Mastering how to edit your own work is a crucial skill in becoming a great writer. Any good writer needs to be able to look at their own work critically to constantly improve upon their work as well as their skills. Furthermore, in an academic setting, being able to edit your own work and assess it with a critical eye can help you reach those tough A grades you really want. But how does one go about mastering the art of editing their own work?
In Part 1 of this article, we have learned that editing your own work can occur at two levels: higher-order editing and lower-order editing. As we have seen, higher-order editing involves cross-checking your paper with the initial outline you drew up as well as any rubrics and instructions for the assignment to ensure that you have included all the necessary components and phrased them appropriately. This also involves making sure that you have elaborated all your arguments and supported them sufficiently with relevant sources, cited them appropriately, and tied these references back to the point you are trying to make to wrap up your paper neatly. Likewise, mapping your topic sentences to the content of your paragraphs and including transitional elements to better the overall flow of your paper are also some higher-order issues that are part of the editing process. Needless to say, you want to allow enough time between the writing and the editing of your paper so you can come back to it with fresh eyes.
Now that we have understood some of the higher-order issues in the editing process, let’s take a look at a few of the steps you can take while editing for lower-order issues.
- Print out the paper to mark it up: While reading your paper out loud to catch any repetitive phrases is one way to edit your paper, printing it out and marking it up is yet another useful method to catch those pesky errors that can often be missed out while reviewing it on a screen. Physically marking up a paper and following each sentence with a pencil as you read can help catch any spelling and punctuation mistakes that are sometimes too minute to spot on a computer.
- Use active voice: As you read through your paper, make sure to watch out for too many passive sentences that often make your writing convoluted and unclear. Using active voice for a major portion of your paper helps you keep your sentences shorter and more direct while also making your intended meaning much clearer.
- Edit out or replace filler words: It is a common tendency to use highfalutin words in academic writing to try to sound knowledgeable and authoritative. However, contrary to popular belief, some of these words and phrases like “in order to,” “so as to,” only make your writing clunky, especially when the simple preposition “to” can serve just as well. It is simple and direct. Remember that it is always better to use fewer words if possible to convey the same meaning.
- Watch out for the “verys”: One important aspect of building up your writing and editing skills is by improving your vocabulary. A good way to do that is by using the right words to express authority and intensity. This can be done by replacing phrases like “very important,” or “really beautiful” with “crucial” and “exquisite.” These are just two examples, but taking the time to choose the right words can help tighten up your paper and lend a tone of authority to your paper.
- Check for tense consistency: Yet another important issue to watch out for is tense consistency throughout your paper. While most academic papers require the use of present tense consistently, it is easy to switch tense while using examples from the plot of a literary work or relating events from the past. Therefore, ensure that you catch and tense inconsistencies while editing your paper for lower-order issues.
These are some of the essential but often overlooked issues while writing that can easily be corrected in the editing process. What other lower-order issue pitfalls do you watch out for while editing your own work? Do comment below.