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Edit Your Paper Like a Pro: Steps to Follow
Once the rough draft of a paper is complete, many students are eager to simply spellcheck it and turn it in. However, there is quite a bit of editing and polishing that can be done to improve even a great rough draft. Here are some steps to editing a paper like a pro:
- Set it aside for a few days.
- Editing Stage #1: Content
- Editing Stage #2: Structure
- Editing Stage #3: Style
Editing shouldn’t be done the second the last line of the conclusion has been typed. Set the paper aside for a few days and focus on other projects before returning to it. The allows the writer to approach the paper with a fresh eye, a very important aspect of editing.
The first stage of editing should simply be reviewing the content included in the paper. Are the ideas presented understandable? Are the sourced quotations properly cited? Did the writer include every piece of important supporting evidence? Sometimes, no matter how well organized an outline the writer created, something was left out or expressed ambiguously. The writer should review their outline, review their notes, and then read back through the paper with a critical eye, focusing on the included content. If content was left out, it should be added at this stage.
Is the information in the essay presented in a logical order? Is it presented in an order that will make intuitive sense to the reader? Is there anything that is presented in such a way that it could confuse the reader simply because it isn’t logically structured? While creating outlines ahead of time can help to structure a paper, there are often other ideas incorporated while writing that may require that the structure be altered. Other times, the structure that worked in an outline just doesn’t work as well in a written paper.
Now that the content and structure have been finalized, the editor can take a look at the finer details. For example, sentence flow. Ensure that sentences are as clear and concise as they can be while preserving their meaning and intent. The writer should also look at word choice, avoiding redundancy, and using precise, straightforward vocabulary that expresses their meaning without confounding the reader. Transitions between paragraphs and between sections should also be considered at this point, ensuring that the flow of one idea into the next is natural.
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