Editing is an essential part of the writing process. And it’s the part that students most often skip over. So much can be gained from taking the time to edit your work. Besides the obvious spelling and grammar errors, there’s fixing flaws in logic, eliminating repetition, polishing word choice and improving the overall flow of the essay.
Follow these tips to find out how to improve your essays with editing:
Step 1 - Embrace Drafts
The first thing you need to accept in order to edit your papers well is that you’ll need to write more than one draft. Sometimes a first draft only needs some light editing and sometimes it needs a major overhaul that requires a couple more rounds before it’s finished. If you’re used to cranking out an essay and turning it in as soon as you’ve written the last word, you’ll have to adjust to the fact that editing requires more time and effort than you’re used to putting into your work.
Step 2 - Give It Time
Time is one of the most effective editing tools. Professional writers often put their work away for a while before going back to re-read it so that they can look at it again with fresh eyes. If you tend to write your papers the night before they’re due, you’re missing out on the benefit of this technique. The longer you wait after finishing your first draft and when you go back to edit it, the more thorough and successful your editing will be.
Step 3 - Peer-Edit
Asking a friend or parent to read over your essay is a uniquely effective way to edit it. It gives you a totally different perspective that you just wouldn’t be able to have on your own. Make sure you choose someone who is either a good student or an educated adult. And ask them to be honest in their critique.
Step 4 - Read It Out Loud
When you read something silently, your mind tends to fill in blanks and skip over errors. But when you read something out loud, it tends to highlight the mistakes. Reading out loud also helps you hear the flow of your essay. If you find yourself running out of breath as you read through a marathon sentence, you’ll know you need to break it up. If you stumble over the words, it might be a case of awkward phrasing. Be sure to pause and take notes on what you need to edit as you read through your essay out loud.
Step 5 - Divide and Conquer
Another strategy for editing is to do several rounds of it. It can be overwhelming to scan for spelling, grammar, flow, repetition and content. So why not break them up?
- Read through your draft the first time for content - Make sure there are no holes in your logic. Have you used good examples in your body paragraphs or do you need to find better ones?
- Look for word repetition - It’s a common error to repeat words in an essay. Get a thesaurus and find some alternatives.
- Flow - How does it sound? Is it easy to follow or is it confusing? Using connecting words can vastly improve an essay’s readability. Words such as “Moreover”, “Therefore”, “Likewise”, “On the other hand”, “Alternatively” can help signal the direction you’re going to the reader.
- Spelling & grammar - Check for run-on sentences, tense and pronoun consistency, commonly confused words (their vs. they’re, your vs. you’re, its vs. it’s) and general spelling mistakes.
Step 6 - Use Editing Tools
There are a lot of editing apps and tools available to help you spot errors you missed. Try the Hemingway App, an easy-to-use app to help you simplify your language, get rid of run-on sentences, and alert you when you’ve used passive voice. ProWritingAid has a free version for up to 3,000 words. Take advantage of their advanced editing tools to guard against spelling and grammar mistakes, plagiarism and much more.
If editing sounds difficult, don’t worry. The more you do it, the better you’ll get at it. And the better your papers will be for it.