Editing Your Writing

Feb 16, 2016 · 4 min read

After a writer completes a draft, editing is necessary to refine the work. No work is perfect after a single writing session, whether academic writing or other forms.


A good academic essay begins with a plan or an outline. Some students write the first draft without enough question analysis. They fail to plan beforehand, and the result is an essay that lacks focus and solid support for its thesis statement.

When you edit, re-read the question and make sure you

  • answer the question that is being asked (i.e. you understand its core concepts.)
  • answer every part of the question. Academic essay questions are notorious for containing several elements that must be answered.

For example:

- Cultural perspectives affect the extent to which societies accept change. Are certain cultures more open to new ideologies, and how does your culture deal with the changing world?

The question starts with Cultural perspectives affect the extent to which societies accept change. Does your essay dissect this section in brief?

Then two questions are posed. The editing process should identify distinct answers that show proof of analysis and research. Content should be balanced and presented in a logical order.


An academic essay has an introduction with a thesis statement. The thesis statement expresses your argument clearly.

Body paragraphs have a topic sentence and strong supporting details, evidence, and examples. A topic sentence shows the paragraph’s main idea, and each paragraph has one topic sentence; all topic sentences support the thesis statement.

Idea progression between paragraphs must be logical. You can do this with transitions and linking phrases, or you can repeat words from the previous paragraph. Paragraphs do not have a fixed length. Your goal is to give sufficient evidence that lends weight to the topic sentence. Short paragraphs signal inadequate research and evidence, however.

Average sentence length is 15–25 words. Short sentences can make a forceful point or emphasize information, but too many short sentences make writing choppy and mechanical.


If ideas are strong but the language is weak, your argument loses strength. Good language usage includes:

Sentence variety. Use simple, compound, and complex sentences. The tendency is to stick to simple sentences. If your editing reveals too many, convert them to compound sentences or complex sentences. Compare:

- The artist was famous but elusive. He rarely left his house.

- Despite his fame, the artist was elusive and rarely left his house.

Correct punctuation. The biggest headache for most students is comma usage. Some rules should be second nature, such as commas after linking words and commas in lists. Consult a usage guide for other comma rules. Do not lose marks through careless punctuation errors. Edit capitalization, periods, and semicolons.

Spelling. Check spelling carefully. Spell checkers in word processing software are not 100% accurate, but new tools are available online to provide added accuracy.

References. Have you used any quotes or extracts from other people’s works? If so, have you made the appropriate citations and attached a reference sheet? Your lecturer can give you guidance on reference sheet/citation content and format.

Vocabulary. Remember to keep your sentences concise. The best words convey an idea directly. As you edit your work, shorten long and wordy sentences by using vocabulary that expresses information succinctly.


Organization and language influence academic style. Formal language presented from an impersonal perspective is necessary. Replace slang and idioms with formal alternatives. Avoid contractions (can’t, shouldn’t, don’t,) and eliminate personal pronouns (I, me, we.) Academic style does not require complicated, technical writing. Keep it simple, well-organized, and concise.


Headings, margins, and line spacing make your work readable. Different writing forms need additional formatting. Reports, for example, typically have a title page, a contents page, and references.

Editing strategies

Here are useful techniques for editing your work:

  • Read it out aloud. You notice errors and weak language easily.
  • Ask someone to check your essay.
  • Edit when you are alert and fresh. Find a quiet space and spend as long as necessary to spot and correct errors.
  • Take breaks between editing sessions. This helps with clarity.
  • Focus on one area at a time. That is, edit your organization first. Then start over and correct the language and so on.
  • Pay attention to known weak areas. If you are prone to punctuation mistakes, for instance, spend extra time on those errors.
  • Review a hard copy. Read every word line by line, and highlight sentences that you can improve. DO NOT simply scan your work when editing.

Originally published at edusson.com

Writing Tips Blog

Online writing advisory service http://edusson.com. To submit, contact katherine.andreeva@edusson.com


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Writing Tips Blog

Online writing advisory service http://edusson.com. To submit, contact katherine.andreeva@edusson.com

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