Essay 1 (ch. 1) Revision Assignment  
(last revised 9/29/01)

Revision is one of the most important tools a writer has!  I can't overemphasize this.  One big secret professional and college writers know is that a good essay asks a problematic and relativistic question that gets into the complexity of a subject.  For academic audiences, nothing is ever black and white (ha).  The other secret writers know is that over time, deep-level revision can turn crappy or mediocre work into something good or even great (most first, second, and third drafts from all writers, including myself, are pretty darn crappy).

Assignment: You will be revising Essay #1 and turning it in again for a better grade (this essay should have shown the deeper dilemma of an issue and the significance of that issue).  The revision will be due at the start of week 9 (see the Calendar).  If you do not submit a revision, you will lose 50 points.

I want to see you do the following with and in your revision:

  1. Look over my comments, then send me an E. Mail with at least one question you have about what I said.  Do this this by the start of week 8.  You can also make an appointment to see me.

  2. As you revise, think about what we’ve been learning: wallow more in complexity and multiple sides; really show the difficulties of the dilemma (something that is so complex it has no easy answer).  How is it that no one is able to solve the problem?  Why is there no simplistic answer?  I also want many of you to focus the essay more on only one main, surprising dilemma or example throughout.  You might have had an especially interesting/surprising idea in your essay that you could focus on instead of your original thesis.  Don’t be afraid to make big changes--your grade will not go down!

  3.  Think more about the essay’s balance between points and particulars: if you need DEV, add in a lot more vivid, concrete particulars (examples, descriptions, stories); if you need POINTS or SIG or EXPLANATION or DEFINITION, add in more sentences that tell the reader what your details mean.  IF YOUR ESSAY NEEDS TO BE LONGER SO YOU CAN GO INTO DETAIL OR ANALYZE MORE OR GO INTO MORE COMPLEXITY, MAKE IT LONGER.

  4. Some authors (those who may have gotten higher grades) might want to play with their rhetorical choices.  If you had a pissy tone in the first essay, try a more formal, business-like tone.  If you wrote as if your audience only ever watches MTV, try writing for an audience that only reads encyclopedias.  If you wrote like a dualist, try more of a relativist mind-set.  If you wrote with a "stick-up-you-butt" tone (stuck up or sarcastic), try a more informal, chatty-friendly tone.  The more advanced you are, the more you should be able to write for any audience convincingly.

  5. Submit your essay to the OWL as soon as possible for additional comments, or for specific grammar advice and exercises (  As the syllabus told you, you get 5 extra points for every OWL submission (or Writing Lab visit) you make.

  6. If I said be aware of or more careful about surface errors like typos, spelling, commas etc., then you need to fix those AFTER revising your points, dilemmas, and particulars.  Writers usually edit these surface errors last because they know they're going to make a lot of changes to every sentence and they don't want to waste time with useless edits.  Look below for more information on surface errors.

Some comments on Lee’s grading:

1.        Grades should actually mean something.  If you get an A, you did a very excellent job, though I still might think there is something to revise or play with.  If you get an A-, you did great, but need to work on one main writing issue, or play with something more.  If you get a B, you did a good job, but you still have a couple writing issues to work on.  If you get a C, that means you did acceptably well (average means the place most people fall), but you may have four or more writing issues to still work on.  If you get a D, you did not pass the assignment yet, and need to work on a number of writing issues.

2.        I usually circle some of your surface errors (typos, grammar, confusion, style problems)--this is called line editing.  If you get a comment at the end that says something about surface errors or grammar or typos, I deducted 1/3 to 2/3 of a grade off your total points (thus, some students who write deeply and convincingly, may have lower grades because of grammar).  I did not circle all errors, just enough to show you how often your errors interrupted my reading of your essay.  Begin studying your kinds of errors in our Prentice Hall handbook (the spiral style guide), then send me questions via E. Mail (, make an appointment to talk to me about your questions, or ask Writing Lab assistants for additional clarification and exercises.