Four Tips for Self-Editing Essays

by Sara Vazquez Shaw

Sometimes in the interest of convenience, time, or money, it is necessary to read over and edit one's own essays instead of having someone else do it. Being able to efficiently edit your own work is a valuable skill. Here are a few tips for editing your essays that can result in your most polished piece of writing.

1. Read Your Work Out Loud

There are some sentences that look fine on paper but sound awkward when you read them out loud. It's important to hear your writing so that you can identify and rework, or delete altogether, the phrases that don't flow smoothly. Read the entire piece out loud a few times until you no longer have strangely sounding parts.

2. Use an Onscreen Editing Tracker

Editing essays can be tricky business, so it's good to keep track of what changes you have made during the process. You may delete some items only to later pick them up and move them to better section of the essay. There's nothing more frustrating than struggling in vain to remember what you erased if you decide you want it back. Make your life easier by tracking all of your changes. This way, you can rest assured that every word is safe and secure on the virtual clipboard.

3. Edit and Proofread Separately

Although you may find yourself correcting a few misspelled words, a first edit should not be about fixing punctuation or grammar. Instead, make sure the sentence structure and general flow of the piece is as strong and captivating as possible. Once you've read it out loud and are satisfied with the way the writing sounds, start the process of thoroughly editing for spelling errors, grammar mistakes, and other issues.

4. Check Several Times Over

Use a spell-checker at the beginning of your editing process to quickly get rid of the most glaring errors. Then, focus on reading aloud several times and reworking any trouble spots in the piece during each reading. Once you're done with the major editing, run another spelling and grammar check to review the changes and to catch anything that was missed in the first go-round.