Students often use the terms “revision” and “proofreading” interchangeably, but they are actually different processes. Revision deals with organization, audience, and focus. Proofreading deals with surface errors.

Revision deals with...

  • Reading for the big picture and trying to see your writing as readers see it.
  • Recognizing your paper's organization (or lack of it): is your information presented logically? Do you jump from one idea to the next or does it seem to flow naturally? Do you use subheadings?
  • Sharpening your introduction and thesis statement: is it clear from your introduction what your paper will cover and/or argue? Do you follow through on what you promise in the intro and with your thesis?
  • Adding details and examples: did you fully explain your main points? Are your reasons and examples adequate to support your thesis?
  • Eliminating unnecessary details: did you include anything that might throw the reader off or lead to confusion? Did you repeat yourself? Keep in mind that re-stating a key point is effective.

Proofreading deals with...

  • Reading s-l-o-w-l-y. Donotrushthroughit.
  • Rewriting awkward or unclear sentences
  • Correcting punctuation, grammatical, and mechanical errors
  • Correcting spelling mistakes
  • Formatting citations, cover sheets, footnotes, and references correctly


  • Revision usually occurs after you finish a rough draft of your paper. You may go through several rounds of revision before you're ready to proofread.
  • Revision should be done prior to proofreading. Revision tackles the biggest issues first. If you proofread first, you may spend time polishing text that won't make it into the final paper.
  • Students are sometimes tempted to fix grammar or spelling problems without considering issues like order, transitions, and introductions/conclusions. Remember: proofreading is just one part of the overall revision process.
  • It's not a good idea to rely on spell-check or grammar-check. They make miss takes two.
  • The Writing Center can help you with revising or proofreading your paper. We can also help you determine which process you need to focus on and how to get started.

Written by: Chris Taylor