How to Edit a Paper

You’ve finished your last paragraph, cited your final source, and gotten your title page in order. What’s next? You just turn in your paper, right? That might not be the best idea. The most successful students add on an additional step. They carefully edit their paper to ensure that it is as close to perfect as possible.

What can editing do? Quite a bit actually. The small changes you make can really add up and make a difference. You could uncover a significant mistake that could have very negatively impacted your grade. Even if you don’t find any egregious errors, you might give yourself a few extra points. This can be important! Keep reading to learn more on how to edit a college paper like a pro.

Steps For Editing a Paper

Follow these steps and you will be certain to catch as many mistakes as possible. You’ll also find some ways to make your writing more persuasive and impactful.

  1. Check Your Rubric

Before you do anything else, grab your rubric or assignment sheet. That’s the piece of paper that tells you all of the details you must include and the required elements. Now is the time to double check this to make sure that you have everything that you need. Don’t lose points because you omitted something.

  1. Do a Quick Double Count of Your Words

This is small, but important. Make sure you have at least the required number of words. This is a good time to check your font, line spacing, and other formatting issues. Remember that a five page essay doesn’t make the grade if it’s only nearly five pages.

  1. Are All of Your Sources Cited?

Yes, you have probably been very vigilant about this. However, it is always a good idea to do a double check. Look at your works cited page, and your inline citations. Make sure that everything has been covered.

  1. Use Text to Speech

Try copying your paper into Google Translate. Then, choose the option to translate it into the same language using speech. Hearing your paper read outloud can be quite interesting. You may be surprised that some of your writing does not come off as you intended it.

  1. Double Check Spelling And Grammar

Yep. Sometimes it really is the basic stuff that matters. Start by checking things out for yourself. Then, consider using a good spelling and grammar app to double check your work.

  1. Make Sure Your Writing is Powerful

Good writing can truly impact your audience and improve your final grade. If you want to power up your writing, consider using an app like Hemmingway. It looks for sentences that are too long, confusing wording, adverbs, and other issues that could be impacting the quality of your writing.

  1. Check  Your Intro And Summary

Your intro is your chance to do a couple of important things. First, get people excited and eager to read more. Do you have a powerful opening? Next, look at your thesis statement. It should clearly describe the argument that you will defend.
Next, look at your concluding paragraph. For many students this is the most challenging paragraph. Don’t make the mistake of simply restating your arguments. Your concluding paragraph should be confident, and it should summarize why your thesis is right.

  1. Double Check Your Facts And Statistics

Read your paper and make a list of everything you have stated as a fact and every statistic you have used. Then, double check that you have provided a solid, reputable source for each of these. Don’t assume that anything is accepted as common knowledge. Back it up.

  1. Get Someone to Read it And Summarize it Back to You

Ask a peer to read your paper. Then, have them summarize it for you. You don’t want their opinion on whether or not it’s good or bad. What you want to know is whether you  have written it clearly enough that readers will understand the points that you are trying to make.

  1. Make Sure Every Paragraph Has a Clear Topic Sentence

Every paragraph or logical section of  your paper should have a clearly defined topic sentence. This lays out the argument that you are making in that portion of your document. Everything else should be in support of that particular argument. Fixing this may require a bit of rewriting, but it’s worth it.

  1. Check Your Transitions

Each paragraph should flow naturally into the next. If they don’t, your writing can appear awkward and disjointed. It can take a bit of work to master this. When you get it though, your writing will improve immensely.

Key Points to Consider

As you edit your paper, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • What you’re actually doing is editing and proofreading. Proofreading is taking care of grammar and formatting. Editing is done to ensure that your writing is effective and readable.

  • Online writing apps and grammar checkers are nice, but they aren’t a replacement for reading and rereading your work.

  • This is a general guide. The methods you need to use to effectively edit a paper can vary depending on the written product.

Do and Don’t
  • Communicate With Your Instructor And Ask Questions if You Don’t Understand
  • Use Your Student Writing Center For Help
  • Leave Plenty of Time to Double Check Your Papers
  • Ask Your Study Group to Get Together to Proofread and Edit
  • Break Large Assignments Into Smaller Chunks Before Getting to Work
  • Wait Until The Last Minute!
  • Proofread or Edit if You Are Hungry or Fatigued
  • Overthink Things Too Much
  • Forget to Take Frequent Breaks
  • Try to Work Too Quickly
Common Mistakes And How to Avoid Them

You’ll have a much better time of things if you avoid the following mistakes:

  • Failing to follow all of the instructions. Read the assignment thoroughly, and get clarification if you have any doubts.

  • Not keeping a line of communication open on group writing assignments. If you’ve been given the task of editing, check back with the group before you make significant changes.

  • Failing to follow submission instructions. Different institutions have different requirements. This is especially true if you are writing something for publication. Your last step in the process should be double checking how you are to turn your work in for evaluation.

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