Improving Your Editing Skills: What You Can Do Right Now

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Students often tend to downplay the importance of editing for the success of their academic work. If you ask your average student what can possibly improve his/her results when it comes to writing essays or other papers, it is highly unlikely for him/her to mention better editing somewhere at the top of the list of potential improvements. Nevertheless, being a better editor can seriously improve your chances of getting a good grade, whether you write an essay or a dissertation. However, how are you supposed to go about improving your editing skills? It is not as if college taught you that. Well, in this article we will cover exactly this topic, so read on and pay attention.

Create an Editing Checklist

Editing your writing is a common enough task to create a consistent checklist you will return to again and again. You do not have to invent the wheel every time you have to edit your essay – if you have a checklist, you can simply look at it and habitually go through each step. In addition to saving your time, it improves the quality of your editing – as the habit becomes more and more ingrained, you will get better at doing it.

You do not have to use any pre-existing checklist, because different people should pay attention to different things. For example, if you often forget to use transitional phrases, you may want to check for them separately. If they come naturally to you, there is no need to do it.

Shorter Is Almost Always Better

If there is one thing that most professional editors agree on, it is that shorter words, sentences, paragraphs, and papers are virtually always preferable to longer ones. In other words, replace longer and more complex words with shorter and simpler ones wherever possible. Break up long and complex sentences into shorter and simpler ones. Divide long paragraphs into smaller ones or delete unnecessary parts of them to make them shorter. As a whole, eliminate everything you do not absolutely need to drive your point home.

Do a Full Read-Through before You Get into Details

After you finish writing an essay, do not start editing it right away. First, read it in its entirety to get a better idea of what you produced, looking for obvious mistakes and omissions, checking your writing for consistency, and making notes of what you should pay attention to in the course of editing. When you see the bigger picture, start editing.

Ask Professional for Help

Hiring a professional essay editor to take a look at your paper not just gets you high-quality editing at the moment; it gives you an opportunity to learn from the best. See how he/she alters your essay, what is removed and added, and pay attention to it. When you do your own editing, try to apply what you’ve learned. Fortunately, these days it is easy to find an online service offering this kind of assistance.

Use Writing Tools

Many writing tools have additional functionality that is often ignored by those who use them. For example, your writing app most likely allows you to track changes, which is an extremely useful function, especially for longer papers. Make sure you study what your tools can do and make full use of their capabilities.

Use Active Voice, but Be Reasonable

On almost any website dedicated to writing, you will find a recommendation to replace passive voice with active wherever possible. In general, it is a good idea – the passive voice does tend to make your writing more cumbersome and awkward. However, it does not mean that you have to mechanically replace all instances of passive voice in your writing with their active voice analogs. Passive voice is completely viable when the focus of attention is on the action itself and not the actor. In other words, if it does not matter who did something, passive voice is usually more suitable and sounds more natural than active voice.

Take a Break after Writing

After you have finished writing an essay, you are still in the same frame of mind as when you were writing it. In addition, you are probably tired. This means that you are less likely to notice mistakes, especially if right now there is nothing you want more than to be done with this assignment. Condition yourself to overcome this feeling and plan ahead to leave yourself some time for editing before you have to hand your paper in. This will allow you to take a break from writing before you start editing. Ideally, you should aim for a period of at least a day or two, but even a couple of hours can help you see the paper from a new perspective.

Divide Editing into Phases

Editing involves checking your paper for a great many things: style, consistency, grammar, gaps in logic, and more. If you try to cover it all in one go, you will most likely be unable to pay proper attention to anything from this list. To avoid it, divide your editing into several phases. Start with editing for content and cohesion. See if you said everything you wanted to say and if your ideas follow each other naturally.

Then move on to editing for format and structure. Shorten and simplify overly long paragraphs and sentences. Look for run-on sentences. Add headings if you need them to make your paper easier to navigate.

Next, look for typos, spelling, and grammar errors. Do not rely on automatic spellcheckers – their capabilities are very limited. Do a thorough manual check.

Finally, take one more look at the results to see if there is anything left that still requires your attention.

As you can see, editing is a far more complex and involved process than you probably were led to believe. However, mastering its intricacies and learning how to apply it properly is one of the best investments of time and effort you can make in college – it will pay for itself in no time!

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