure there are revision "manuals" in existance that provide a clear step by step process of revision, but I've found in 6 years of teaching writing, there is a pretty quick and easy way to get the job done. Revising an essay, in my opinion, is a two-part process:
- Content revision
- Mechanical revision
There is no point in fixing spelling, grammar, and capitalization errors if the content of your essay is not there. When editing for content, the best thing to do is to grade your own essay according to the rubric your teacher will use. If one has not been provided, you should look at the following four areas (in the order they are presented) by asking these questions:
- Focus: does my essay have a focus (or thesis)? Does every paragraph stay on topic? From start to finish, is it clear what my focus is?
- Organization: does my essay have a clear introduction, body, and conclusion? Does my introduction state (or imply) my thesis and the major points outlined in my body paragraphs? Do my body paragraphs start with topic sentences which support my thesis? Does my conclusion sum up my essay without being redundant?
- Support/Elaboration: do I provide ample support (or examples) in each of my body paragraphs? Do I explain these examples by elaborating on them?
- Style: have I utilized skillful vocabulary that is appropriate for my grade level? Have I utilized a variety of sentences (simple, complex, compound, etc.) and avoided fragments and run-ons?
If you feel the content of your essay from start to finish is ready, mechanical errors are easy to spot. I even encourage peer-editing for mechanical errors, as getting a pair of fresh eyes will really help.