Editing Tips and Tricks for College Essays

If your idea of editing is doing a quick read-over of your essay, you really aren't turning in your best work. With a quick read-over you will inevitably miss typos, grammar problems, and issues with structure and flow. Whether you are writing a college admissions essay or an academic paper for one of your classes, you should submit it to a thorough editing process to perfect it before turning it in. This guide will teach you how to edit a college essay or academic paper.


Editing for Structure and Flow

You may or may not have made an outline before you wrote your paper. An outline helps you to structure the subject matter in your paper. So, if you made an outline, your paper should have a good flow to it right? Not necessarily. Just because the structure and flow looked good in the outline, doesn't mean it will work perfectly in the final written paper. As you convert the outline into full sentences and paragraphs, the content changes and in the end, may work better in a different order. This is where the post-draft outline comes in. Here is how it works:


Make a Post-Draft Outline

Unlike a pre-draft outline where you highlight the content that you intend to include in your paper, the post-draft outline uses the content of the paper as the blueprint for your outline. So, to make your post-draft outline, read your paper. As you read through the content, make a bullet list of the main points and sub-points. Take a look at the bullet list (your post-draft outline) and consider whether it would make more sense if it was rearranged.


Physically Cut Up Your Essay and Rearrange the Paragraphs

OK, so now you have your post-outline in front of you and you have decided that you should do a little rearranging. One way to do this is to print out your essay and physically cut out the paragraphs. This way you can play around with the layout of your paper by physically rearranging the different paragraphs. If you don't like the way the paper sounds after rearranging it, you can easily rearrange the paragraphs until you get it right.


Rewriting Your Essay

Now that you have decided on the order of your paragraphs, you will most likely need to do a little rewriting to make each paragraph flow to the next nicely. Give yourself some time for this process. Sometimes you can't come up with the perfect words to express a point right away.


Doing a Final Edit

After you have rearranged your essay for structure and flow, it's time to give it another look to catch spelling, grammar and other errors. Here are some tips for doing your final edit:


Sleep on It

The worst time to do a final edit is right after you worked on your paper because the ideas and changes you made are still fresh in your head. When the ideas are fresh in your head, your brain sometimes stubbornly focuses on them and refuses to see any problems. A better time to do the final edit is after you have had a good night's sleep. Then, you can take a look at your essay with a fresh set of eyes and a less stubborn brain. After a night away from your paper, you are more likely to see any issues in your paper.


Read a Printed Version

Print out your essay before reading it over. Sometimes, it's easier to identify errors when you are holding and reading off a piece a paper.


Read Your Paper Out Loud

When you read over your paper in your head, your eyes and brain may play tricks on you by correcting spelling and grammar errors without you being consciously aware of it. To avoid this issue, read the essay out loud. This serves two purposes. When reading your essay out loud, your eyes and brain are less likely to correct or skim over errors. Second, it's easier to identify awkward sentence structures when you hear how your essay sounds.


Make Needed Changes

If you have identified any areas that need work on your paper, make the changes and read your essay out loud again to catch any new errors or flow problems.


Spell Check

Always check your paper using the spell check program in your word processing program to catch any spelling errors you may have missed.


Have Another Person Read Your Paper

No matter how much time you spend editing your essay, it's always a good idea to have another person read it over. A fresh set of eyes may catch something that you haven't. If you have finished your essay early enough before it is due, you should ask a professor or teacher's assistant to look it over and give you suggestions.

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