Before I begin any heavy revision, I like to use an old-school journalistic method called the pointings system. It's been so long I can't remember where I learned it, but it's an effective way of highlighting noteworthy features in your article. Pointings are quick and easy to do, and they can provide helpful information for revision. Print out your rough draft, grab your red pen, and head to your nearest scenic location, and try this exercise for immediate help.
- Draw a straight line under any words or details that impress you as especially effective: strong verbs, memorable phrases, striking images.
- Draw a wavy line under any words or images that seem flat, stale, or vague. Also put the wavy line under words or phrases you consider unnecessary or repetitious.
- Look for pairs or groups of sentences you think should be combined. Put brackets [ ] around these sentences.
- Look for sentences that are garbled, overloaded, or awkward. Put parentheses ( ) around these sentences. Mark any sentence that seems even slightly questionable; don't worry now about whether you're certain about your judgment. Point to anything that you had even the slightest hesitation understanding.
After you've finished reading your draft, note down your immediate reaction. What do you consider most interesting? State the theme, and indicate whether or not it is well focused. Is it informative? Can you see any holes or gaps? Did it hold your interest? Once you've analyzed all the elements in your draft, you should be able to identify its strengths and weaknesses, and you're ready to revise.
More on revision: Give Your Writing a Revision Sweep