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Annotation of Toby Fulwiler’s “Provocative Revision” Essay

Provocative Revision by Toby Fulwiler is an essay that talks about how he, as an experienced teacher of writing, has come up with different techniques in the overlooked art of re-writing. His paper specifically discusses about where, when, and how to revise. To successfully do this, he presents four provocative suggestions to help students in revising their papers. These techniques are: limiting, adding, switching, and transforming. Limiting. Generalization is bad in writing. The cure for this, Fulwiler argues, is limiting.

Generalities do not have much appeal because most people already know about them. What catches the readers’ attention are details of things they already know. Telling details makes subjects come to life. Fulwiler further suggests limiting on time, action, scope, and focus. Adding. The natural thing to do in revisions is to add new information. Some techniques on adding are adding dialog and interviews. Adding dialog adds drama and appeal. Adding interviews, on the other hand, makes the paper more credible, especially when experts are part of the interview.

Switching. Switching involves re-writing the story by using a different approach or perspective. Sometimes, a change in point of view makes a paper interesting. A change of voice “changes the nature of the information and the way it is received” (Fulwiler 165). Changing voice could mean changing the point of view from first to third person, from subjective to objective, and vice-versa. Transforming. Transforming involves overhauling the whole paper, making the way it is presented totally different from its preceding draft. Provocative Revision Critique/Comments

Toby Fulwiler, establishes his credibility in the subject of revising by saying that he has been teaching writing for a long time; a good technique to persuade an audience to listen to what he is saying. Despite his extensive experience in education, he humbly says that his education is far from over. He also says that despite him “provoking” his students to revise their papers, he makes sure that the students’ styles are kept. There is some truth in his views on generalization as a bad technique. Unfortunately, the world still has much to learn.

Sometimes general things can be new to some people. Since Fulwiler has a specific audience in mind, his assumption is valid; otherwise, he too is guilty of generalization. Another thing worth commenting on his subject on limiting is the way he makes limiting like tabloid writing—he says that details on personalities, problems, and scandals are interesting subjects. He presents a problem in his teaching—students who don’t do their own work. He claims that by making students revise their work, he can make students (even those that don’t do their own) do their own work.

He fails to realize that the students who ask others to do their work for them may do the same thing with the revisions. Other than these, the rest of Fulwiler’s article is quite good; he provides passages from his students’ work as examples for bad and good writing. The good news is that those that turned out to be bad examples at first, turned out to be good papers after some revision using the techniques presented. Work Cited Fulwiler, Toby. “Provocative Revision. ” The St. Martin’s Sourcebook for Writing Tutors. 3rd Ed. Christina Murphy and Steve Sherwood. Boston, New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2008. 156-168.


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