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How to edit and proofread your essays

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Editing and proofreading your essays can be a chore, especially when you’re already time-poor. Read through these useful tips to help you become a superior editor and proof-reader for your next essay.

Edit your work – Look at reviewing and refining your writing with a focus on the language and content.

  • Check the structure – is there an introduction, body and conclusion which flows?
  • Are you covering the key points and answering the question?
  • Are the paragraphs clear and defined? A distinct idea should be included within each paragraph.
  • Check to see if you are within the word count. Any repetitive or irrelevant information should be deleted.

Proofread – Don’t confuse proofreading with editing! You should proofread after the final edit of your essay and this important step allows you to pick up any spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors. Reading your work out loud can also be a useful tool for proofreading. Another tip is to print a hard copy of your essay and proofread with a pen – many professional writers and editors adopt this method.

Have a break – Give yourself enough time to have a break from writing your essay before editing and proofreading the final copy. If you can, take a few hours to refresh your mind and your eyes. When you’ve been writing for a while, your brain can start to overlook your own mistakes. Take a break and revisit your essay with fresh eyes.

Don’t be distracted – Minimise all possible distractions before you sit down to edit and proofread. Turn your phone off or remove it from the room and see if you can reduce background noise. If silence is difficult to find, try listening to white noise – a steady, constant sound such as waves or a heartbeat can help mask background noise and improve your focus. If you want to give this technique a go, you can find ‘white noise’ clips on YouTube.

Read with care – When editing and proofreading your essay don’t skim through it, read it slowly. Check everything is correctly in order. One tip is to read backwards, which is to read each sentence in the essay starting with the last sentence and work backwards to the first. Isolating each sentence like this allows you to find errors in punctuation, spelling and grammar you may have missed.

Stop relying on spell check – Although spell check is great for correcting errors in your writing, it will not pick up everything. It may correct a misspelled word to the wrong word. Spell check can also have issues in determining context with words such as ‘affect’ and ‘effect’. Missing sentences, paragraphs or an entire page will only be found with your own eyes.

If you want more tips on writing essays, check out the Library’s Online Programs.