You’ve finally finished your 1200 word essay but now what? There’s still one more important thing that you must do before handing in your work: editing!
The first thing that any student must do after finishing the writing process is to let their paper breathe which means put it away for a few hours, or even a day if you have the time. You want to have fresh eyes when proofreading and editing your essay, so it’s not recommended for you to start editing the minute after you’ve finished writing.
Your First Read: Check Over your Thesis
Now it’s time for proofreading. Print out a copy of your essay and read through it once. This will give you an overall impression of what you wrote and how it sounds as a whole. When you go through your first read through you will probably pick up on some mistakes that you made which could be anything from spelling to sentence structure but set those aside for the second reading. The main purpose of your first read through, is does your essay sound good? Does it accomplish its purpose successfully? For example, if your essay is on the role of the supernatural in Macbeth, and you’re arguing that the supernatural elements in the story drove the plot. You want to make sure that your essay, by the end, has successfully proved this argument. How? You want to make sure that your thesis, your arguments and your examples from the text are all working together cohesively. Everything should be built upon the foundation of your thesis and flow together.
Your Second Read: Check Over the Sentence Structures
The second read through is where you will edit your essay section by section. You will be looking for spelling, grammar and sentence structure mistakes which require you to read closely. Begin with your Introduction paragraph(s), read each sentence carefully aloud. When you read a sentence aloud slowly you’re more likely to hear the grammatical or sentence structure mistakes. Correct all the errors on the page with a red pen. Proofreading also includes changing your word choices, so if you’re using a word like “profound” but would rather use “insightful” make that change on the page. When you’re done proofreading your Introduction, it should be fulfilling three things: it catches and draws the reader in, it clearly introduces the purpose and thesis of your essay and it sets the overall tone for your voice (meaning: how you sound in your Introduction is how you should sound throughout your entire essay).
Tackling the Body Paragraphs
Tackle your body paragraphs in the same way, focusing on each section dedicated to one of your arguments. Again read aloud and read closely looking for spelling, grammar and sentence structure mistakes. Pay attention to the use of your examples from the text: paraphrasing and direct quotations. For the parts that you’ve paraphrased compare the portion from the text and your own words, are you translating the meaning correctly? When you think of paraphrasing as a form of translation, you’ll be more conscious about whether or not it represents the meaning of the text exactly. When it comes to direct quotations look at how the quotation is introduced, DO NOT randomly drop in a quotation. The quotation should flow from the previous sentence or be given a proper introduction. Finally look at the body paragraphs as a whole; does each argument flow from one to the next? Are you bridging your arguments properly? Your body paragraphs should be like a straight line, leading your reader from one argument to the next, directly to your conclusion.
The Conclusion of your essay should be a mirror image of your Introduction. It should summarize your specific arguments, say how they’ve supported your reiterated thesis and broadly conclude your essay with a final statement. It should be free of spelling, grammar and sentence structure mistakes and should close your essay on decisive note. Your reader should be left satisfied that your essay did its job. When you’re done making corrections, fix them on your soft copy on the computer and reprint your final essay. If you have time edit your paper again a second or third time if you can. For second and third edits, you can always ask another person to read your essay and give their input. Someone else might pick up on things that you’ve missed. It’s important to remember that the process of editing is about enhancing your essay so that it is the best possible.
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