Have you been told that your writing lacks direction or unity? If so, the following list of questions might help you edit for content. Focus on one or two areas below and revise for style and meaning.
Subject, Purpose, Audience
- What’s the most important thing I want to say about my subject?
- What would my reader want to know about the subject? What does my reader already know?
- What does my reader expect me to do?
- Have I fully explained and defined my material?
- Have I effectively referenced external research to qualify my points?
- Do I answer questions 1-4 in my first paragraphs or in the introduction?
- How many specific points do I make about my subject? Did I overlap or repeat any points? Did I leave any points out or add some that aren’t relevant to the main idea?
- Have I considered the hierarchy of the subtopics and discussed them in a logical order?
- Have I used transitions effectively to move from one point to the next? What signposts did I give the reader?
- Do my thoughts progress from general to greater specificity?
- How do the paragraphs relate to each other? Do I provide effective transitional sentences to remind the reader of the previous topic’s relevance to the next topic?
- Have I used a variety of examples, reasons, and quotes to provide the necessary proof to my reader?
- How well does the paragraph hold together? When I read the paragraphs out loud, do the ideas flow smoothly?
- Can my reader “see” what I’m saying? Do I use concrete language? Effective verbs?
- Have I included specificity rather than rely on weak, vague pronouns. For example, do I include a concrete noun after demonstrative pronouns (e.g., This research . . .)
- Are my sentences “varied” in length? Can sentences be combined and connected with linking words (such as, however, therefore, for example)?
- Would adding questions help diversity the style?
- Do I need transitions to link ideas (e.g. however, therefore, for example) ?
- How does the paper end? Is there a sense of unity from the beginning to the conclusion, or have it deviated in its focus? If so, rework the introduction and some of the content to support your final conclusion
- Study the manuscript for its physical quality. Is there a sense of continuity maintained by a general size of paragraphs? If not, can lengthy paragraphs be divided to help reading?