Editing Writing for History Assignments

Readers of this blog should, at the very least, understand that effective writing in the history classroom requires work.  Writing has many formal and informal rules that undergraduates are expected to have learned and mastered by the time they reach history courses.  When students are not proficient in these rules, they are expected to learn throughout the course.  However, this is not the only work that instructors require of students.  Undergraduate writers of all levels will need to put work into the revision process before they submit final drafts of their work.

Proofreading, editing, and revision are essential steps in all forms of writing, whether it is a fifteen page research paper or a short identification on a test.  All writers should understand that “writing is a process.”  While different sources discordantly define the writing process, they all suggest that writing is more than the production of a written document.  In the writing process, students must carve out time for proofreading, editing and revision.  This time will inevitably vary depending on the project.  In your in-class writing assignments, spending an extra five minutes looking over and revising your work will go a long way.  In larger projects (essays, research papers, or reading responses), there are several strategies for improving your final project.  As the blog post  Early and Often suggests, starting projects early is key to finely polished writing.  “Early and Often” allows students to explore a wide variety of proofreading, editing, and revision options, including the use of FIU’s History Department Writing in History tutors.  Beyond the tutors, as the blog post How Historical Writing is Graded suggested, there are two important steps in revision.  First, all writers should take the time to read through their own work.  Spending the time to read each word, sentence, and paragraph aloud will force the writer to catch mistakes they sometimes miss when looking over the work.  Second, all writers should reverse outline their work.  In the process of developing an idea into a written document, ideas and arguments can often shift.  Reverse outlining asks writers to try to summarize their own sentences and paragraphs to see how they fit into the larger argument within an essay.  By working with these strategies, undergraduate writers will see improvement in the overall quality of their writing.

Thanks, Dr. Weimer

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