Experienced writers think of editing as a way to add polish to their paper. Spending time fixing mistakes adds some extra shine to your writing.
Our top two suggestions for editing are to print out your paper and to read through it aloud. By looking at a printed version you will be able to see text in a new light, and you won’t gloss over mistakes as quickly. Similarly, reading aloud makes you realize when something just doesn’t sound quite right. If you would never say it to someone, then you probably shouldn’t write it either.
By the time you get around to editing you might be sick of your paper. So find someone else to read it over.
You can give them this sheet to check for errors: Editing Checklist
When you edit someone’s essay, don’t just criticize the little things. Make sure you think about the big picture, about how everything connects. What is the main point? Are you eager to read on? Are you left with any questions?
Give feedback that is positive and up-building. Focus on how the essay can be improved.
Another great activity you can do is what we like to call “reverse outlining.” This is where someone who is totally new to your essay goes through it and tries to make an outline. You start by reading each paragraph and circling all the key words. Then you try to write a short sentence that captures what the paragraph seems to be saying. When you’re done, check if all the paragraphs relate back to the main argument. Is there any information missing? Could something be added or changed? Reverse outlining helps you understand how others might interpret your essay.
Check out the following resources to help you develop your editorial skills:
- Pages on sentence structure, style, and common errors
- Rules for mechanics (formatting rules)
- Advice for using metaphors in your writing
You can’t go on editing your paper for ever. When you feel you’ve done your best, hand in your essay and relax.
And if you’re a perfectionist, and you have a hard time letting go, just remember that an essay does not have to be a masterpiece for the ages. If it were, your teacher wouldn’t have anything to do. So clean up your desk, thank your editors, and go have some fun!