Revising can generate problems


1. When you revise, you might find that your original ideas are muddled, that you don't know what you are saying. Such self-awareness can be painful. (But self-awareness separates humans from other animals and may enlighten.)


2. Clarification of poor writing may expose you to criticism. If you are trying to hide that you don't know what you are talking about or that you don't have anything to say, or if what you have to say is distasteful to the reader, dense and static prose can be effective. Your murky style can mask your ignorance and soften the bad news. You can also use a murky writing style to remain ignorant of your own ignorance---see number 1.


(But if you are trying to understand and explain what you have done, why you did it, and what you think about it, then dense and static prose will be ineffective. The reason is that incomplete, unrelated, and illogical thoughts can easily hide behind passive verbs, prepositional phrases, and abstract nouns. When we revise, we clarify and complete our ideas, we closely examine how ideas relate to each other and whether they are logical. If you value the truth and self-awareness, you will be happy to use revision as a tool for improving your thinking.)


3. Some of your colleagues expect dense and dull academic prose. Many academics know only one writing style: the bureaucratic style. It was the style of their professors, and it will be the style of their students. It is the style that sounds important and scientific. They may consider a direct and more vigorous style too informal.


(When revising, you will need to decide whom you are trying to please, which standard you are trying to meet. If you want to write in a direct and vigorous style, you will sometimes need to fight with editors and others. But enlightened editors will be pleased to read your direct and vigorous prose. If you decide that a bureaucratic style is necessary, revision will help you produce a better bureaucratic document. By learning how to revise, you will be able to change your style to meet your own standards or to meet your boss's expectations.)


4. Revising takes time and is hard work. (But it is also very satisfying.)