How to Edit an Essay: A Step-By-Step Guide to Perfecting Your Paper 1

If writing is an art, editing is a science.

 

The moment you finish composing your essay comes the time to begin the process of perfecting it. Carrying out proper edits and revisions is the final step to creating a great paper. Good editing, like writing, is a skill, which must be perfected over time. Even the works of the most prominent writers require skillful editing.

So, how do you actually go about editing your paper to avoid essay pitfalls? How do you determine what changes you should make? This step-by-step guide will show you how to eliminate errors and perfect your writing.

 

 

  1. Step away

It can be tempting to complete your work within minutes. Avoid your urge to get everything done in one go. Instead, take a break when you complete your writing. Spend time doing something unrelated so that you can return to your paper with a fresh eye.

  1. Do the easy part first

Check the formatting guidelines and use an editing software to ensure that you followed general guidelines and formatting requirements. Simple punctuation mistakes and fixable formatting errors will seem careless and unprofessional to your reader.

  1. Keep things clear

A good piece of writing has a clear structure, coherent and obvious transitions between sentences and paragraphs. For example, a standard format would be:

  • A gripping, exciting first paragraph. This is your chance to gain the attention and goodwill of your readers. This is a time to bring up interesting details and tell your readers what point you’re going to make.
  • Your thesis statement declares the purpose of your writing and must appear early in your essay. It is commonly written as the first sentence of the second paragraph.
  • A well-structured body. The body of your writing should cover all of the relevant points that you wish to discuss. Be sure that your piece is written with the clear goal of proving your thesis correct.
  • A strong conclusion. Your conclusion should restate the strongest points that you covered in the body of the document. If the reader is expected to take further action, this is the place to advise them of that.
  1. Say what you mean

Review the writing to ensure that your language is both clear and precise. Your goal is to concisely convey the relevant information. Use words that create clear, short sentences. Avoid loose language and meaningless fragments. Eliminate all jargon and colloquialisms. Little known terms and clichés must also be removed. It can be tempting to include industry specific phrases and notions in order to make a piece of writing sound more thoroughly researched an authoritative. Be careful with it! The machinations required to fit these things into your writing will stand out to your readers as forced and unnatural.

  1. Let it go

One of the biggest mistakes young writers make is falling in love with their phrasing and word choices. Don’t structure whole paragraphs in the interest of one sentence. Don’t rewrite pages because you’re attached to a turn of a phrase. Be ruthless in your editing and eliminate anything that does not make your paper more readable.

Timothy Davis, an essay expert and tutor at Best Essays shared his thoughts, “Students tend to write long-winded paragraphs that tell rather than show. This can result in essays that are long, but seemingly pointless. I like to encourage students to eliminate every word that does not make their argument.”

  1. Get your facts straight

Double check any facts or figures that your present in your paper. Don’t just make sure the numbers are accurate. Ensure that the numbers you’ve referenced are sourced from the document you mentioned. Ensure quotes are correct, sources are cited, and relevant images are properly noted.

  1. Once is enough

You wrote a stellar introduction that has your readers excited and engaged. They have a solid understanding of your thesis and a vested interest in how you will prove it. Your reader is paying attention, so you only need to say things once. Repetition is a complex literary device. The shorter your piece, the harder it is to use this tactic correctly. Better to play it safe and avoid irritating your reader with repeated call backs and overused phrases.

  1. Be an authority

Professional writers maintain active voice in order to write clear projects that are pleasant to read. Use these two simple tips to write in active voice:

  • Structure your sentences so that the subjects of your sentences take action. For example, write “I put the notebook on the table.” instead of “The notebook was put on the table.”
  • Avoid too many chances of the verb “to be.” Variations can include has been, will be, had been Find ways to paraphrase your sentences. The statement “What he said today is an obvious contradiction to what he said yesterday.” you can exchange with “What he said today contradicts to what he said yesterday.”
  1. Keep it simple

This is not the time to experiment with sentence structure or grammar theory. When producing a piece for an academic audience, it’s best to use the simplest punctuation possible. Rather than proving intelligence, or composing a sentence with an attractive flow, students should aim for standardization and simplicity in both form and structure.

  1. Check it again

When the content is perfect, proofread your document a few times and check for spelling and grammar errors. Try reading your piece backwards for a fresh perspective.

  1. Share for feedback

Share your writing with a friend or your knowledgeable family member to find areas in need of improvement. They can provide valuable insight about the clarity of your writing and spot some issues you may have overlooked.

Review this list every time you finish writing a paper, and you will quickly find that editing according to these rules becomes second nature. After a while, you’ll find that you write your pieces with a much clearer concept of what your final product should sound like. Learning to edit your pieces well will make you a much better writer.


Sophia Anderson is an associate educator and a freelance writer. She is passionate about covering topics on learning, writing, careers, self-improvement, motivation and others. She believes in the driving force of positive attitude and constant development. Talk to her on Facebook or LinkedIn.


All views and opinions of guest authors are theirs alone and are not representative of the views of Petersons.com or its parent company Nelnet.

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