Editing

The proof(reading) is in the pudding

Editing isn’t something you do only if you have a bit of spare time after you’ve finished writing your essay; it’s a part of the writing process itself. An unedited essay is an incomplete essay. Always leave time to proofread.

You don’t need to be a grammatical whiz to edit an essay (although it certainly helps). You do, however, need to be patient and thorough. Editing is about attitude. The best editors are able to take a step back and read their essays in an objective manner, as if they had never previously encountered the content in them. Only in this frame of mind can you evaluate how well you communicated your ideas.

Editing Made Easy

Follow these five simple instructions, and your essays will be as close to error-free as they can be:

  • Use a spell-checker. Unless you’re still living in the Stone Age, you used a word processing program like Microsoft Word to write your essay. Run a spell-check. The newest word processing programs check not only spelling but also grammar. However…
  • Be careful. Don’t just blindly accept every change the spell-checker suggests. Sometimes spell-checkers can be wrong. They can spot spelling and grammar errors, but they can’t find many common mistakes that students make, such as awkward transitions, vagueness and too many big words. That’s why it’s a good idea to…
  • Print off your essay. Reading it on paper makes errors easier to spot. Sit down with a pen and slowly, carefully read it over. Look for spelling and punctuation errors and circle them. Write in any corrections that you want to make. Approach every sentence as if you had never encountered it before (even though you’re the one who wrote it). Look for anything that doesn’t make sense (reading it out loud can help with this). Then…
  • Give it to someone else. Let a friend or relative (preferably not your little brother) read your essay. Print a copy that they can mark up with a pen. Make sure they understand what you’re trying to argue. Have them point out any passages that sound awkward or are hard to understand. Finally…
  • Finalize the changes. Take the printed, marked-up copies and go back to your computer. Fix up your document, run one last spell-check and then print out a final a copy to submit.
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