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How to Rewrite Effectively

Rewriting is probably the most important part of the writing process. I can guarantee you that if you take this next step with your child, they will receive at least one letter grade higher than if they stopped right at a first draft. It is important to realize, however, that your child will, most likely, not be excited about rewriting. And nor should they. The important thing at this point is to help them understand that the hard work is really all done, everything is down, and the job of rewriting is to put it all in its right place and polish it off. There are two elements of rewriting, substantive content-oriented rewriting and the busy work of copyediting.

Substantive Content-Oriented Rewriting

  • Critically evaluate the thesis: This is the most important part of any rewrite. If a paper has no thesis or main point, the whole paper will be off. Your child should highlight her thesis sentence, and if she discovers upon rewriting that she actually has no thesis, have her come up with one and stick it as the last sentence in the introduction.

  • Evaluate and rewrite topic sentences: Having clear well-developed topic sentences will greatly clarify your child's writing. If your child finds a paragraph without a topic sentence, have him complete the following statement: "This paragraph is about (insert topic) and (topic) is relevant to my paper because of (insert answer)." When this is done, strip off the artificial structure, leaving the topic and its relevance to the paper.

  • Get help and develop an Editor's Review Sheet: There is no shame in your child getting help to rewrite. I still fax much of my writing to my mom. The trick is to help your child use help effectively. To do so she must ask the reader active questions. (Use this template.)

    Busy Work Rewriting

  • Help your child run spell check: Often kids can confuse words that look alike. To make spell checking more effective, sit with your child while he goes through and offer to read any of the words that look alike. Also, have your child use the "replace all" function and when in doubt, skip a word and go back to it using an electronic dictionary or thesaurus.

  • Have your child read out loud to you: Reading out loud is a great way to catch little mistakes.

  • Have your child read it backwards: Reading a paper from the end to the beginning allows your child to focus entirely on the language and ignore content -- a good way to pick up mistakes.

  • Highlight: When your child runs across anything that sounds awkward have her highlight it. There is most likely a mistake in there.

  • Pay attention to words that look alike: Who/how, their/there, God/dog, etc. are always places for mistakes.

  • Watch for passive voice: This is a tough one and mostly a concern for advanced students. Passive voice is a type of sentence construction that occurs when the subject of the sentence is passive and does not do the action of the sentence. For example, "the paper was written by Jon" is passive voice. "Jon wrote the paper" is active. Many teachers see this as a negative, and it will be held against your child in the grading process. To eliminate passive voice, be on the watch for key words like was, is, that, which, and pay attention to any sentence where the subject is not doing the action.

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