It’s time to look at your informative paper, not as the person who wrote it, but as someone who’s going to read it for the first time. It’s easier to do this if you give yourself time in-between to empty your mind of all the research and facts you didn’t include. That way you’ll see what’s really there. The more time you have to put your paper in a drawer and not look at it, the easier this will be.
Write down what you feel as you read your paper. Note any time you get confused or bored. Underline or highlight the sentences and paragraphs where you’ve included details and any words or phrases that make you feel something (other than bored or confused – keep track of those feelings on a separate piece of paper). Don’t fix or change anything yet – read all the way through first. Go ahead. Make your notes and underline the good parts. I’ll wait.
If Something Confuses You
Did it feel like your paper jumped from one thing to the next without warning? If so, take another look at your transitions – the words or phrases you used (or should have used) to tie your subtopics together. Adding transitions or picking different ones will take away that startling feeling that comes from reading about things that seem completely unrelated. If you can’t think of any good transitional words or phrases to tie your subtopics together, re-order your subtopics until the transitions, or connections between subtopics, are easy to add. Use the margins of your paper to number your subtopics in this new order.
Maybe the information confused you or you think readers will have trouble understanding it. If so, help readers relate to it. Use similes or metaphors or figurative language to compare what you’re writing about to something the readers are probably familiar with.
Sharing new information may require using unfamiliar words. If you’re not sure readers will know the meaning of a word you used, include a brief definition the first time you use it. You could also include a comparison, or an example, or a situation that makes the meaning of the word clear.
If Something Bores You
Chances are the boring parts are also the parts where you didn’t underline or highlight any details or words that made you feel something. Try perking up these sections by adding some description or figurative language to set a tone or a mood. Make your readers feel something all the way through your paper.
Did your paper grab your attention right from the beginning? If not, maybe more detailed description will help. Or maybe your first paragraph needs more interesting or startling information. The first paragraph is the most important when it comes to getting readers involved so don’t hold back! If you’re having trouble getting the first paragraph to make you feel something, try a different approach. Set a scene or make up a story that dramatizes your facts. Or start with the most surprising or dramatic or hilarious thing you discovered about your topic.
Maybe you love your beginning but became bored in the middle or at the end. If that’s the case, make sure your paper fulfills and follows your beginning. If you promised adventure, make it adventurous and exciting all the way through. If you started off by making your readers laugh, make sure there’s funny bits sprinkled throughout. The key here is to include plenty of interesting examples and specific descriptions and sharp details all the way through.
Sometimes you’ll write several dry, flat sentences before you loosen up and get into the swing of your topic. The beautiful thing about revising is no one will ever see or even know these boring parts existed. Cut them now and your readers will think that everything you write is exciting and sparkle-y.
Read it Out Loud
Once you’re happy with the way your paper makes you feel, it’s time to make sure you’re happy with the way your paper sounds. Reading your paper out loud may seem a little silly but it’s a great way to catch all the little mistakes because it forces you to slow down and notice every word.
It also helps to hear the rhythm of your paper. If it flows easily out of your mouth, you’ve probably done a good job of varying the construction of your sentences. Maybe you’ll find that you’ve repeated a certain word too often or maybe you’ll hear words that aren’t even necessary. If it sounds short and choppy, it could be that you’ve used the same sentence structure too many times. If you find yourself stumbling when you read, it might be because you’re missing some words or your sentences aren’t really sentences.
Reading out loud catches a lot of grammar mistakes, but not all of them. To make sure you catch all spelling and punctuation errors, hold a ruler under each line as you read down the page. This will keep you from racing ahead and perhaps missing a mistake.
No matter how carefully your revise and edit, chances are you won’t catch everything. You’re too close to it and by now you’ve spent too much time with it to see it as clearly as someone else would. That’s why writers have editors. It’s also why you should consider posting your work here for others to review.