Many students get so tired of an essay by the time they finish writing one that they are over-eager to set it aside and be done with it the moment they write the last word. Unfortunately, it cannot be called a winning strategy – the first draft of an essay usually can benefit from revision and even rewriting. In this article, we will cover some of the techniques and methods you can use to make your life a little bit easier when it comes to this stage.
First, you have to find out if your paper is sound as a whole. If you are going to make any large-scale changes, you should begin with them. If you begin with fine-tuning your writing and later discover you have to introduce some significant alterations, you will have to do all the proofreading and other small changes all over again. Here is what you have to do:
- Pay attention to focus. Do you let your thoughts wander all over the place? Do you allow yourself to go off on tangents? An essay is a small text, and you cannot afford to include in it anything that is not strictly necessary. Remove everything that does not concern your main topic;
- Check for logic and consistency. Do your arguments follow each other in a way that makes sense? Are there any gaps in your logic? Can somebody with an opposing view refute your reasoning?
- Check for connections. Do individual parts of the essay connect to each other in a natural way? If no, make sure you add suitable transitional words and phrases;
- Ask for a second opinion. Another pair of eyes is always useful when spotting mistakes, but it is even more essential for evaluating whether you have managed to write an essay that is logical and comprehensible. Ask somebody you trust to read your essay (preferably aloud) and ask him/her whether s/he believes your text to be consistent and straightforward. If the reader has any difficulties following you, make the necessary changes.
As you can see, you may have to introduce many changes to your essay even after you have already finished it. You may even find out that you have to rewrite huge chunks of it from scratch. Of course, you can always visit a writing service and say, “Write my essays for me,” but it is probably the only alternative to proper editing and proofreading. If you do not want to resort to it, read on.
Once you are sure the general structure of your paper will remain unchanged, it is time for small-scale editing.
Check your writing for precision. Do you use precise language? Can any of your statements be interpreted in more than one way? Is your thesis statement ambiguous in any way? Avoid meaningless generalities, sentences that have been repeated so often that they lost all meaning. E.g., “environmental pollution is harmful” is such a generality. We all know it is harmful, you do not add anything by saying it. How exactly is it harmful? How is it relevant to the topic of your essay?
Read your essay aloud. Sentences and word structures that look perfectly good on paper may turn out to be awkward and stilted when you pronounce them, and there is no way to notice it in any other way. In addition, reading the text aloud allows you to slow down and see each word separately instead of entire sentences. Thus, you are more likely to notice mistakes.
Finally, it is time for the smallest changes: corrections of grammar, syntax, and spelling that will not greatly alter the structure of the paper as a whole. You may try using one of the online grammar checkers for that purpose, but do not rely on them too much – they are just sets of algorithms and cannot replace real proofreading.
Make a break between writing and proofreading – it will allow your perception of your essay to settle down and you will be able to see it in a less subjective light.
Read each sentence carefully, paying attention to every word. Better yet, read your essay backward, one sentence at a time – thus you will be able to focus on individual sentences and smaller units of meaning rather than the logical flow of your writing.
If you know yourself to be prone to any particular types of mistakes, make a list of them and keep this list by your side throughout the proofreading process. You can do even better if you go over the essay several times, each time paying attention to one specific mistake type.
Eliminate unnecessary words. It is especially important if you know that you are inclined to pad out your writing. Go over the text one last time and ask yourself about every word: Do I really need it? If it is not crucial for getting your point across, get rid of it.
As you can see, there is nothing particularly esoteric about editing a paper – just follow these steps, and you will not experience any problems.