Writing Reviser: Now Offering More Opportunities for Improvement


When I’ve had the chance over the last few years to show Writing Reviser in classrooms and at conferences, I’ve been careful to point that its purpose is not punitive. Specifically, I mean that the tool does not simply search for and highlight mistakes that student writers inevitably make. Instead, it provides feedback on student writing that helps them find opportunities for making smart improvements. In short, it helps them think like experienced writers.

Working with your feedback, we’re happy to announce that we've added a number of exciting new features to the Writing Reviser menu. In a word, we’ve revised the Reviser. And we're confident you and your students will love the additions.

Give meaning to those empty expressions.

Writing Reviser now highlights expletives—words or phrases that fill out a sentence without adding meaning.

The two most common expletives are “it” and “there.” Notice how the following sentence becomes more direct and forceful if we revise to eliminate the expletive: 

Weak: There are four reasons why I love tacos.
Better: I love tacos for four reasons.

Expand your word choice.

We now highlight all cases of word recurrence—words appearing more than once in a sentence or in two successive sentences.

Lazy: On sunny days, my cat Percy loves to find a sunny spot in the foyer to relax. If the day isn’t sunny, he’ll just hop on my sofa for his nap.
Better: My cat Percy loves to find a sunny spot in the foyer to relax. If the day is cloudy, he’ll just hop on my sofa for his nap.

Vary your subject.

We identify repeated subjects— noun or pronoun subjects repeated in successive sentences. 

Repetitive: Mimi can speak Spanish and German. When Mimi speaks Spanish, she talks very fast.
Mimi can speak Spanish and German, but she talks faster in Spanish.

Tell us what “This” means.

Sentence clarity is enhanced with the new vague reference section. Communication breaks down when students use words like “this” without specifying a particular idea.

Unclear: This is what confuses me.
Clear: This equation confuses me.

Exaggeration is not always bigger and better.

We now show examples of overstatement, exaggerated expressions that are a problem common to student writers.

Overstated: No one can beat my friend at chess.
Better: No one in my school has ever beaten my friend at chess.

Give context to those quotations.

We now point out cases of unembedded quotations. We tell students that every quotation they use should be attached to one of their own sentences.

Unembedded: Hamlet is depressed. “To be, or not to be—that is the question.”
Embedded: Hamlet expresses his despair when he says, “To be, or not to be—that is the question.”

Look for some new in the old.

Finally, we’ve updated some of the original features to make them even more robust. We now find more examples of

  • Wordiness
  • Vague Words
  • Clichés and jargon

These new additions lend additional support to the goal of Writing Reviser. By allowing students to see what they have actually written in a way that would not be possible without the benefit of the tool, they can continue to make meaningful revisions--and thus write with greater precision and power.

Look for more additions to Writing Reviser in the coming months.

And don't forget - Writing Reviser is available as a free Google Doc Add-on and a free Microsoft Office Add-in!


About Author

Terry Hardison

Terry Hardison oversees the development of English language arts resources for Curriculum Pathways. Prior to joining SAS, Terry worked for 21 years as a teacher and as a district-level English language arts supervisor.

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