Pro Tips / March 26, 2015

Improve your grade with this one easy trick: Editing!

How to Revise, Edit and Proofread Your Writing

While much attention has been given to writing and planning an essay, most students don’t give a lot of thought to editing their essays. AS the semester is getting to the point where many are writing final term papers, this is good to keep in mind. Whatever sort of writing you do, it’s important to revise and edit your work- this is especially important for essays you are handing in for a grade. However much time you took over the piece on the first draft, you’ll always find a few mistakes to correct.

Before you start, you should review your past writing from the past to present to identify frequent error types. Note these common mistake areas. This will help you know what to look for. And you have the added bonus of correcting these common errors you make be eliminated with the more papers you write.

Do nothing (for a day or two)

Set your work aside for a period of time – don’t hit ‘Save’ on the first draft then start again straight away on the second pass. You’ll come to the work afresh if you leave it alone for a while.

Let your writing sit for a while. It may make more sense if you sleep on it. Or, it may make less sense after you have slept on it. At least you’ll know which.

For essays, try to allow at least a day. Short stories can sometimes need longer – your mind will carry on mulling over the ideas whilst you’re doing other things. The longer the work, the longer you should give it.

Revision

Read over your whole piece quite quickly. Circle any typos and mistakes that you spot, but concentrate on overall flow. If it’s an essay, check for any gaps in logic or any sides of the argument you might have missed. If it’s a short story, do any passages drag – or go too fast?

Print out the first draft, and read through the whole thing, concentrating on the overall flow of the piece. Circle any typos or mistakes that you notice, but focus on the big picture.Are there any logical missteps, points you’ve not backed up, or angles to the argument that you’ve missed?

When you edit your paper, reread to ensure your paper is well organized with smooth paragraph transitions and that your thesis is backed by solid evidence. Take your time during this process to ensure that you are as thorough as possible. The editing process includes reviewing several different areas:

  • Content: review your essay for content completeness, making sure that you have fulfilled the assignment and that all of the information provided is accurate. Identify any areas that could benefit from additional details or examples.
  • Structure:
    • Try creating a brief outline of your paper to ensure the organization is logical.
    • Review your writing to ensure that your introduction contains a clear thesis that makes clear your purpose for writing. Try asking someone to read the first paragraph or two and tell you what he or she thinks the paper will discuss. Make sure that subsequent paragraphs relate to your thesis and are presented in a logical order.
    • Make sure each individual paragraph contains a topic sentence, and that each subsequent sentence in the paragraph relates to that topic.
  • Style: review your paper to ensure that your tone is appropriate for your audience and consistent throughout your paper. Edit any awkward or wordy sentences to maximize the clarity and effectiveness of your writing and to ensure that your language is clear and smooth. Try reading the paper aloud, listening for anything that sounds incorrect, unclear or awkward. You can also use text-to-speech software for this purpose.

Citations: make sure to appropriately cite any quotes or ideas obtained from external sources. Use the citation style that your department uses, commonly APA or Chicago depending.

Proofread your paper. Like editing, it is important to take your time during the proofreading process. Watch for misspellings, grammatical errors and typos. In proofreading, also pay close attention to sentence structure, punctuation and word choice. Check for each error type one by one to catch more errors. Read on for additional details regarding proofreading.

  • Spelling: don’t rely on your word processor’s spell check feature, as it will miss any misspellings that form another word. If you typed to instead of two, for example, spell check will not catch the error.
  • Grammar: don’t rely too heavily on your word processor’s grammar checker. This feature is most useful for identifying run-on sentences and use of the passive voice.
  • Punctuation: Know why punctuation marks were placed in certain places. Check any punctuation rules you are unsure of.

Allow someone else to edit and proofread your paper. Another pair of eyes is bound to catch any errors that you may have overlooked. Also try reading your paper backwards, word by word. This forces your brain to comprehend each individual word, allowing you to catch more typos and grammatical errors.

It may seem like a lot, but these steps can make a good paper into a great one, and can substantially improve your grade.


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