Two Steps to Clear and Correct Writing


—Bite-sized advice for better business writing—

April 22, 2021

Two Steps to Clear and Correct Writing

“Writing well is more than mechanics, but it is not less.”

— Douglas Wilson

So, you just finished drafting an important workplace document. What should you do next?

Some writers dive right into editing, checking their work for surface-level errors like spelling, grammar, and punctuation. They believe if the document is error-free and well designed, it is ready to send.

But that’s not always the case. In fact, those writers skipped a crucial step in the writing process: revision.

Revising helps you find and fix larger issues that lead to miscommunication and missed opportunities.

Make sure you leave ample time for both revising and editing, especially for high-stakes writing. Use the advice and resources below as you work through each step. 

How do revising and editing differ?

Revising and editing improve writing, but in different ways. The goal of revision is to fix content problems with the first draft, while the goal of editing is to fine-tune the piece before sending it out.

When revising, you focus on the ideas, organization, and voice of your writing. Then you check your words and sentences.

When editing, you focus on punctuation, grammar, usage, and mechanics. Finally, you check the formatting and design.

How can I revise and edit effectively?

Let the writing breathe. Take some time between writing, revising, and editing. That way you will approach each step with fresh eyes.

Work on each step separately. When revising, focus on the big picture. If you introduce any new errors when you revise, you can catch them later while editing.

Follow revision strategies: Cut, add, reorganize, and rewrite.

Edit Effectively

Reread your work slowly and out loud. Both reading strategies will help you uncover problems and catch mistakes.

Use a checklist. This checklist helps you focus your attention throughout the writing process.

Share your work with an objective reader. Sometimes you will get too close to your writing to see potential problems. Share your writing with a trusted coworker to gain a fresh perspective.

Keep resources handy. Refer to the Write for Business Guide or your company's style sheet for answers to your writing questions.


Make the Choice!

Decide which of the following issues you should address during revising and which during editing. Scroll down for our suggestions. 

  1. You need to check the spelling of a client's name. 
  2. You want your opening paragraph to be more persuasive.
  3. The tone of the document is harsher than you intended. 
  4. You want a colleague to check your use of commas. 
  5. The transition between your first and second points is too abrupt. 
  6. The writing sounds choppy. 
  7. The formatting looks inconsistent. 

Get More Support

The Write for Business Guide, Courses, and eTips are chock-full of resources for revising and editing. 


Editor’s Recommendations

  1. Editing: Wait to work on spelling until late in the process, and double-check the spelling of names before you send. 
  2. Revising: Rewrite or reorganize your ideas for impact.  
  3. Revising: Work on your voice and word choice after you are happy with the ideas and organization. 
  4. Editing: Let your colleague know what specific editing issues you'd like help with.
  5. Revising: Add transition words or sentences to create a better flow, or try reordering your ideas.  
  6. Revising: Work on sentence fluency after you are happy with the overall ideas, organization, and voice. 
  7. Editing: Clean up the formatting and design at the end of your writing process.