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Academic Writing

Global vs. Local Revision: What's the Difference?

In order to become a more proficient writer, you need to be able to think of your writing in "global" and "local" ways. According to the Allyn & Bacon Guide to Writing Concise Edition, "You revise locally whenever you make changes to a text that affect only the one or two sentences that you are currently working on. In contrast, you revise globally when a change in one part of your draft drives changes in other parts of the draft" (275).

Basically, global revision involves the big picture of your essay; it relates to ideas, purpose, audience, evidence, analysis, and organization.

Local revision focuses more on sentence-level revision: changing words so that a sentence is clearer, correcting grammatical or spelling errors, etc.

As a writer, part of your job is to be a successful global reviser as well as a successful local reviser.

Strategies for Global and Local Revision

Here are some strategies, and reasons behind the strategies, for using local and global revision.

1. Throw out a draft and start over completely.

      - The original draft was a way to get started: to discover ideas, and understand what to
        write about.
      - A new draft allows the writer to become more focused and create a new structure for
        the essay.

2. Cross out significant portions and rewrite.

      - Now that the writer's ideas have changed, he/she realizes the original passage was not
        focused on the new points.

      - The original may have been too confusing for the reader.

3. Cut and paste; move parts around; write new transitions, etc.

      - Parts of the essay need to be reorganized.

      - The writer wrote each part down as it occured to him/her, not in the order that makes
        the most sense to a reader.
      - The conclusion states the point of view more clearly than the intro; thus the conclusion
        becomes part of a new intro.

4. Add/revise topic sentences of paragraphs; add transitions, etc.

      - Writer recognizes that signposts to the reader are not clear enough.

      - Writer realizes that the entire paragraph needs to be rewritten, and that the topic
        sentences no longer fit.

5. Add new material.

      - Elements of the essay need to be further developed or created (evidence, introduction,
        conclusion, discussion of evidence, etc.).
      - The writer recognizes that there need to be clearer connections between the evidence
        and his/her ideas.

6. Delete material.

      - With a new focus, certain material is no longer relevant to the argument, even if it was
        previously useful.

7. Rewrite and/or edit sentences.

      - Passage is grammatically incorrect.

      - Passage is unclear, choppy, wordy, or lacked voice.

      - Passage is not focused on the topic.

(adapted from Ramage, 2009)