Write with Might #4: Outlining & Proofreading


Dear writers,


This week's tip focuses on how to become your own best editor. For even the most experienced and skilled writers, writing is certainly a process. The writing process includes: (1) prewriting, (2) creating a thesis sentence, (3) developing an outline, (4) reverse outlining and (5) proofreading. Because I know we are at week five in the quarter, I realize a lot of folks have paper deadlines quickly approaching. Thus, I will break down the wonderful editing technique called "reverse outlining" and also share effective proofreading strategies. Stay tuned for future Write with Might Tips on steps one through three of the writing process!


Reverse Outlining


Have you ever started a paper with one idea and then realized halfway through your draft that you unknowingly switched topics or zeroed in on a concept that is very different from your original purpose? Yes? So have I and most likely so have all writers. Reverse outlining helps us determine how well our papers "flow" and, when we get off track, it helps us get back on point. The following information is adapted from the Purdue Owl Online Writing Lab, with citations following.


  1. In the left-hand margin, write down the topic of each paragraph in your draft. Try to use as few words as possible. These notes should tell you if each paragraph is focused and clear.


  1. In the right-hand margin, write down how the paragraph topic advances the overall argument of the text. Again, be brief. These notes should tell you if each paragraph fits in the overall organization and "flow" of your paper. After completing these steps, you may notice that paragraphs should be shifted. Go ahead, make your changes and begin the reverse outlining process again.


Proofreading Tips


You have completed your first draft...or perhaps your second, third, or fourth draft. It is time you evaluate the details of your work as well as the big picture. There are many ways to do this.


  1. Take a break! Get up from your desk, walk, do something fun, or sleep on it. Warning for procrastinators, this requires leaving yourself enough time.
  2. Read it aloud, to yourself first and then to a friend


  1. Read your paper sentence by sentence, but backwards. Start from the last sentence of your conclusion and work your way back to the introduction.


  1. Change your fonts, sizes, or colors. It is amazing what mistakes we can catch when we change the visual appearance of our work.


  1. Collaborate with others. Meet with classmates, friends, partners or tutors. Remember that writing does not have to be a solitary venture. In fact, many writers find that the more they collaborate, the better the results.


  1. Personalize your proofreading. Check with a tutor or another writer to help you discover some of your common error patterns. This way, you will be even more prepared to evaluate your work quickly and efficiently in the future.


Brizee, A.(2010, April, 17). Reverse Outlining: An Exercise for Taking Notes and Revising your Work. Retrieved from:  http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/689/1/


Wells, J.M., Sousa, M., Martini, M., Brizee, A. (2010, April, 17). Where do I begin? Retrieved from:  http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/561/1/


Thank you for your attention and for all of the positive things you bring to this world.


Have a wonderful, inspired week.