Editing and Proofreading
When you think of editing, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Many people view the main task of editing as finding and fixing grammar or spelling mistakes. However, editing is much more. Editing is a process that involves revising the content, organization, grammar, and presentation of a piece of writing.
The purpose of editing is to ensure that your ideas are presented to your reader as clearly as possible. Proofreading focuses on checking for accuracy in smaller details of your work. It is a part of the overall editing process and is best done as the final stage of editing.
Self-editing helps you develop your language skills. If you rely only on others (friends, tutors, instructors) to correct your mistakes, you are less likely to develop your writing skills to the highest possible level. By developing your self-editing skills and focusing on continually improving your writing skills, you are setting yourself up for continued growth and improvement.
Self-editing helps you succeed in settings where you cannot rely on others for immediate help.
The main purpose of editing is to ensure that your ideas are presented as clearly as possible. To begin the process, you will want to focus on the overall clarity and organization of the piece of writing you are creating:
- Can your reader logically follow the flow of your ideas?
- Are you presenting the ideas in the most logical way possible?
Having a strong argument, including a strong thesis statement and a well-organized presentation of your ideas, is most important to the overall success of your writing.
Once you have completed this “big picture” editing, which is most important to the success of your paper or report, you can then focus on the details to polish your work. Sometimes, these bigger details are referred to as “higher order concerns”, while smaller details are referred to as “lower order concerns”.
The Five Steps of Self-Editing
1. Check the assignment instructions.
Always review the assignment expectations and compare them to your draft. Use the instructions like a checklist and make note of any elements missing from your paper. Focus your revision on those areas.
If you have an evaluation rubric, “grade” your draft according to the rubric. Note any adjustment that you want to make before submitting the paper.
2. Check the thesis.
Make sure your thesis is the right type for the kind of paper you are writing. Check to make sure the argument is clear and that it matches the conclusions you draft in the body of your paper.
3. Check the body paragraphs.
For each body paragraph, check the following:
- Is the topic sentence easy to identify?
- Are there supporting points to support the topic sentence?
- Is there evidence to support your points?
- Is it clear how the evidence supports the points?
- Have you included citations for the sources of your evidence?
- Have you explained/discussed the evidence thoroughly?
- Does the conclusion tie the paragraph’s ideas back to the topic sentence and the thesis?
4. Check the introduction and conclusion.
Review your introduction and concluding paragraphs to make sure they meet the expectations for your assignment. The introduction paragraph is meant to introduce and engage your reader as well as present the main argument (thesis).
The concluding paragraph should act like a summary of what has been stated in the paper. Make sure you repeat the main argument (thesis) and summarize the points that you have already stated in your body.
5. Proofread the paper.
The last step of the editing process is to fine-tune your writing by addressing any grammatical errors.
- Whenever possible, leave time between when you first write the paper and when you edit. You will be able to see what you have written more clearly after some time has passed.
- Read your paper out loud, slowly and carefully. Hearing your paper out loud may help you catch mistakes that you do not see when you are reading silently.
- Use a plain piece of paper to help you proofread line by line. Look at one line at a time, and move the paper slowly down the page as you read.
- Print out the paper before you edit. It is easier to see mistakes on a printed copy than on a computer screen.
Watch the following video for tips on how to proofread your writing.
Participating in a peer review can help you clarify your own ideas as you explain them to classmates and as you answer questions about your classmates’ writing.
Peer review is a chance to give feedback on a peer’s work as well as receive feedback on your own. Peer review is the chance to provide the experience of a reader for a peer. You get to let the writer know what works in their writing as well as what the writer can improve upon in a constructive and positive format.
Watch the following video to learn more about peer review:
Part of the peer review process is to provide comments/feedback on a writer’s work. You want to provide the writer with constructive feedback on how to improve their writing; it isn’t just based on proofreading for grammar and spelling errors.
When providing feedback, you should make specific comments that will help the writer understand what needs to be corrected and how to correct it. Peer reviewers should focus on commenting on the “higher order concerns” that are most important: the writer’s ideas, arguments, evidence, organization, coherence, and use of sources.
Remember, your job as a reviewer is to provide suggestions; you should not make corrections or revisions to your classmate’s paper.
Watch the following video to learn more about how to provide feedback on a peer’s writing:
- Page, C. (2019, January 2). Self-editing in five steps. In Effective editing. Kwantlen Polytechnic University. https://kpu.pressbooks.pub/effectiveediting/chapter/editing-in-five-steps/. CC BY-SA 4.0. ↵
- The Business Writing Channel. (2014, November 10). Five steps to improving your proofreading [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JRVL8f-_TPw. ↵
- MIT Comparative Media Studies/Writing. (2017, January 31). No one writes alone: Peer review in the classroom - A guide for students [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tY8CX0J3ILc. CC BY 3.0 Unported. ↵
- Odyssey Learning Project. (2020, August 19). How to write effective peer review comments [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kMWZBDUlHUA. CC BY 3.0 Unported. ↵