6 Editing Tips for a Great Final Paper

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!

Tip #1

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.

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.

Tip #3

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.

Tip #4

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

Tip #5

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.

Tip #6

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.

Generating Essay Topic Ideas

Brainstorm Your Way to a Great Essay Topic

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Deciding on a topic to write about is one of the most difficult parts of the writing process for many students. With so many choices, we can become paralyzed with indecision. Utilizing some simple invention or brainstorming tools will set you on your way to uncovering an engaging topic, one audiences will be interested in reading, and you will be excited writing about for the next several weeks!


Your instructor might ask you to spend some time “brainstorming” before you begin the writing process. How exactly does one brainstorm?

1.  Take a piece of paper, and list numbers 1-20.
2.  To begin filling in this list, write down what interests you. If you draw a blank, consider what has been going on in your life lately – conversations you have had, or things you have read or heard on the news – and jot them down on your list.

If this seems too overwhelming, try categorizing your list into groups of 5.

Create one list titled POLITICS (this could include current legislation that might affect you or your community; concealed weapons; mandatory military service; electoral system, etc.)

Create one list titled SOCIAL ISSUES (this might include healthcare, deforestation, sharing wealth, etc.)

Create one list titled CULTURAL ISSUES (this might include language reform, race relations, polygamy, etc.)

Create a list titled COMMUNITY ISSUES (this might include things that affect you where you work and live, such as parking, recycling, dorms on campus, A-F grade system, etc.)

Try to generate at least 5 ideas for each category. Once you break it down into manageable chunks, it’s much easier to uncover some interesting and unique topics from current issues. Let’s look at our examples from above. One way to decide if a topic will make a good persuasive paper is to ask a “should” question based on the topic. Let’s look at some of the issues from our examples and put them into a “should” question:

  •   Should the government require mandatory military service?
  •   Should the government alter the tax system to force the rich to share their wealth with the poor?
  •   Should elementary schools require students to learn a second language?
  •   Should colleges and universities abolish the A-F grade scale and GPA system?

Digging Deeper: What do you already know about?

Another way to identify topics you might be interested in writing about is to consider your own knowledge and expertise. Everyone is knowledgeable about something, and many of us are knowledgeable about several things. What topics are you an authority on? Don’t sell yourself short.  A list might include:

  •     Unique hobbies (spelunking, metal detecting, dumpster diving)
  •     Unique skills (second language, yoga master, cartoonist)
  •     Training or education (CPR, computer tech, sign language)
  •    Work Experience (manager, bartender, crisis counselor)
  •     Personal Experience (single parent, football coach, nurse aide)

Now that you have a good list of hobbies, skills, and other knowledge and experience, consider how you can pull a topic out of those lists to compose an interesting essay. Some topics would make great informational essays, while others would make great persuasive essays.

To reduce waste and our reliance on landfills, dumpster diving, or reusing or repurposing someone else’s trash, is a viable alternative.

Yoga has been proven to not only improve balance, lower blood pressure, and fight disease, but can also relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Training in CPR should be mandatory for all public-school teachers.

Bartenders should/should not be held liable for the accidental injury or death of a person by someone they served who was found to be intoxicated.

Taking time in the early stages of the writing process to brainstorm will lead you to unique and engaging topics for your paper. No one wants to write another “Legalize Marijuana” or “Lower Drinking Age” essay like they did for their high school teacher, and I promise instructors don’t want to read another one either. Brainstorming will often lead you to numerous topics you possibly hadn’t even considered.

Give it a try and let us know what you came up with!