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16.05 Sequence

The steps involved in revision will vary according to individual preference and working conditions. If time is limited, it is important to decide which features of the text should be given priority—style, usage and overall format, or just spelling and grammar. The following sequence is designed to ensure that the process is carried out in a logical, thorough manner. One or more steps may be combined in order to expedite matters, and you may want to take a second look at certain problems or pages requiring further revision or research (see checklist in 16.08 Revision checklist). But keep in mind that the most effective approach is to check for one broad category of error at a time.

(a) Content check

Reread the whole draft for omissions, obvious factual errors, and lack of clarity or illogicality in the flow of ideas. Although not a problem of form, failure to situate each sentence in the context of the whole argument and to ensure that each idea flows logically from the previous sentences and paragraphs is a common shortcoming, which a reviser should detect and, if not correct, at least bring to the attention of the writer.

Rectify any problems, after speaking with the author if necessary. You may have to compare the current draft with an earlier one in order to ensure that no paragraphs, illustrations or tables have been dropped.

(b) Style and usage; plain language

Correct any weaknesses of the types listed below early in the revision process. As in step (a), they may require recasting of parts or all of a sentence or paragraph, as well as significant deletions.

  • Unnecessarily long, complex sentences
  • Unacceptable neologisms or jargon:

    People who are within five years of retirement will be attritted.

  • Long multiple-noun phrases
  • Verbiage and redundancy ("excessive verbiage"; "countries such as Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, etc.")
  • Excessive repetition:

    While most job seekers spend fewer than five hours a week looking for a job, job seeking is considered a full-time job in the Job Finding Club.

  • Ambiguity
  • Improper prepositional usage
  • Misuse of a word (see 12.03 Words commonly misused or confused for affect/effect, amount/number and other problems)
  • Gallicisms in vocabulary and syntax ("realize a project," "training program of nurses")
  • Wrong level of language or style, given end use of document
  • Mixed metaphors ("We must put our shoulders to the wheel and take the bull by the horns.")
  • Uneuphonic effects:

    Presentation of the new provincial prison program will be postponed pending further planning.

(c) Uniform vocabulary

Ensure that only one term is used for the same concept ("eligibility for/admissibility to/right to benefits").

(d) Elimination of stereotyping

Correct any parts of the text that fail to give a fair and representative picture of women, ethnic and visible minorities, Indigenous people and people with disabilities. Here, too, corrections may necessitate structural change.

At this stage the paragraph and sentence structure of the text is to all intents and purposes final. You can begin to check the more technical features.

(e) Names and titles; geographical names; addresses

  • Misspelling of a person’s name or failure to adopt preferred spelling
  • Failure to use appropriate form of address (The Right Honourable, The Honourable, etc.)
  • Erroneous official title (Commission instead of Board, President instead of Chairman)
  • Inconsistent presentation of a person’s title

  • Wrong English version of a place name
  • Use of commas and parentheses in a street address:

    168 Radcliffe Crescent
    Regina, Saskatchewan
    168, Radcliffe Crescent
    Regina (Saskatchewan)

(f) Spelling; punctuation; hyphenation and compounding; abbreviations; numerical expressions; grammar

Because of deletions and recasting of phrases and sentences, pay particular attention to punctuation, capitalization and grammar. For instance, sentences may lack a verb, an initial capital letter, a co-ordinating conjunction, or an essential punctuation mark. Redundancy may also have been introduced.

The following types of error are commonplace.

  • Misspelling
  • Misprints
  • Punctuation errors, including the overuse of quotation marks
  • Incorrect capitalization
  • Erroneous compounding or word division
  • Failure to ensure that, when first used, an abbreviation follows the full name of the entity it represents, unless the abbreviation is well known
  • Incorrect form of an abbreviation
  • Inconsistency in presenting numbers (as numerals or words)
  • Erroneous or inconsistent use of decimal point
  • Inconsistency in presenting SI/metric symbols, including spacing between symbols and figures
  • Inaccurate transcription of numbers from one draft to the next
  • Arabic in place of Roman numerals, and vice versa
  • Non-agreement of subject and verb and use of singular noun where plural is required:

    The customer service thrust of this and other departments have been poorly communicated to the general public.

    The Tab and Caps Lock key is found on the left-hand side of the keyboard.

  • No finite verb:


    What to do about it?


    What should we do about it?

  • Comma splice:

    Cod stocks were dropping at an alarming rate, swift action had to be taken.
    (co-ordinating conjunction and required after rate)

  • Dangling participle:

    Omitting the overture, the music began.

    Arising out of a conflict of personalities, the Director General, Finance and Administration, felt compelled to resign and move on.

  • Faulty or imprecise antecedents for pronouns:

    Ross Rebagliati snowboarded down the ski slope, which is now a recognized event in winter olympics competition.

    Sam visited his brother every day while he was unemployed.

  • Faulty parallelism:

    The new sales program was stimulating and a challenge.

    ( . . . challenging.)

    The solution lies not in prohibition or censorship but in developing self-control.

    ( . . . the development of . . .)

    This type of product has three advantages:

    • It is strong.
    • It is inexpensive.
    • Long life. (It has a long life. or It is durable.)

  • Misuse of restrictive and non-restrictive constructions (see 7.14 Restrictive/non-restrictive)
  • Incomplete constructions (faulty ellipsis):

    Aircraft land and take off from Winnipeg airport at very short intervals.

    ( . . . land at . . .)

    The building is as old, if not older than, the Library of Parliament.

    ( . . . as old as . . .)

(g) Reference notes

  • Incomplete references to cited works
  • Failure to give a reference for a work cited in the text
  • Cross-references leading nowhere
  • Erroneous numbering of references
  • Too many footnotes per page

(h) Format

  • Inconsistent indentation of paragraphs or quotations
  • Inconsistent line length
  • Inconsistent presentation of headings
    • fluctuations between italics, boldface and underlining
    • headings randomly centred and placed at left margin
    • failure to number sections of document in a logical order
    • variable spacing after headings
  • Inconsistent use of different type sizes, fonts and typefaces
  • Confusion between the letter "l" and the numeral "1" and between the letter "O" and the numeral "0"
  • Widows and orphans (see 16.07 Proofreader’s marks(c))
  • Non-alignment of columns, particularly in tables
  • Too much white space within the body of the text
  • Faulty presentation of quotations

(i) Research

If solutions are not readily available, make a note of problems to be resolved and conduct the required research after steps (a) to (h) have been completed. You can thus avoid frequent interruptions to your work.

(j) Final check

Reread the revised text for uniformity and completeness.

See 16.08 Revision checklist for revision checklist.