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.

Top Three Tips to Improve your AWA Score Reply

I’m going to do something bold here: I’m not going to include one of the most common–if not the most common–essay writing tips. And that is organization. Surely, you contend, that must be one of the top three tips. Arguably so. But it is also the one that many GRE students internalize and obsess over, often to the exclusion of other, arguably, more important aspects.

Additionally, most of us (let’s be honest: practically all of us) have had the five-paragraph structure hammered into our heads long before we were able to legally drive a car. The AWA, though, has its own rules, which many are aware of, stuff that can impress the graders (just writing a standard paragraph essay isn’t one of them). The following three tips will shed insights into what the graders are looking for.

  1. Read real sample essays

Both essays are graded from 0.0 to a 6.0. A zero score essentially means that you decided to fall asleep, your forehead pressed on the keyboard, a torrent of gibberish appearing on the screen. A 6.0 is a well-crafted essay, full of analysis, nuanced thinking, specific examples, and stylistic, sophisticated writing. There’s even a specific rubric describing exactly what each 1-point increment on the six-point scale means.

But I would recommend skipping this part. Interpreting the descriptions of those scores is too subjective. Really, what does “stylistic, sophisticated writing” mean to the GRE grader?

Well, to get that answer all you have to do is read the sample essays of actual student responses. This can be found online or in the GRE ETS Official Guide. You’ll get to see the kind of response that merits a ‘2’, a ‘4’, and a ‘6’. Below each response, the GRE graders themselves have given an analysis of the essay: what it did well, and what it could do better. When you go to write your own practice essay, you’ll already know what the GRE graders are looking for–and aren’t looking for.

  1. Work on sentence construction

One thing the graders love is logical flow. Your sentences should have key transition words (“for example,” “however,” “therefore,” etc.) that allow you to persuasively make your point. When you lack that logical flow, even if you have the right ideas coursing through your brain, your writing becomes muddled, and the test graders become confused.

To avoid this, go back to the basics: sentence construction. What is the difference between an independent and a dependent clause? What transition words most effectively link ideas within–and between–sentences?

This is the kind of logical organization that gets overlooked in favor of holistic organization: intro, three body paragraphs, and conclusion. But as long as you have a clear topic sentence for your paragraph, and your ideas logically flow from that first sentence and end with a clear statement of your point at the end of the paragraph, it isn’t that big of a deal whether you write two body paragraphs or four body paragraphs. (Though make sure you do have a clear intro and a conclusion–neither of which, by the way, has to be more than a few sentences.)

  1. Don’t time every practice essay

When learning a new skill, or even refining an old one, you have to practice or develop it under non-stressful conditions. Otherwise, it is difficult for such learning to take root. However, many mistakenly assume that it is always a bad idea to write the AWA essays without having a time limit. Unless, the essay is two days off and there really isn’t much time for “learning to take root,” begin without a timer. (I’d recommend at least 30-days to prep for the GRE–check out this helpful GRE study guide.)

For example, if you’ve been practicing clause construction by writing simple example sentences (“Because I gave myself plenty of time to prep for the GRE, I felt prepared. Nonetheless, I arrived 15 minutes late to the test center”), you’ll want to give yourself time to apply what you’ve learned about clauses when writing a practice essay. Or, if you’re just learning how to identify logical fallacies in the Argument essay, you’ll want to give yourself time to identify these fallacies and express them logically. Conversely, starting the timer will put you in a “flight or fight” mode and you are likely to fall back into your old habits (which for many is to write whatever comes to mind).

Once you’ve noticed improvements in your writing, give yourself a “soft” time limit. Keep practicing until you are writing comfortably within this time limit. Then put a slightly more aggressive time limit in place, until you are finally down to the allowed time. Your final score will thank you.


Chris Lele is the GRE Curriculum Manager (and vocabulary wizard) at Magoosh. In his time at Magoosh, he has inspired countless students across the globe, turning what is otherwise a daunting experience into an opportunity for learning, growth, and fun. Some of his students have even gone on to get near perfect scores. Chris is also very popular on the internet. His GRE channel on YouTube has over 8 million views.


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.

The SAT Essay: How to Plan and Prepare for it 1

Hand grasping pencil about to writeThe SAT is coming up on June 7. Chances are that if you’re taking it at this point, you’re probably taking it for the first time. It can be a daunting thing, particularly one of the more frightening sections — the essay. Not to fret! Today we’re here to talk about how to plan and prepare for writing a sock-blowing-off essay.

(Tip number 1: Don’t say “sock-blowing-off”.)

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