3 Steps to Edit Your Essay

Composing essays involves a great deal of time and effort, and once most writers have completed a rough draft, editing it is the very last task they wish to face. If you finish a paper and feel this way, do not worry. This is natural. 

After you have finished a rough draft, the first thing you should do is leave it. Engage in a different activity. Watch a film. Take a swim. Allow yourself time – at least 24 hours of it. Distancing yourself from your essay will result in a freshly constructive perspective toward it. When you finally do return to your paper, you will be akin to a detached outsider reviewing it, and (hopefully!) you will discover multiple ways to improve it. You may also want to consider consulting an essay editing tutor who can help you with this process as well. Here are three elements to keep in mind as you edit your essay:

1. Organization

When you first begin to edit your essay, assess the flow, or development, of your thought progression. When initially formulating your argument, it is all too simple to move from one point to the next without clarifying your logic. A day of separation from the piece will help you to ascertain exactly where this may have occurred. Review your argument carefully; if you move too quickly between points early in your paper, your reader will lose interest or confidence in the piece before reaching its conclusion. Ensure your argument is easy to follow. Here are some tips on how to organize your notes which will ultimately make your essay more organized as well!

Do not hesitate to thoroughly revise your work. Even the best writers must regularly cut or revise entire paragraphs, and it is not uncommon for columnists, playwrights, reporters, and screenwriters to begin anew. This is not a negative occurrence – it typically means that the writer has learned how to improve upon his or her original idea. If that idea was originally strong enough to prompt exploration, an improved rendering will likely be even more powerful.

2. Syntax

Second, check your word usage for dead metaphors and clichés. Certain phrases are unbearably overused, and deciding upon new and interesting ways of expressing them will win you points with your readers. A phrase like, “as busy as a bee” could become “swarming like a fly farm.” Rather than boring your reader with a platitude like, “don’t judge a book by its cover,” turn to an original thought such as, “there’s more to oranges than just their peels.” Deciding upon new ways of formulating old ideas can be entertaining. These are some great tips for writing an essay which you may find useful as well.

3. One last read-through

When you are satisfied with how your paper looks on screen, one step remains. Print your essay, and read it aloud. Viewing your written work on paper lends your words a finality that a computer screen cannot replicate. Edits that may escape your attention when you see them on the screen will become evident when you read them on a printed page. If you are lucky, you will find yourself returning to the computer with new ideas.

The revision process is certainly important, and the strategies outlined above will help you maximize the time you spend editing. But the best way to ensure that your revision process is brief and painless is by devoting ample time and effort to your first draft. Start well, and keep the quality of your writing high. This will provide you with momentum; excitement about what has already been written will lead to optimism about the final product. On the other hand, quickly writing a mediocre first draft leeches energy from the revision process, as editing becomes a matter of creating quality out of something that lacks it, rather than refining and increasing quality that is already present.

Finally (but most importantly), do not sacrifice the editing process. If you leave a paper until the last moment, you turn in a rough draft. Even just ten minutes of review of that rough draft a day later will almost certainly improve it. Do not underestimate the power of detaching yourself from your work and editing it with fresh eyes, as a writing tutor would – it can mean the difference between a B- and an A+.