So you’ve just finished your paper, story, or some other writing piece and you’re extremely proud (or maybe relieved), but you’re not quite finished yet. As much as you’ll hate to admit it your paper is going to be riddled with mistakes. Don’t worry about it, it’s a first draft and that is where the miraculous tool of editing comes into play.
1. FIND A FRIEND
I always think it helps to have a friend or teacher, someone you trust to be honest, to read through your draft. They’re more likely to see errors that you may have glossed over. Plus, the reviewer doesn’t know anything about your paper already. You’ve thought about it, researched it, and even if it doesn’t make sense on paper it can still makes sense in your mind. This first net will sift through the obvious errors in punctuation, as well as any structural or plot issues.
2. READ CAREFULLY
Now it’s your turn to look over your work with a fine tooth comb. The tricky part here is to take it slow. Your mind may automatically fill in errors if you read it too quickly. Read carefully and if you need to, try reading it backward. Start with your last paragraph and read from your last sentence all the way to the introduction. This will help with word choice and sentence structure.
3. WATCH OUT FOR SPELLCHECKER
An important note is also to be careful with spellcheck. Computers are wonderful things, but they’re not humans. It’s difficult for your spellchecker to catch things like the correct spelling of proper nouns, the ” their, there, they’re” and “your, you’re problem, and homonyms. Also, if there are grammatical issues, it will tell you that it’s wrong, but not how to fix it.
4. READ IT OUT LOUD
Now that you’ve gone through the majority of your edits the last step is to read it out loud. Speaking each sentence is a nice last check to make sure everything makes sense. You can read it for a friend or to the mirror, but it’s important that you actually say each word out loud. If you find any errors fix them, and after you’ve read the whole thing wait a day and read it again more time. No errors? Now you’ve got yourself a pretty good paper.
5. UTILIZE YOUR RESOURCES
Now that you’ve done everything you can, try another peer review or if your campus or work offers a writing expert, take advantage of it. At University of Colorado Denver the Writing Center (the website is linked) is an amazing resource students should utilize. This is your chance to get as close to an editor as you can, so make an appointment or convince your grammar smart friends to take the time and get that final expert opinion.
The editing process isn’t some complex thing, all you need to be successful is time, a grasp of the English language, and a little help from your friends. Go slow and read your work over, and over, and over.