How to Proofread and Edit College Essays

A Step-By-Step Guide to Essay Editing and Proofreading

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Editing is a necessary part of the writing process. When you edit something you write, you inevitably make it better. This is especially true when it comes to writing essays. Proofreading and editing your essay can seem tedious, but it is actually a simple task if you tackle it in an organized manner. Just remember to take it slow and check for one thing at a time.

Step One: Use the Spellchecker

Chances are you used a word processor to compose your essay. Most word processing programs are equipped with a spellchecker. To begin editing your essay, use the spellchecker option to check for spelling errors. Correct problems as you go.

Next, use the grammar checker on your word processing program (if it has one) to check for grammar errors. Most grammar checkers now look for comma usage, run-on sentences, passive sentences, tense problems, and more. Using your judgment and the grammar checker’s suggestions, edit your essay.

Step Two: Print Your Essay

Now it’s time to begin manually checking your essay. You could do this on your computer but it is better to print a copy if you can. Errors will be easier to catch on paper than on a computer screen.

Step Three: Review Your Thesis Statement

Begin by reading the thesis statement of your essay. Is it clear and easy to understand? Does the content of the essay properly support the statement? If not, consider revising the statement to reflect the content.

Step Three: Review the Introduction

Make sure that your introduction is concise and adequately developed. It should be more than a statement of your intentions and opinion. The introduction should set the tone of your essay- a tone that continues throughout. The tone should be consistent with the subject matter and the audience that you want to reach.

Step Four: Review the Paragraph Structure

Check the paragraph structure of your essay. Each paragraph should contain pertinent information and be free of empty sentences. Get rid of any sentence that seems slightly irrelevant. Also, check your transition sentences. Your essay will appear choppy is there is not a clear transition from one idea into the next.

Step Five: Review the Conclusion

The conclusion of your essay should reference your thesis statement. It should also be consistent with the structure and/or argument of your essay. Take the extra time to polish your conclusion. It will be the last thing the reader sees and the first thing that they remember.

Step Six: Read Your Essay Aloud

Next, read your essay aloud. Pause in your reading as punctuation indicates. This will help you determine how your essay flows and sounds. If you hear something that you don’t like, change it and see if it sounds better.

Step Seven: Manually Check Spelling, Grammar, and Punctuation

Once the content of your essay has been rewritten, it’s essential that you manually check for spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors. Your word processor will not catch everything. Check carefully for subject/verb agreement, tense sequence, plurals and possessives, fragments, run-ons, and comma usage

Step Eight: Get Feedback

If possible, have someone else read your essay and offer suggestions for improvement. If you don’t have anyone who can do this for you, do it yourself. Because you’ve spent so much time looking at it by now, set your essay aside for a couple of days before going back to it. This will allow you to critique it with a fresh pair of eyes.

Editing and Proofreading Tips

  • When writing your essay, make sure you allow time for edits.
  • Follow the rules of your assignment. If you were given a word count, abide by it.
  • Fact check. Fact check. Fact check.
  • For a more organized essay, create an outline prior to writing. When you edit, refer to your outline to make sure that you covered all of the necessary points.
  • Proofread slowly. It's easy to miss errors when you read too fast.