Editing and Proofreading Strategies for Revision
For working on larger issues
Once a rough draft is finished, you should try to set it aside for at least a day and come back to the paper with a fresh mind. This will help you more easily catch the errors in your paper. You'll bring a fresh mind to the process of polishing a paper and be ready to try some of the following strategies.
Read the Paper Aloud
If we read the paper aloud slowly, we have two senses--seeing and hearing--working for us. Thus, what one sense misses, the other may catch.
Check the Thesis Statement and Organization
Write down your thesis on a piece of paper if it is not directly stated in your essay. Does it accurately state your main idea? Does the paper support you thesis? Does it need to be changed in any way? On the piece of paper where you wrote down your thesis statement, list the main idea of each paragraph under the thesis statement. Is each paragraph relevant to the thesis? Are the paragraphs in a logical sequence or order? Do the paragraphs move from the weakest to the strongest?
Remember, you are Writing for Others
No matter how familiar others may be with the material, they cannot "get inside" your head and understand your approach to it unless you express yourself clearly. Therefore, it is useful to read the paper through once as you keep in mind whether or not the student or teacher or friend who will be reading it will understand what you are saying. That is, have you said exactly what you wanted to say? Don't allow yourself to give into the notion that your professor knows this information, so you don't need to explain everything in detail. You have to prove to your professor that you know and understand the information.
Check the Paper's Development
Are there sufficient details? Is the logic valid?
Check the Paper's Coherence and Unity
Are the major points connected? Are the relationships between them expressed clearly? Do they all relate to the thesis?
Review your Diction
Remember that others are reading your paper and that even the choice of one word can affect their response to it. Try to anticipate their response, and choose your words accordingly.
Original: The media's exploitation of the Watergate scandal showed how biased it was already.
Revision: The media's coverage of the Watergate scandal suggests that perhaps those in the media had already determined Nixon's guilt.
In addition to being more specific, the revision does not force the reader to defend the media. In the first example, though, the statement is so exaggerated that even the reader who is neutral on the issue may feel it necessary to defend the media. Thus, the writer of the original has made his job of persuading the reader that much harder.
For working on sentence and word-level issues
No matter how many times you read through a "finished" paper, you're likely to miss many of your most frequent errors. The following guide will help you proofread more effectively.
Begin by taking a break. Allow yourself some time between writing and proofing. Even a five-minute break is productive because it will help get some distance from what you wrote. The goal is to return with a fresh eye and mind.
Try to s-l-o-w d-o-w-n as you read through a paper. That will help you catch mistakes that you might otherwise overlook. As you use these strategies, remember to work slowly. If you read at a normal speed, you won't give your eyes sufficient time to spot errors:
Reading aloud. Reading a paper aloud encourages you to read every little word.
Reading with a "cover." Sliding a blank sheet of paper down the page as you read encourages you to make a detailed, line-by-line review of the paper.
Read your paper aloud, one sentence at a time, from the end of your paper to the beginning. This forces you to read each sentence for clarity without connecting it to a previous or following thought.
Check your Writing for Abstract Subjects, Particularly Those you have Combined with Passive Verbs
Try substituting concrete or personal subjects with active verbs.
Original: More attractiveness is sometimes given an act when it is made illegal.
Revision: When an act becomes illegal, some people find it more attractive.
Cut out Wordiness Wherever Possible
Original: They are desirous of ...
Revision: They want ...
Use Active Verbs
Since verbs tend to carry the meaning of your sentences, use the most precise and active ones possible. Thus, avoid constructions using the various forms of the verb "to be."
Original: Inflation is a threat to our economy.
Revision: Inflation threatens our economy.
Avoid Using Stretcher Phrases such as "It Is" and "There Are," Unless Needed for Emphasis
Remember the need for strong verbs.
Original: There were several reasons for the United States' entrance into the war.
Revision: The United States entered the war for several reasons.
Replace Colloquialisms with Fresh and more Precise Statements
Because colloquialisms tend to be used so often, they also are not very precise in meaning. A hassle, for example, can be an annoyance, an argument, or a physical fight.
Original: Her behavior flipped me out.
Revision: Her behavior first stunned, then delighted me.
Review your Sentences . . .
Be sure that no parts of the paper are "short and choppy"; be sure that the rhythm of your paper is not interrupted, except for a good reason, like emphasis. A good way of smoothing out such a problem is to try combining sentences; thus showing the relationship between them.
Original: The best show in terms of creating a tense atmosphere is Jeopardy. This is probably the most famous of all games shows. It is my favorite show.
Revision: The best show in terms of creating a tense atmosphere is Jeopardy, which is also probably the most famous of all game shows and my favorite.
For subject/verb agreement:
1. Find the main verb in each sentence.
2. Match the verb to its subject.
3. Make sure that the subject and verb agree in number.
For pronoun reference/agreement:
1. Skim your paper, stopping at each pronoun. Look especially at it, this, they, their, and them.
2. Search for the noun that the pronoun replaces. If you can't find any noun, insert one beforehand or change the pronoun to a noun. If you can find a noun, be sure it agrees in number and person with your pronoun.
More editing tips