Stage two: Middle view
When you undertake Stage Two editing (Middle View), it is important to remember that you are focusing on the content, context and meaning of the piece of writing you are editing. In Stage Two editing, you are focusing in detail on the coherence and clarity of sentences in a paragraph, ensuring that all sentences clearly and logically contribute to the development of the key ideas in the paragraph.
At Stage Two, the key question to remember is: how does each sentence relate to other sentences within the paragraph?
You can see from the diagram below that Stage One (Big Picture) and Stage Two (Middle View) are both part of a continuing editing process, just like the overall writing cycle. Once again, these editing stages are iterative - meaning, that you might go through these stages a few times before your writing is completed.
Guidelines for stage two: middle view editing
- Are there logical connections between the points of the argument? Does the argument need further substantiation and explanation?
- Does the evidence support what it claims to support?
- Does every point contribute to the argument? Is it relevant?
- Is the argument repetitive? Are there any redundant comments or sections?
- Are the right words/expressions used to make the points you want to make? Is your language appropriate to the topic and academic style?
- Are the sentence lengths appropriate - too long or too short?
In this section, we’ll consider editing for coherence. If a piece of writing is coherent it means that the writing makes sense – it follows the conventions of the particular type of text (e.g. essay, report, thesis), and the ideas and information flow in a logical sequence. A coherent piece of writing fulfills its purpose.
At paragraph level every sentence needs to contribute to the purpose of the paragraph. That is, every sentence needs to be logically connected to the others in the paragraph. Otherwise, the purpose and meaning of the overall paragraph will be unclear and confusing to the reader. Checking to ensure all the sentences in your paragraphs are logically connected is an important step in the editing process and for achieving overall coherence.
Returning to the image of your piece of writing as a tree, think of your paragraph as a leaf. The introductory sentence, sometimes referred to as the topic sentence, forms the spine and point of the leaf. That is, the topic sentence defines the overall purpose and point of the paragraph. The rest of the sentences in the paragraph act as the veins of the leaf. Each subsequent sentence or vein fleshes out the paragraph with explanations and comments, backed up by evidence. Every vein should have a clear link to the spine of the leaf, and the spine of the leaf should clearly link the point back to the branch. If the sentences are not linked coherently, then they need to be edited, which usually means amending a sentence so the link is clear, or removing it all together if it is irrelevant.
The following activity will show you how to visualise and draw the connections between sentences in your paragraph, making it easier for you to identify sentences that do not link properly to your overall topic and need to be removed or amended.
Check your understanding View
Rearrange the sections below to make a logical paragraph then click check below to check your answer.
Let’s break down the paragraph in the activity above:
From the diagram you will see that the key ideas that form the purpose and topic of the paragraph, as outlined in the topic sentence, are error correction and conflicting views. Each subsequent sentence outlines and links the key ideas associated with the paragraph. The second sentence expands on the topic sentence by defining the purpose of correction as utilising negative evidence to draw attention to errors. The third sentence focuses on an extreme view that corrections have no significant effect and, therefore, teachers should point out errors, but not correct them as this is less time-consuming. The fourth sentence focuses on a more moderate view which indicates that correcting errors can have positive effects if they are undertaken systematically and consistently. The key ideas of each sentence appear to be linked to the main topic sentence.
The next exercise examines whether each sentence actually does connect logically to the topic sentence.
Let’s look at the breakdown of this paragraph again.
Broadly speaking, all four sentences are on the topic of ‘error correction’, but the topic has not been developed to a satisfactory purpose or point. What is missing is a final comment that summarises and links the point you are making on this topic back to the ‘branch’ and to the next topic/paragraph or ‘leaf’.
The next exercise looks at how we might solve this problem.
The better sentence returns to the topic, reinforces the point of examining the conflicting views, and links to the next topic, which is a deeper look at the extreme view.
From unpacking the sentences in this paragraph, it becomes clear that the original paragraph explains the purpose of error correction, but, because it does not develop the point of examining the conflicting views, it does not satisfactorily conclude and link to the next paragraph. As such, some editing is required.
While it might seem a bit cumbersome at first, breaking down paragraphs can really help clarify whether all the sentences in a paragraph logically connect to the paragraph topic and purpose.
Another way to break down your paragraphs is to use a highlighting code. For example, you could use different colours to highlight the topic sentence, evidence, explanation and argument, references, the concluding or link sentence, etc. Highlighting will help you see and assess the content and order within your paragraphs. It can help you to determine if there is something missing or too much of one feature - for instance, you might realise that there is too much evidence and not enough analysis and argument, or that these are in an unclear order.
If a piece of writing has clarity it means that it is well explained and easy to understand – that is, the expression is clear and, therefore, meaningful for the reader. As academic writing is often dense with technical terms and expressions as well as complex ideas, it can sometimes be difficult to write and read.
There are some common problems in expression that you can edit to achieve greater clarity in your writing. Some common problems:
- Long, complex sentences. Such sentences can be confusing and ambiguous.
- Using many words when one will suffice; using excessive technical or highly formal vocabulary when direct, simple vocabulary would be more effective. This is called verbosity or wordiness.
- Densely packed information or data.
Let’s look at some examples of these common problems and some possible solutions. In the following activity, read the example then turn the card to see the suggested solution.
Editing for clarity strategies
Use the following strategies to edit your work for clarity. Start by selecting and reviewing a paragraph that you’ve written. Apply the tips listed as appropriate to your writing.
Ordering ideas in sentences
- Main clause (idea) first, then additional information/ideas.
- Do I need to reverse the parts of the sentence?
- Do I need to write up my information and ideas in chronological order?
- Do I need to write up my information and ideas in cause-and-effect order?
- Identify the main and secondary ideas in the sentence; rewrite these as two separate sentences.
- Replace conjunctions and/or transitional phrases with a full stop.
- List separate ideas and present them as a bullet list or visual representation.
- Reverse the order of information/ideas in the sentence to achieve a logical flow.
- Delete words or phrases that don’t contribute (redundancy).
- Delete unnecessary qualifiers and modifiers (e.g. In point of fact …, In other words …).
- Delete self-references (I, myself, etc.).
- Use simple, familiar words suitable to your topic.
- Use concrete words.
- Avoid using archaisms and highly formal terms (where appropriate).
- Use a variety of types of words – nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, etc.
- Use content and subject appropriate words.
Managing dense information
- One piece of information per sentence (where appropriate).
- Consider presenting the information as a combination of written text and visual representation.