Revising vs. Editing

underlying principles Apr 15, 2022

Our school year is steadily moving along. Spring break is over and testing season is upon us. At this time of year students in all grade levels have higher expectations for the quality of writing they turn in. 

"By the end of grade x, students will be able to..." 

If they haven't met the writing standards yet, there are only a few months left before final report cards.  

Writing can be one of the more challenging skills to master, and teachers also find it one of the more challenging to teach. In many ways, writing is subjective, yet there are rules and conventions to follow. Writing style is personal, yet correct usage is important.  

A helpful distinction we can make for our students is the difference between revising and editing.  


Have you ever had a student who thought revising meant recopying their paper?

In Project GLAD® we separate the revising and editing processes into distinct lessons with the same text to help students distinguish between the two. This is a key element of the Cooperative Strip Paragraph writing strategy. 

Before we teach revising and editing, it's worth taking a minute to clarify the difference for ourselves. 

What’s the difference?


Revising looks at the paper as a whole. It’s the bigger picture. Focus, purpose, organization, balance, voice. 

Revising is dynamic. Involves discussion and can result in different outcomes. It examines strengths and weaknesses.  Highly metacognitive.

Revising is about the process.  During revising we're ordering and reordering, adding and changing information to improve content. Is there sufficient supporting evidence or details? 


Editing looks at each sentence separately. During editing we work on a sentence by sentence level, examining each sentence in isolation.

Editing is static. We find and fix mistakes. Editing follows the standard conventions of the target language. There is a right and a wrong way. 

Editing is about the final product. Is it formatted correctly? Does it align with APA guidelines (or whichever reference you're using)?

Keep in mind:

  • sentence structure
  • conciseness
  • word choice
  • grammar 
  • spelling
  • punctuation

Hint: teaching revision first, on a separate day from editing, helps distinguish this process even more. We also encourage you to include revising and editing as separate sections on your writing checklists. 

As you dive into spring writing assignments, may today's reminder give you fresh ideas for communicating to your students the difference between revising and editing their work. 

Sending thoughts of spring renewal your way!

Jody and Sara



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