How to reduce the amount of time spent revising


Posted June 11, 2019

Revision can be one of the most important phases of writing, but executed poorly, it can take as much or more time to revise as to create the original draft. How can your organization reduce the amount of time spent revising and still produce strong written documents?


When writers start drafting without understanding what they’re trying to communicate, or how they need to communicate it to successfully reach their intended audience, they will spend much more time on revisions than if they had just spent a few minutes upfront answering basic questions about the project. Writers should always take the time to plan their writing project, come up with ideas, and organize those ideas in a way that will communicate effectively with the audience. By taking that time before they start writing, writers can save time after they finished drafting.

Think about revisions in layers

In our article, "Why editing for voice or personal style is a time waster," we describe the four major types of editing: developmental, mechanical, line editing, and copyediting. Each type represents a layer of revisions, starting with big picture (developmental) and working down to proofreading for spelling and grammar errors. By revising separately for these issues, writers can handle editing in a much more focused and time-effective way.

Don't revise for voice or personal style

One layer of revisions writers should skip: personal style. This tip applies mostly to editing someone else's writing. It can be tempting to revise the work not so much to make the piece more effective, but rather to make it sound more like you had written it yourself. This is a waste of time. Revisions should focus on correcting actual errors and improving the effectiveness of the piece, and that’s all.

Create a revision checklist, style guide, or writing rubric

Particularly if an organization produces the same kinds of documents repeatedly, a checklist, style guide, and/or writing rubric can speed the editing process by giving it more structure. With such a guide, writers will have fewer questions during drafting and will know what to look for during revisions. A rubric will also help the writer better understand what to include and how to communicate it, which can also speed the drafting process.

Beef up your writing skills

Revising, like all aspects of professional writing, is a skill. That's good news! That means with some training and practice, you can revise more effectively and quickly. One of the most straightforward ways to improve and speed up your team's revisions is to spend some time with a professional instructor who can help them develop the skills and learn new techniques.
About Hurley Write, Inc.
Hurley Write, Inc., a certified women-owned small business (WBENC and WOSB), Historically Underutilized (HUB), and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE), has been designing and teaching customized onsite and online technical, business, and scientific writing courses as well as communications boot camps for over 30 years. We also develop and teach specialty courses, such as how to write proposals and standard operating procedures (SOPs) and deviation and investigation reports, and how to prepare and give great presentations.