Out-of-the-Box Tips for Editing An Essay

Image by Joanna Penn, Flickr

Image by Joanna Penn, Flickr

Five letters, two syllables, the bane of every post-secondary students’ existence – what am I? That’s right, I’m The Essay.

It may come as a shock, but no one likes writing essays. No one, not even English majors. And if they say they do, they are either a) lying straight through their teeth, b) being held at gunpoint and forced to say such ludicrous things, or c) likely not 100% human and you should be wary.

If you need tips on how to write an essay without feeling like you’re losing a part of your soul in the process, make sure to check out our other article here. If you’ve managed to finish that essay and are now dancing your way to the printer thinking that you’re done, STOP, because you are about to skip a very crucial final step towards completing your essay: the editing process.

Check out these following tips on editing if you want to turn that Okay-Essay into a solid Killer one:

Finish ahead of the deadline. For you self-proclaimed procrastinators reading this, I will wait for you to stop laughing. Complete the essay without pulling an all-nighter? Crazy talk. But finishing an essay way before the due date will not only save you some precious hours of sleep that your body will thank you for later on, but it will also give you the ample time you need to reflect and review your essay properly.

Edit the content before the grammar. There is no point in breaking up that run-on sentence with a couple of commas and periods if the entire sentence itself doesn’t apply to what you’re writing about. Read the essay through first for coherency, consciously checking that all of the examples line up with the arguments, and the arguments with the overall thesis. It’s very common for your ideas to morph into something entirely different during the writing process, so take the time to make sure that everything you have written down is there for a reason.

Get a little creative with the copyediting. This is just a fancy term that basically means to edit for grammar and spelling. For this part of the editing process, there is the tried and true method of reading the essay all the way through from top to bottom. To make this method really effective, make sure to step away from your masterpiece for at least a few days or more. This ensures that you will have a fresh pair of eyes, and increases the likelihood of catching that deadly “there/their/they’re” typo (a tragic mistake that has never been committed before).

Other techniques you can try that are a little more fun are reading the essay backwards, and reading it out loud. Breaking all rules and conventions of literacy by reading from right to left is especially helpful for spell checking, as it will automatically lead your eyes to focus on each individual word. Oral dictation may sound weird, but it will aid in testing for coherency, as hearing the arguments that you’ve constructed aloud gives you a better chance of determining if it makes sense or not. Find your own voice annoying, or embarrassed to read out loud because you’re in a public place? No worries, just pop in your earphones and plug it into Google translate. Or if you’re a Mac user, this would be a good excuse to use the dictation app (and choose from a multitude of varying voices and enchanting accents, just to spice things up).

Have a friend or two take a gander. An unbiased perspective is perfect for verifying the awesomeness of your essay. This may require a few bribes of candy bars and deposits of some I-Owe-You’s for future withdrawal, but it makes a significant difference having your essays looked at by someone other than yourself. If they can find it understandable and give you positive feedback, then it increases the chances of you professor or TA feeling the same way. The more people you can sweet talk into reading your essay before submitting it, the better.

Though it can be excruciating (and I mean Dropping-That-Last-Bite-Of-Your-Favourite-Cookie-Into-Dog-Poop level of pain) to not submit what you’ve already got and have it ridden from your life forever, editing your essay is a vital last step that can make a huge difference when it comes to the marking process. It could very well be the definitive factor in moving your B essay up to an A.

So go forth, polish those essays off, and start the countdown leading towards the last essay you’ll ever have to write in your post-secondary career! We’ll be here waiting with the celebratory champagne.

, ,