Five Tips for Editing Your College Paper

It doesn’t matter if you’re a freshman in college or you’re in graduate school working on your dissertation, you’re going to find yourself writing many papers when you’re a student. The quality of those papers can greatly impact your college experience, so it’s important to get them right.

This includes choosing the right topic and using persuasive writing techniques, but it also means editing your paper. You don’t want to spend all that time writing your paper only to end up with information that isn’t effective because the punctuation is distracting!

Before you turn in that paper, follow these editing tips to make your paper the very best it can be.

Have Someone Else Look Over Your Paper

One of the best things you can do is have someone else look over your paper. It’s true that it can be a bit scary to have someone else read through what you wrote, but they are likely to catch more errors than you.

Because you wrote the paper, you already know what you’re trying to say. It’s easy to gloss over errors simply because you’re predicting what’s coming next. Someone reading your paper for the first time won’t make those same mistakes.

Someone else in your class can read through your paper, but you can also visit your college’s writing center where a TA may be able to read through your paper and provide you with tips.

Professional editing services are also an option. Because these services cost money, they’re best for dissertations and academic articles.

Don’t Write and Proofread in the Same Day

It isn’t uncommon for college students to stay up all night the evening before a paper is due writing it. Although it’s always better to turn something in than nothing at all, it really is better to save your proofreading for another day.

There are a lot of grammar and punctuation rules. It’s easy to miss many of them when you’re tired and your eyes are strained right after writing. Not to mention, you literally just wrote your paper, so it’s easy to skim through it when you should be reading it in more detail.

Finish your paper one day and reread through it the next. For even more proofreading power, read through it at least twice.

Use a Spell Checker and a Grammar Checker

It’s a no-brainer to use the spell checker when editing your paper, but don’t rely on the spell checker alone. There is a lot it doesn’t catch.

You should also look into grammar checkers. They can pick up a lot of the errors that spell checkers leave behind.

Some of the best grammar checkers include:

  • Grammarly is one of the most popular.
  • Scribens is often recommended for students.
  • Ginger has an effective free version.
  • After the Deadline is an open source grammar checker.

Just don’t rely solely on the grammar checker either. It can catch many more errors than a traditional spell checker alone, but it will still miss mistakes that you have to catch by reading through your paper.

Read the Paper Aloud

If you’ve read through your paper once or twice, your eyes may be glossing over as you comb over the same pattern of words again and again. If you’re finding that you’re not really paying attention like you should, try reading your paper aloud.

It takes longer to read aloud than it does to read silently in your head. It will automatically slow you down so you can focus on what you’re editing. It’s also much easier to tell if a sentence just doesn’t sound right when you read it aloud.

Read One Sentence at a Time

There are a lot of benefits of reading fast, but being able to read a thousand words a minute is not an effective skill when it comes to proofreading your paper.

Reading the paper aloud can help you slow down, but so can reading and focusing on each sentence one at a time. Otherwise, you may realize you’re treating each phrase as a bridge to the next sentence, which means you’re going to miss errors.

To prevent your mind from wandering down the page, use a piece of paper to cover up each line of your paper as you read it. That way, you can focus on each individual word and find errors.

Handing your paper over in class can be stressful, but it’s a lot less stressful if you take the time to make sure you turn in a great paper with these proofreading tips!

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