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CDO Revising

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From Writing Better (Graham & Harris, 2005), the CDO acronym is a revising strategy for students to help remember essential features of revising their writing.


To help students learn to effectively revise their writing, the teacher should explicitly instruct students on the use of strategies like CDO.

To begin, the teacher instructs students to read their writing one sentence at a time.

Additionally, for the steps noted below, the teacher should provide students with specific cards or notes to support. This may also be done with annotations, but it could be difficult to read the text once done.

The student then performs the following steps:

Step 1: COMPARE – read the sentence

Step 2: DIAGNOSE – Select the best evaluation cards such as:

  • This doesn’t sound right.
  • This is not what I intended to say.
  • This is not useful to my paper.
  • This is good!
  • People may not understand this.
  • People won’t be interested in this.
  • People won’t believe this.

Step 3: OPERATE – Select a tactic card to address each evaluation card:

  • Rewrite.
  • Add more.
  • Leave this part out.
  • Change the wording.

Step 4: OPERATE – Make the revision.

The goal with this strategy is to teach students to identify the sorts of things in their writing that are weak and can be improved. By scaffolding that thinking in a procedural, precise manner, students are able to grasp what needs improvement and what they can do to improve that sort of weakness.


Watch another explanation of the strategy with adaptations here:

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