The Difference between Revision and Editing


It is important to draw a clear distinction between revision and editing.  They are separate activities, which occur at separate stages of the writing process.   


Editing, what many now term copyediting, is the final polishing of a work after all revisions have been made.  It is a careful examination of a work’s adherence to the conventions of Standard English.  Editing is concerned with grammar and usage, with correcting spelling, completing fragments and fixing run-ons. 


Revision on the other hand encompasses all of the other factors and stages that help produce a finished piece of writing:  the recasting of ideas, the reorganization of details, word choice, and sentence and paragraph structure.  During revision, a writer may reorder or add crucial details.  Nancy Sommers argues that this kind of revision requires “a theory of the revision process as a totality- a theory, which, in fact encompasses, the whole of the composition” (52).  She identifies two important ways that the experienced writer understands the revision process.  Revision requires the “adoption of a holistic perspective” and the perception that it is a “recursive process- a process with significant recurring activities” (52). 

 It may be useful to think of the individual writer as having two selves, one who writes and the other who rereads with a fresh pair of eyes.  We must approach writing with our students as a process of “discovery- a repeated process of beginning again, starting out new” (Sommers 53).  Revision forms the basis for this discovery, for this holistic re-viewing of our own work.  As I have stated earlier, this kind of reviewing requires a level of involvement that many students are reluctant to adopt.  By allowing our students to have ownership of their writing, and the feeling that it is an authentic and worthwhile pursuit; and by demonstrating the benefits of revising this writing we will begin to see the mature approach to the writing process that Sommers’ student subjects were missing.