Students tend to be rather dismissive about editing and proofreading their academic assignments. It is a common belief that you have nothing to worry about as long as you do a spellcheck and take a perfunctory glance over your essay once you have finished it. It is a convenient approach in the sense that it frees you from responsibility as soon as you are done with writing per se. But if you follow it, you probably do yourself a poor favor. Many essays can get a higher grade if you apply just a little bit more effort when you edit them. In this article, we will teach you a few techniques that can significantly improve the quality of your editing without forcing you to spend too much time on it.
1. Edit and Proofread Separately
Both editing and proofreading are important for the success of your paper, but they are different processes that are best performed separately.
To edit means to pay attention to the larger scope of things: the paper’s overall tone, style, structure, flow, and content. When you edit, you may rewrite, remove or add sentences or even entire paragraphs, change the order in which you introduce individual points, check your essay for consistency and make other major changes.
To proofread means to look for surface-level mistakes and flaws: spelling, punctuation, grammar, typos.
If you want to achieve maximum efficiency, then first edit your essay and proofread it afterward.
2. Look for Individual Types of Mistakes Separately
It can be difficult to locate all the mistakes at once; this is why you should divide possible errors into several groups and go over your essay several times, focusing on one group at a time. If you lack time, then make a list of the mistakes you are particularly prone to, and at least pay individual attention to them.
3. Look for Professional Help
Of course, you can effectively edit and proofread your own writing. You may think, “Who can be better at editing my writing than me?” However, you are unlikely to be as good at it as a professional editor. Firstly, you are the author, which means that you are already familiar with the paper and are prone to subconsciously skipping over parts of it. As a result, you are likely to miss mistakes an unbiased observer would find. Secondly, an experienced editor who does this sort of thing for money has considerably more experience at this work than you do. This means that even if you consider yourself to be relatively good at writing and editing your writing, you still can benefit from hiring an expert to get a second opinion. Fortunately, in the age of the Internet, it is easy to do – you can find plenty of academic essay editing websites offering this kind of services.
4. Use Spell Check for Simple Mistakes Only
Many students believe that online spellchecking sites like Grammarly or ProWritingAid are a panacea for all their editing problems. They are wrong – we still have a long way to go until we create an algorithm that can replace an experienced human proofreader. In other words, if you run your essay through such a website, and it suggests stylistic and other large-scale alterations, take them with a grain of salt. However, when it comes to weeding out typos, misspellings, and simple grammar mistakes, these tools can significantly lighten your workload, so feel free to use them.
5. Read Your Essay Backwards
We do not mean backward as in letter by letter. This technique simply suggests that you read your essay from the end to the beginning, one sentence at a time. This way your writing will still make sense, but you will be forced to pay more attention to individual words and phrases rather than to the flow of the text as a whole. This makes you more likely to notice mistakes that would otherwise elude you and make it into the final draft of your paper.
6. Try out Another Format
Sometimes you fail to notice mistakes simply because you are too used to seeing your paper in a particular format. Changing it can make all the difference. For example, if you type your essay on a computer screen, then print it out and proofread it on paper, using differently colored pens to mark it. When you see your essay in an unfamiliar format, you are more likely to pay attention to its individual parts and, consequently, more likely to find mistakes.
7. Take a Break
Sometimes all you need to get an edge is to give yourself some distance from the paper you edit. If you sit down to work on it immediately after you finish writing, the details are still too fresh in your mind, and you will be inclined to skip over entire fragments as you proofread it, even if you do it unconsciously. Instead, plan ahead to allow for a break between writing and editing. A few days are ideal, but even a couple of hours can be enough to look at the paper from a new perspective.
8. Read Aloud
It is one of the simplest and one of the most neglected tricks. The thing is, when you read aloud, you force yourself to slow down and process every word more attentively than when you read silently. Any misspelling or poor word choice becomes immediately obvious when you have to pronounce everything out loud. It is good for editing as well – sometimes a sentence or a grammar structure looks good on paper, but when you say it aloud you can see right away that it sounds awkwardly or inconsistently.
Editing and proofreading play an extremely important role in the writing process, and you should teach yourself to treat them accordingly. Use the tricks we mentioned here, and you will soon notice qualitative changes in your writing compared to what it used to be. Half an hour you spend perfecting your essay can make all the difference necessary to earn you a better grade.