While many writing and English courses impart the basic skills necessary to write an essay or research paper, few students come out knowing the art of editing. As many successful writers will confess, there is no such thing as innate writing ability. Everyone writes lackluster first drafts, no matter how skilled they are. The secret to writing a truly breathtaking piece of prose is knowing how to edit. Sadly, this skill set is not taught as rigorously as the basics of writing and brainstorm are taught.
There are several elements to the editing processes. Learning these elements will allow you to polish your writing and strongly improve the quality of your prose. Follow these prompts below to step up your writing, impress your instructors, and boost your writing grades.
One reason that many students skip the editing stage is because they put off writing the rough draft for the last minute. This should be avoided at all costs. If your professor gets a paper laden with typos and grammatical errors, they will penalize you seriously. Prevent this unfortunate fate by writing a very rough (even sloppy) first draft as soon as you possibly can.
Do not be afraid to write a low quality first draft. Write quickly, and write without stopping until you meet your length requirement. Do not let errors slow you down or discourage you. The idea is to throw down as much raw material as possible. Editing will allow you to sculpt this raw material into a better essay.
Re-read your paper after several days have passed. Allow yourself some time to stop thinking about the assignment, and relax, so that when you return to the paper you will have a fresh perspective and will not remember what your original intentions were. Read the essay as a completely new person. You will catch many more errors if you read your essay this way. The longer a break you can afford to take, the better.
As you read and edit your paper, do not just be on the lookout for glaring errors. Look for material that is redundant, boring, or otherwise nonessential to your main thesis. Chip away at the rambling material, the irrelevant details, and the sentences that sound odd or awkward to you. Underneath these layers of excess material, there lies an awesome essay that flows well. Do not leave in a single detail that does not cohere with your paper’s main points. Don’t be afraid to cut long words, complex sentences, or even research that does not contribute to the work.