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SPARK: Essay Editing

A resource for students wanting to improve their academic and research skills.

Essay Editing

Use the options in the drop down menu under the "Essay Editing" tab to select a page to view, or use the "previous" and "next" buttons at the bottom of each page to work through the modules in order.

Why Edit?

It is important to edit your essay to ensure that readers focus on your ideas rather than on distracting problems of language and grammar.

While you can edit your essay at any point in the writing process, during the early phases of your writing it is more important to work with the content of your essay than with the details of your sentences. As you write you are likely to remove or substantially alter many of your ideas; thus, it is more efficient to delay paying close attention to sentence details until you have a relatively complete draft.

Review the sections below for some effective general strategies for the editing process.

Read Your Essay Out Loud

Pay close attention to any places where you stumble in your reading. Examine what it is about a sentence that leads you to stumble — a missing word, a shift in tenses, awkward phrasing — and then revise accordingly.

Ask Others to Read Your Essay

Friends, relatives and other students can read your essay and point out the places that they think require editing. However, you should not accept these readers’ suggestions without question. It is better to use their suggestions as starting points for identifying problems in your draft and then to make your own decision about what changes, if any, would be most appropriate.

Consult Writing Guides

There are many good guides to the writing process, and these guides usually contain a reference section on grammar, sentence structure and punctuation. Having a copy of one of these handy guides provides a means to quickly check possible sentence errors. Ask at the Library or Student Success Centre if you would like some suggestions for a good writing guide.

Edit Backwards

In general, it is easier to edit individual sentences in isolation from other parts of an essay. For this reason some writers choose to do their final edit one sentence at a time starting from the end of the paper, rather than from the beginning.

Review From a Fresh Perspective

Editing your work is complicated by the fact that you have a good idea of what you meant when you wrote each sentence of your draft. Consequently you read your sentences differently from someone who is coming to your paper fresh. To put yourself more into the position of your reader, take a break before you begin to edit. After a break you will be more likely to recognize problems that interfere with understanding your ideas.