You have finished a long-feared paper and now feel like a hero who has saved the world. Or at least who saved the grades. It seems that now it is high time to relax and forget about the task until the submission deadline (or submit and forget for good). However, very rarely the first version of the paper, especially of the college paper for the last year of study, is good enough to be shown to a professor. It definitely needs proofreading, editing or even revising.
Editing essay means looking at style, words, tone and literary tools used in the paper. Proofreading means eliminating minor errors in grammar and wording, and revision is about changing the content of the paper. While proofreading is a technical thing, revision can turn a mediocre paper into an outstanding one and play a crucial role in your final grade. So never skip revising essay – it is almost as important as writing itself.
How to approach this dreadful task with minimal frustration:
Better do it rested, let the paper sit for a while, so take care to finish the first draft some time in advance to have time for revising editing.
Print it out or at least copy the text to a different document to change the format and background. It will make previously invisible mistakes stand out to a tired eye.
Ask someone to read the draft in paper version or in digital version. If you have feedback from your professor it goes without saying that it should be incorporated in the text firsthand during the revision.
Do the revision twice. You will be surprised how many errors or logical fallacies await you in the already revised paper.
Aspects that need the most attention:
- Coherence and logic of reasoning. This is why you do the writing – to speak about something and to do it in clear mode.
- Structure of the paper. Follow the instructions and include all required parts.
- Citations and references. Take care to cite everything you use from other sources. Include the reference page.
- Technical aspects: grammar, spelling and punctuation.
- Formatting: check margins, font, spacing, title page or headers, page numbering.
Use this checklist to scan through your paper carefully and never to omit a single mistake.
Subject and Topic Development
The soul and flesh of your essay is its subject and everything that you put together to explain the subject. Check if you have a clear thesis in the introduction. Check that it contains some debatable (provable) points, usually 2-3 facts or assumptions.
Check if you have topic sentences at the beginning of paragraphs that reflect the points mentioned in the thesis. If not, rewrite these sentences to reflect these points.
Read each paragraph. Ask questions about each of them: does it dance around the topic sentence? Does each paragraph logically link to the previous one? Do paragraphs include opposing view and the rebuttal of this view if you write an argumentative paper?
Does the conclusion summarize what you have said? Does it reflect the thesis? Does it have some interesting/thoughtful ending?
Organization and Logic
Take care to organize the paper according to instructions given by the professor. So open the instructions and follow them while reading. First: do you have all required parts (like abstract, references, title page, prescribed paper sections)?
Is your thesis focused and debatable? Is it included at the end of introduction? Have you provided generalized background (without detailed data yet) in the introduction?
Have you provided academic evidence after each topic sentence? Have you done explaining and reasoning that show how this evidence relates to the topic? Have you used both your own ideas and ideas of other authors? Have you cited them carefully?
Have you provided the conclusion? Does your paper include some call to action, recommendations or suggestions for further research (if required by the instructions)?
Paragraphs should not be too big or too small. They should range from 3 sentences to a third of a page (okay, half of a page if you are providing some very important explanation). Usually one paragraph deals with one clear idea. And remember once again: topic sentences, evidence, explaining. And see if you have included transitions to make paragraphs hook into each other and stay tightly knit together.
Please take care to check for run-on sentences (very long ones that are not formally or logically connected inside), incomplete sentences and sentences that just ‘fill the void’ without adding any valuable considerations. Fix incomplete and long sentences. Delete useless sentences or rewrite them to be meaningful.
Things to check last, but not the least
Grammar, spelling, punctuation: these are three whales upon which the impression made by your essay rests. No content can compensate for silly mistakes and typos that plague the text. Check them last since now you have the final version of the paper and no content changes will be introduced afterword.
See that subject and verb are in perfect agreement and that your sentences have both.
In majority of cases it is recommended to write in present tense, and this simple rule can save you struggles with complex grammar constructions. Use –ing forms of verbs or conjunctions to compensate for full sentences since it makes the writing look simpler and smarter at the same time (and saves space).
Consider this example: ‘By using –ing forms of verbs and constructions you make your writing look smarter.” Or: “To make your paper look smarter, use conjunction plus infinitive”. That’s how it works.
Do not miss obligatory articles and do not overdo passive voice. Use active voice where possible (and it is possible practically always).
Check for typos. Check for words that were incorrectly replaced by the spellchecker, as write changed into right, or from changed into form. This really looks silly. Sorry.
Check capitalization, use of italics and unnecessary bold font.
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