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Revising, Editing and Publishing

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Once a learner’s thoughts have been made tangible in the form of a draft, the next step is to refine that draft until it is ready for publication and sharing, depending on the goal. Having another set of eyes to take a look at the draft can be helpful at this point. A number of cloud-based services make collaboration on writing projects easier than ever. In this section, you’ll explore some of these collaboration tools, along with tools for checking spelling and grammar to produce a more polished product that can be proudly shared with the world.   

Revising

The goal with this step is to get learners closer to a final product that is cohesive and compelling. Here the focus turns to the audience and their needs, by addressing questions such as:

  • What does the audience already know about this topic?
  • Does the organization make sense? Are there any gaps where further explanation is needed? 
  • Is the language as concise as it can be? Are there places where it could be tightened up? 
  • Are the connections clear? Does the content flow from one idea to another?

With cloud-based editors such as Google Docs, learners can easily provide their feedback as peer editors using the commenting feature (which is only available when a document is shared with edit/comment permissions):

  1. Highlight some text or place the cursor where a comment is needed.
  2. Choose Insert, Comment.
  3. Enter the comment in the comment box that opens to the right of the document and choose Comment.
  4. Choose the more options button (three dots) for a comment to edit or delete it. 

Peer editors can choose Reply for any comment to start a discussion about it. It is also possible to “tag” someone with their email address so that they get an email notification when a comment or response is posted. Google Docs also supports a “Suggesting” mode. With this mode, any changes to the document become suggestions that need to be accepted by the author. 

The online version of Microsoft Word has a commenting feature that works in a similar way. Both Google and Microsoft have taken steps to make their commenting features more accessible to screen reader users, as explained in these support documents;

For educators, the Wise Critique method for providing feedback has been found to be helpful in improving the academic performance of learners who have historically struggled in school. It provides a model for constructive feedback that is more likely to be acted on by learners to revise their work and make it better.   

Editing

Editing (or proofing) involves the final preparation of the work into a version that is ready for sharing or publication. Most of this step involves mechanics: checking for any spelling and grammar errors missed in earlier steps, replacing some words with synonyms to avoid repetition, and ensuring the presentation of the information (fonts, spacing, etc.) works well for the intended audience. This step may also involve checking citations to make sure the work meets the requirements of a standard such as APA or MLA. While learners can address some of these areas in earlier steps of the writing process, focusing on them too much at that point can detract from forward progress.  

Spell and Grammar Checking

Most word processing applications now include a spelling and grammar checker that can alert learners about errors as soon as they are recognized. All that is needed is to select the flagged item to get some suggestions: either a different spelling or a grammar correction. This feature should be turned on by default, but if it is not, enable it as follows:

  • On Office for Windows, choose File, Options, Proofing and make sure “Check spelling as you time” and “Mark grammar errors as you type” are selected.
  • On Office for the Mac, choose Word, Preferences, Spelling and Grammar and make sure both “Check spelling as you type” and “Check grammar as you type” are selected.
  • In Google Docs, choose Tools, Spelling & Grammar and make sure both “Show spelling suggestions” and “Show grammar suggestions” have a check mark next to them.

Learners can also perform a full check of their document at any time:

  • In most Office applications, choose Review, Spelling and Grammar. 
  • In Google Suite applications, choose Tools, Spelling and Grammar, Spelling and Grammar Check. 

Newer Office applications support a more advanced, AI-powered Editor feature that performs additional checks in addition to spelling and grammar. By signing in to their Microsoft 365 account, learners can get suggestions for style refinements like clarity, conciseness, formality, vocabulary suggestions, and more. Editor replaces Spelling and Grammar in the Review tab of the Ribbon and it is also available as an extension for the Chrome and Edge web browsers. Other tools for checking grammar and writing style include Grammarly and the Hemingway Editor

Google Suite applications include a built-in Dictionary learners can use to look up unfamiliar words or to find an alternative that is a better fit in the current sentence. Highlighting a word and choosing Tools, Dictionary will reveal the definition(s) and synonyms in a pane on the right side of the screen. Similarly, on the iPad and iPhone learners can highlight a word (by tapping, holding and using the handles to make a selection), then tap the selection and choose Look Up from the popover menu  to open the built-in dictionary. 

Citations and Bibliographies

Digital citizenship involves giving proper credit when building on the work of others and avoiding plagiarism. Each discipline has a style guide that determines how referenced works need to be cited in academic papers. For example, the social sciences typically follow the style manual of the American Psychological Association (APA). The Modern Language Association (MLA) is also often used as a style guide for college-level writing . The following resources provide more information on how to use each of these style guides:

A number of tools are available to help learners to store, manage and retrieve citations to build bibliographies:

  • Zotero: free, open source reference management software for Windows and Mac. ZoteroBib is a web-based tool for creating quick bibliographies. 
  • Mendeley Reference Manager:  free reference manager available for Windows, Mac, Linux and mobile devices (Apple and Android). Mendeley Cite is a Microsoft Word plugin for adding references and bibliographies into MIcrosoft Word documents. Mendeley Web Importer makes it possible to add papers, web pages and other documents into a reference library directly from search engines and academic databases. 
  • EasyBib: the free version can be used to create citations in MLA style only. A subscription to EasyBib Plus adds support for APA and other styles, along with plagiarism and grammar checks. It also removes the ads. An EasyBib extension for Google Chrome is available to make the creation of citations from the web easier.

Readability and Legibility

Improving the readability and legibility of content can reduce the effort required for readers to process and understand the information. Readability refers to how text is arranged on the page (including the use of white space), while legibility refers to how well individual characters can be distinguished from each other. By following a few best practices, writers can significantly improve the experience for their audience:

  • Limit the number of fonts and styles used in a single document, and whenever possible use sans-serif fonts for body text. Sans-serif fonts, such as Arial or Verdana, lack any  ornamentation at the end of their strokes. They can be easier to read, especially at smaller text sizes.
  • Start with a good baseline size of 12pt for the text size.
  • Left align blocks of text to avoid the uneven spacing that is required for full justification. 
  • Use of a line spacing of at least one and half times the text size to avoid any crowding some learners may experience if the lines are two close together. 
  • Break up long paragraphs into more manageable sections using descriptive headings. 

For additional tips for improving the readability and legibility of your content, visit Designing for Accessibility with POUR.   

Publishing

The final product may only be shared with peers in the same class, or it may be published online for the entire world to see it. With the proper scaffolds, every learner can gain the confidence and skills to contribute to the discourse on a number of important topics impacting their communities. From blogs and websites to e-books there are many options for how learners can publish their work to a wider audience as they develop their voice, including:

  • Blog/website creation tools such as Wordpress, Medium, Wix and Google Sites. There has been substantial improvement on the support for accessibility among these services that allow learners to create a blog or website without the need for any coding experience. For example, all of the services listed now allow authors to add alternative text to images. 
  • E-book authoring tools such as Book Creator, Pages (with EPUB templates) and Microsoft Word (with the WordToEPUB plugin). Many of these tools support exporting books in the EPUB format, an industry standard supported on a range of reading tools. You can learn more about EPUB and its benefits by visiting our Getitng Started with EPUB page. 

The goal may provide some room for flexibility, with writing being just one of the options for expression provided to learners. A presentation that is recorded and posted on a class a video, a website, a podcast, these are all other options that may require some writing, but do not make it the central focus of the activity. In accordance to Universal Design for Learning principles, learners can choose from a menu of choices to find the options that work best for them, while at the same time building their skill in the areas where they need more support. 

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

Federal law governing rights of children with disabilities to receive free and appropriate public education in least restrictive environment.

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e-book

Electronic version of a book.

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Accessibility

Access for all people, including people with disabilities, to web environments.

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Alt Tag (alternative text)

Brief description of a single image designed to be read by a screenreader as an alternative to the image.

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EPUB

Distribution and interchange format standard for digital publications and documents.

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