You’ve done the hard work of crafting a creative, compelling essay. Before you hand it off for a final grade, follow these 6 final editing tips to polish it to perfection!
Run a spell-check.
Hopefully, you have spell-check run automatically. If not, turn it on (found under the Review tab on the toolbar) to catch misspellings or other sentence-level errors. Keep in mind, however, that the spelling and grammar check doesn’t catch misused words, and often wants to correct things you might not want corrected. See Tip #2.
Run an editing search.
Under the “Editing” tab on the toolbar, click on “Find.” From there, a Navigation tab will open on the left, where you can run a search on commonly misused or confused words, such as then and than, effect and affect, were and where, or definitely and defiantly. Check that you are using words in the correct context, even though they may be spelled correctly, which Spelling and Grammar check won’t find. You can also run a “Find” on #3, there are and there is, to make sure you aren’t over-using them.
Reword sentences that begin with “There are” or “There is.”
Technically, it isn’t incorrect to begin sentences with this phrasing. However, beginning sentences with this lazy phrase creates vague language with no subject. What does “there are” or “there is” really refer to? Instead, revise the sentence to begin with a stronger subject.
For example, There are three characters in this story who are very important can be reworded to say Three characters in this story are very important.
Check for redundancy and wordiness.
Cleaning up repetitiveness and wordiness will make your essay much easier to read, and make you sound like an expert writer. Avoid phrases such as “he was large in size”; “the building is tall in height”; “the doctor was smart and intelligent” — you see what we mean.
Wordy phrases can kill clarity. See the common examples of wordy phrases below with a better substitute:
in addition = also, besides, too
at the present time = now
in the event of = if
until such time as = until
due to the fact that = because, due to, since
Check all in-text citations.
Cross check that every citation in the body of the essay is found on the Works Cited page, if following MLA. Every direct quote should have an author or attributive tag, introducing the quote. Also, make sure that all summaries and paraphrases are cited as well. Double check that punctuation is correct (period goes AFTER the parentheses). If you have a quote with over 4 lines (MLA), it should be blocked (do not use this often). For MLA formatting, blocked quotes begin on a new line, have no quotation marks, are indented 1 inch, double-spaced, with the period in FRONT of the parenthetical citation, as opposed to after.
Double check your References or Works Cited page.
The words, “Works Cited” or “References” (without quotations) should be at the top of the page, not bolded, not italicized, and double-spaced between title and first entry. Make sure the entries are in alphabetical order, double-spaced, with a hanging indent (the second line of entry and subsequent lines of each entry indented). Finally, make sure Works Cited or Reference page is paginated with essay (if essay is 10 pages long, Works Cited or References will be page 11).
Of course, this is an abbreviated list. Your instructor might have his or her own checklist of their personal preferences, such as preferring two spaces at the end of sentences (new guidelines for APA) as opposed to one. Taking time to spit and polish one last time before you hand your essay over might make the difference between an okay grade and a WOW! grade. Taking time to carefully edit will be worth the extra effort.