University North Central Writing Center Handout
Editing, and Revising
Once a rough draft is finished, we can set
it aside for at least a day; this is the first step in proofreading a paper. Because we set the paper aside, we can then come back to the
paper with a fresh mind and thus more easily catch the errors in it.
We also bring a fresh mind to the process of polishing a paper.
Proofreading and editing a paper involve several processes that can be
summarized into some rules. While
at first it may be difficult to do all these things, with practice, they can be
1. READ THE PAPER OUT LOUD. If
we read the paper out aloud, slowly, we have two senses--the eyes and the
ears--working for us. What one
sense misses, the other may pick up.
2. CHECK FOR GRAMMATICAL AND
MECHANICAL ERRORS. Are marks of punctuation where they should be?
Are all words spelled correctly? Is
pronoun reference and subject-verb agreement consistence?
Be sure to check any time you
3. Check the thesis statement. Does
it accurately state your main idea? Is
it in fact supported by the paper? Does
it need to be changed in any way?
4. CHECK THE PAPER’S DEVELOPMENT.
Are there sufficient details?
5. 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?
6. MAKE YOUR OWN LIST OF THE ERRORS YOU MOST OFTEN
MAKE AND READ THE PAPER THROUGH ONE TIME EACH FOR THAT PARTICULAR ERROR. If your two most frequent errors are punctuation and
spelling, you will read through the paper once for spelling alone, and once for
punctuation alone, before going on to
complete your proofreading for other errors.
7. REMEMBER THAT YOU ARE WRITING FOR OTHERS.
No matter how familiar they 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 bear 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?
These rules cover the general and most basic ones of proofreading.
Once you have checked your paper for these items, though, you will want
to concern yourself with matters of style--that is, how
you have expressed your ideas. The
following rules and examples are ones that every effective writer keeps in mind.
RECHECK YOU WRITING FOR ABSTRACT SUBJECTS,
PARTICULARLY THOSE YOU HAVE COMBINED WITH PASSIVE VERBS.
Try substituting concrete
personal subjects with active verbs.
Original: More attractiveness is sometimes given an act when it is made
Revision: When an act becomes illegal, some people find it more
CUT OUT WORDINESS WHEREVER POSSIBLE:
if you can cut a word out, do so. 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
Original: Inflation is a threat to our economy.
Revision: Inflation threatens our economy.
UNLESS USING THE CONSTRUCTION FOR EMPHASIS, AVOID STRETCHER PHRASES SUCH AS IT
IS AND THERE ARE. Again,
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. “Wigged
out” for example, is becoming deranged, demented,
or insane. To be
“freaked,” for example, is to be either bothered by something weird, or
delighted into something enjoyable.
Original: Her behavior freaked 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, and in so doing showing the
relationship between them.
Original: The best show in terms of creating a tense atmosphere is
Fortune.” This is probably
the most famous of all game shows.
Revision: The best show in terms of creating a tense atmosphere is
Fortune,” which is also probably the most famous of all games shows.
REVIEW YOUR DICTION. Again,
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
Revision: The media’s coverage of the Watergate scandal suggests that
those in the media had already determined Nixon’s guilt.
that 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 of the issue might find it necessary to defend the media.
Therefore, the writer of the original has made his job of persuading the
reader that much harder.