(originally published 5-22-2012 by E. Mack)
We are coming to the end of our term here at MCC, and students are putting the finishing touches on their final papers. Your instructor might have suggested to focus on “global” concerns, and save the “local” revisions for last. But what exactly does this mean in plain speak?
A “global” concern is the big picture of the essay. Are all the elements working together – development, focus, organization – to create a well thought-out essay? First, read the essay (preferably aloud) and only concentrate on the overall large – global – perspective. Answer the following questions, starting with the larger issues and working your way to the more specific. Checking for global concerns requires at least two read-throughs.
On the third and final read, you’ll only check for sentence-level – Local – concerns. Focus only on grammar and punctuation now. Why not fix the sentence mechanics as you check for global concerns? Because often you’ll be adding or cutting large blocks of text. Why correct grammar and punctuation when you’re not sure what will stay or what will go? Don’t worry about editing until the draft is exactly as you want it. Follow the guidelines below to polish your paper like an expert.
Is the thesis clear and well stated?
Is the overall organization logical?
Are the paragraphs logically structured?
Do the paragraphs utilize topic sentences?
Do the topic sentences relate back to the thesis?
Are transitions smooth between paragraphs?
Are all ideas fully developed?
Are all claims supported with ample evidence?
Once you have determined everything is working well on the first read, go back and read again for more specific global concerns, breaking a long essay into manageable chunks.
Does the introduction offer background and/or history of your topic?
Does the reader know immediately what the topic is?
Is the thesis stated after the topic has been introduced?
Does each body paragraph only discuss one topic?
Does each body paragraph relate back and support thesis?
Does each body paragraph offer ample, well-documented support?
Are transitions smooth between sentences?
Does the conclusion restate (but in different language) the claim?
Does the conclusion avoid repetition or redundancy?
Does the conclusion end with a call to action, or other appropriate concluding remarks?
Now it’s time to concentrate on sentence-level mechanics. Look closely at spelling, punctuation, grammar, and usage. Try reading through the essay out of order – conclusion to intro. This slows you down and makes you concentrate more fully on each word.
Run spell check. Any red squiggles? Do you understand all the green squiggles?
If you have problems with word confusion – words like their and there, or were, wear and where – use the “Editing” button on the right of the toolbar. Under the “Find,” type in the words you confuse and check to make sure you’ve used them correctly. If you are prone to use second person “you,” run a “Find” on that as well, and any other problem words.
Have you used any semi-colons? Are you positive you’ve used them correctly? A semi-colon is the most misused punctuation.
Commas have rules of usage; don’t just randomly place them where it looks like you might need one. If in doubt, leave it out.
Is all formatting following the guidelines of the assignment (MLA; APA)?
Sometimes it’s best to put a paper aside for a day or two to take a break from it and gain a fresh perspective. We often read our essay so much we lose sight of what we are reading. If you’ve followed these steps and you feel you’ve given attention to each detail, let it go. Stand up. Stretch. Say a prayer to the writing fairies and turn it in. Pat yourself on the back for a job well done.
You deserve it.