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college writing

In Academics, college on
December 4, 2017

11 Things To Look For When You Edit A Paper

Editing is a huge part of writing any paper. If you can help it, you should never turn in a first draft. If you want to do your editing, but you are not sure what to look for, I think that this article will help you a lot.

Note: This post contains affiliate links.

11 Things To Look For When You Edit A Paper | Editing a paper can be difficult, especially when you don't know what you are looking for. Click through for 11 things you can look for whenever you are editing a paper that will make the editing process so much easier!

Utilizing Grammarly

Before we begin, I want to tell you about the editing software that saved me in graduate school. I trusted Grammarly with everything from sending the perfect email to my professors to writing my thesis.

Grammarly is not perfect. It catches a lot of errors, but you still need to look at and understand what it is finding. For example, Grammarly may not be the best editing software if you have a paper that includes technical jargon. Grammarly is meant to be used by everyone, so there are certain words that it will not understand due to specialized language. If you review each change that Grammarly suggests, you should be fine. I used Grammarly Premium in graduate school and continue to use it now as a freelance writer. I could not imagine my writing without the help of Grammarly, so I wanted to shout them out today.

The purpose of this article, though, is not to focus on just spelling and grammar. I want to branch out to some things that Grammarly will not be able to catch.

The Importance Of Batching Your Writing Process

In writing, batching is a thing to aspire to. You take your time to create an outline, then a few days to write your entire essay or blog post, then you take a day to edit, etc. Batching is helpful because it means that you will not be bogged down by all the edits you need to make while writing your paper. If you are in the process of writing, but you must stop every few minutes to fix a spelling error, that can get annoying at best, and completely ruin your writing flow at worst.

It may be hard to put away the editor in you while you are writing, but trust me, it is for the best. When you spend all your time editing articles and perfecting pieces you have not finished writing, you drag out the entire process of creating the thing you want to create.


1. Spelling Mistakes

The most obvious thing that you should be looking for is spelling mistakes. Spelling mistakes can cost you a lot of points on a paper, and to be honest, they are unnecessary. When you are editing for spelling there are a couple of things you want to think about:

Using The Right Form Of A Word

Spell checkers are not always the best at deciding if you are using the right form of a word. I love Grammarly because it usually does an excellent job of being able to tell if I am using the correct form of a word for the sentence I am writing. For those words like too, to, and two or their, they’re, and there you want to make sure that you read the sentences those words are in and understand the context.

Accidentally Mistyped Words

Sometimes we get keyboard happy, and this causes us to misspell words unnecessarily. We may know how to spell a word, but as we are typing it comes out wrong. Word processors like Microsoft Word are usually able to catch some of these things, but it does not always happen that way. You need to be ready to step in if that is the case.

Utilizing Your Smart Phone To Spell Words For You

Another tip for spelling, especially if your word processor does not seem to understand what you are saying is to ask your phone. If I am unsure how to spell a word, but I know how to say it, I ask my phone how to spell that word. I will go “Hey Siri, spell ____” and Siri will spell it for me. It is simple, to the point, and Siri will spell it aloud for me.

2. Repeated Words

Repeated words can be annoying for your professors to read, and you may not even realize that you depend on certain words and phrases often in your writing. I think most of us write like we talk, even if we do not know it as we are writing. For example, I depend on the words so, really, and literally often in my writing. If I went back to my headspace while writing the paper or blog post, I would realize that I was using those words often as a transition word in my head while I was writing.

It is not hard to realize that the use of my words would be irritating after reading a 10+ page paper on a topic. (I think I should let you know that I caught myself trying to write the word so here and had to delete it.) When you proofread your paper, go back through, and try to recognize your repeated words.

To get out of using the same dry words, use your resources. Microsoft Word has a synonyms function that you can access by highlighting a word and right-clicking on it to pull up synonyms for the word. Grammarly also has a synonyms function you can access by double clicking on any word. Another great feature for Grammarly is that they give you an alert when your word use has become repetitive.

3. Use Of Contractions

I did not get this every time I wrote a paper, but sometimes my professors would be very meticulous about the use of contractions in my academic writing. If your professors are like mine, you may not get this response all the time, but it is something to be wary of when you are writing. (Also cutting out contractions can be a great way to create a lengthier paper if you have a word count.)

When you spell out all your words instead of using abbreviations and contractions, your work sounds a lot more polished and scholarly. If you currently write using a lot of contractions, I would not try to edit as you go. Instead, I would write the entire paper, and then after you get done, use the search and find feature on your word processor to look for common contractions like won’t, can’t, and shouldn’t and replace them with their fully fleshed out counterparts.

If you do not want to go through that process, you can also look for the single ‘ character, although you will also pick up any possessive usage of the character and times where you needed to use the single ‘ in a quote.

4. Including Too Many Opinions

You are not an expert in your field. I hate to break it to you, but you are learning about your field by writing and editing the papers you are producing. Unless you are writing about research that you have personally conducted, your opinion is not valid in your writing. Take your opinion out of your paper and state the facts.

Removing your opinions can be hard to do, especially when you have a long paper to write. It can be easy to run out of ways to say what the authors you researched said about a subject. During those times of stress, it can be easy to want to inject your opinion here and there. When you add your opinion, you ruin the academic style of the paper. Often a good chunk of your articles in college are literature review based, so you should respect that, and discuss what the academics have stated.

Dig deeper and understand more of the articles you have read for this paper. Unless you are tasked with writing a 400-page novel about the research you are writing, there is a considerable chance you have yet to reach full-on saturation with your research material. There is always something more you could say about the research conducted over using your own opinions in your paper.

There is a time and place for your opinion in academic articles, though. You may include this in the conclusions section or the parts of the paper that ask you to make an argument for your article.

5. Spacing Issues

Spacing is a gigantic problem that is easy to run into while writing an essay. Many students depend on copy/pasting information into their articles, but once you do that, it can damage the spacing that you have set up in your paper.

When you are done writing, make sure you take some time to look at each page of your paper. You want to make sure that the spacing looks consistent or that it is consistent with the guidelines of your article. For example, when I turned in my thesis, my spacing was off in some places, but that was because the formatting requirements stated that all quote blocks be single-spaced instead of double-spaced like the rest of my draft.

Bottom line, your spacing should only change when the change is required based on instructions from your professor. Otherwise, your spacing should remain consistent throughout your paper.

6. Comma Usage

Correct comma usage is imperative. Commas can change the flow and style of your writing. If you are not using commas correctly, they can even create run-on sentences in your writing. My best tip for comma usage is to use a grammar checker like Grammarly and to read your paper aloud.

By reading your paper aloud, you can see where pauses in the paragraphs would naturally go which will help you place commas better. Of course, you also want to use checkers like Grammarly because reading your paper aloud does not always help you place commas correctly.

7. Correct Usage Of Jargon

While you are not an expert, you should be writing as an expert in many ways. One way to write as an expert is to use the jargon of your discipline. For example, if you are a sociologist, you may use phrases like “the sociological imagination,” “anomie,” or “capitalism” to name a few. Being able to use these terms in your writing is crucial.

You are writing for an academic. Chances are your professor has a Ph.D. in their field, and they have ample knowledge of the field’s jargon. You do not need to hold back on them or write for a sixth grader.

On the other hand, if you are going to be using the jargon of your discipline, you need to use it correctly. Since your professors know most (if not all) the jargon of their discipline/specialization, they will know when you do not truly understand the words yourself. Do not throw in jargon to impress your professor if you are not sure you are using them correctly. If you have any doubt about a word you are using in your writing, look it up.

 

8. Massive Blocks Of Quotes

Earlier in the part about spacing issues, I talked about copy/pasting information into your document. I am going to talk about that again now. YOU SHOULD NOT USE QUOTES UNLESS YOU DO NOT THINK YOUR PAPER CAN LIVE WITHOUT THE QUOTE. I recently turned in a thesis over the summer, and my thesis was over 30 pages long once I formatted everything and added my chapters in.

Can you guess how many blocks of quotes I had? I had three. Now, I did not lack in citations; I had three and a half single-spaced pages of citations for my thesis. So how did I write a thesis with that many citations and only three big quote blocks? I paraphrased my sources in my own words.

Using a ton of block quotes throughout your paper makes you look bad. If all you can do is share what other people wrote, it makes your professor question what you understand about the topic you spent so much time researching.

Writing things in your own words can be scary, especially if you are afraid of plagiarism, but writing stuff in your own words does not mean that you do not cite your references. Instead, you say things like “According to Smith, 73% of people will _______. (Smith, 2017, p. 14).” You take what that person stated in their article, and you write what they said in your own words. After you rewrite what they said, you cite them in-text, and then you cite them later when you create your works cited page (which I talked about how to create a few weeks ago.)

You can also cut down on massive blocks of quotes by only sharing a sentence from time to time. In my thesis, I did not have to create many of those indented quote blocks because I made my direct quotes a lot more concealed. In APA, at least, you do not have to create those quote indentions unless you share multiple lines of someone else’s work. So, to avoid all that, I shared only the most pertinent parts of other people’s papers in my work. You can quote others, just make sure that other people’s work does not take over your work.

9. Drawn-Out Sentences

Drawn-out sentences will be the death of many students. Some sentences need to be complicated. The longer your sentences, though, the higher the chance of you making a grammatical error. That does not mean all your sentences should be seven words, that is almost impossible in academic writing. You just need to be conscious of the length of your sentences.

Ask yourself the following question: could I have written that sentence more concisely? If the answer to that question is yes, dig deeper, and see how you can condense your sentence to make it more powerful.

Grammarly does a stellar job at showing places throughout your work where you could have written a sentence with fewer words. If you are writing creatively, flowery language may be appropriate. If you are writing academically, keep it concise.

10. Additions That Change The Meaning Of Your Writing

One thing that your grammar and spell checker will not be able to catch is your intentions. While editing this article, I realized that I said that Grammarly WAS NOT meant to do something when I wanted to say that Grammarly WAS meant to do something. The sentence was grammatically correct, so Grammarly is not going to notice that.

If I did not do my editing, I would have shared a piece of information that I did not intend to share. I would have been none the wiser about my mistake unless someone corrected me or I went back later and realized the issue in my writing.

These simple, yet careless mistakes can have an even more significant impact on academic work. Often in academia one or two words can change the entire meaning of a sentence. Take your time when you are editing your paper to make sure that you are expressing what you want to express when you write. No editor (human or software) can read your mind but you.

11. Logical Flow Of Writing

Last, but not least, you should edit for the logical flow of your writing. Does your writing have a beginning, a middle, and an end? I know this seems basic, but it is critical that your professor can keep up with what you are writing. Your professor should not have any issue getting from point a to point b in your writing.

Flow comes in many ways:

Creating An Introduction That Frames Your Paper

Your introduction should let your professor know what to expect from your paper. As you develop longer documents, you realize that your introduction does not have to be a single paragraph. Your introduction can include multiple paragraphs or pages long. The critical part of your introduction, though, is that it is as concise as possible, and it gives your reader guidance on what they will encounter later in your paper.

Utilizing Headers In Your Paper

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you know I love using headers in my writing. When you got to my blog, you knew what you were getting with this post. I did not cover everything in the introduction, but as you scrolled through my blog, you knew what each point would cover due to the headers that I used. Headers help my writing flow and help keep me on target while I am writing my blog posts. Using headers in your papers will help you stay on track while writing and help your professor understand the main points of your article.

Reading Your Paper Aloud To Make Sure It Flows Audibly

You should also take some time to read your paper aloud to make sure that it flows. You may also want to get your word processor to do this (you can do this in Microsoft Word by going to Review and then Read Aloud while you are in a document.) As you are listening to your paper, adjust things that you or your word processor get hung up on while reading the paper.

Flow is critical. Flow helps you create a stellar paper that your audience can breeze through without getting stuck on any part of your article. When your paper flows, it creates an overall better audience experience that will help your paper receive a better grade.

Conclusion

When you take the time to make these edits, you can create a paper that will wow any professor. Editing is a necessary part of the paper writing process, even though we would like to skip over it altogether. While it is one of the worst parts of writing a paper (second only to creating a Work’s Cited page), it is an essential step. We can never be perfect on the first try, or even the second or third try. Our goal is to try to edit our paper as much as possible so that we can avoid unnecessary mistakes. Editing also helps us catch some of the mistakes we could not avoid making.

In Academics on
November 17, 2017

How To Create A Works Cited Page Without The Stress

One of the hardest parts of writing a paper, in my opinion, is the Works Cited page. I am not sure why, but I have always struggled with that part of writing papers the most. I am great at writing, but pulling it all together with a monotonous Works Cited page was not my favorite thing. Not to mention a great Works Cited page helps you not be accused of plagiarism. Plagiarism is the worst thing that could happen for a student because a plagiarism charge can get you kicked out of a class, kicked out of a school, and it follows you long after you leave a campus. So, yeah, plagiarism is nothing to play with.

How To Create A Works Cited Page Without The Stress | Your Works Cited page shouldn't stress you out! Click through for my best tips on crafting a Works Cited page quickly, easily, and correctly. A great Works Cited page can really improve your paper, so don't get stuck with a bad one!

Keep Reading, Darling

In Academics on
April 4, 2016

How To Make Your introductory Paragraph Stand Out

Today’s blog is all about one thing: creating a kick-ass introductory paragraph that gets your essay noticed and adored by your professors. A clear, concise, and dare I say kick-ass opening paragraph truly sets up your essay for success. Your intro paragraph can help organize your essay. Below you will find my best tips for being concise, relevant, humorous, professional, and enticing in your introductory paragraph. You don’t have to use every single suggestion, but listen up y’all, we are going on an adventure in writing land.

As a sociology student, I write a lot of papers. Every week in my Violence & Society class we are assigned a 2-page single spaced paper (aka about 1400 words a week, ouch!) Writing a great introductory paragraph is my key to starting my essays off with a bang, and I want to show you how to do that today.

How To Make Your introductory Paragraph Stand Out | The intro paragraph are the eyes into your essays soul. Having a great intro paragraph will help your professor love your essay. Click through for lots of great tips on your next introductory paragraph.

Keep Reading, Darling

In Academics on
February 6, 2014

5 Tips to Writing Great Papers

Today I am giving you a how to on writing great papers! Writing is one of my strong points when it comes to college—which is great because I am not great at:

  1. Labs
  2. Feigning Interest
  3. Waking up happy
  4. Not procrastinating
  5. Being alert

Etc…I could go on a while.

 5 Tips For Writing Great Papers | Writing papers can be really daunting for any college student. Click through for five tips any college student can use to create great papers that will wow your professors and help them love your paper!

*Picture by Adobe Stock contributor arekmalang

You can think of paper writing as building the layers of a human being. You can have a fully fleshed and working human being—you can have just the bare bones, you can have the bones with some muscle and fat on top. You are fleshing out your paper so that you aren’t turning in just the bare bones. In paper writing bare bones aren’t acceptable.

Read the Directions

The first way to make sure you are writing an excellent paper—is to read the instructions. I know this seems like a simple task, but you’d be surprised how many mistakes could be solved by just reading and understanding the directions. Make sure you know what your teacher expects of you, and if you are still on the fence about it—ask!

Over my years as a student I have seen so many people get confused by the directions and what they are supposed to do. There is confusion when it comes to font, word length, citation style, and a whole lot more. It’s better to be safe than sorry–read the directions as soon as you can so you can ask questions as soon as you can!

Make an Outline

What do you want this paper to do? What do you want it to look like? This is your bare bones project. This is what you start to flesh out later. Your outline may change from time to time, but it’s important to start somewhere. The best place to start is by stating what you want each section of your paper to look like.

I don’t always outline my papers, sometimes the layout just comes to me. When I am feeling at a loss for what I want to do I definitely take the time to outline my papers so that I get the best papers. Once you have a good and informative outline in place it becomes a million times easier to just fill it in and really work on your paper. Having an outline also makes it easier to jump around in your paper. Not sure quite yet how you plan to write about paragraph 1 and 2, skip to paragraph 3! Having a good outline is pretty awesome!

Start

The best thing you can do after you make your outline is to start on the paper. Write each piece bit by bit, and just write until you finish the paper. This won’t be your final draft—don’t worry. One of the most important things to remember in my opinion when writing a paper or doing any class assignment is that the hardest part is starting. Over my years of being a student I have realized that again and again. Starting your paper will be the best thing that you can do for it.

Add Some Flesh to That Muscle

Right now you have muscle and fat. Now it’s time to add some flesh to that muscle! Go through your paper and elaborate, re-word, and make sure that your paper flows correctly from thought to thought. It’s important that you do this to make sure you are being a thorough as possible.

Trim out that fatty content too. You probably used a contraction or five throughout your paper. You may have stated something twice or misspelled a word. Do a spelling and grammar check and also go throughout the paper with your own two eyes.

One tip that I have been loving lately if you have a Macbook like I do, in Pages there is a setting called speaking. I tell you exactly how to access the feature in the image below, but it is my absolute favorite feature for figuring out what isn’t quite right when I have a big paper that I am writing for class. I will let the computer speak to me, it has a pretty natural voice for a computer. When it comes across a word that it has a hard time saying or a sentence that doesn’t sound quite right I will go in and fix that word or sentence. I am sure that other platforms also have this feature, but I know for sure that Pages does.

Get a Second Opinion

Once you have looked your paper over with care give the instructions and your draft to someone to look over. Think about the criticism that they gave your paper and see how you can change your paper for the better. You may not use every single suggestion—and that’s okay!

A lot of universities have great writing centers that are there to help you at literally any stage of the writing process. They can really sit down with you and help you make sure that your paper doesn’t have any faults or isn’t missing any crazy amounts of flesh or muscle. Just make sure that you know exactly what you want them to look for and that you are prepared for the appointment you make with them. Also be sure to make an appointment early. You want to make sure you actually have time to go over the paper and use their suggestions. There is no point in going to the writing center if you don’t have time to use the changes they suggest.

Triple Check for Accuracy

Now it’s time to look through your directions one last time and make sure that your paper answers every questions, cites every reference, and does everything that the teacher wants it to do. The best thing about papers is they are highly subjective but you can usually still have a checklist of facts that make your paper a good or bad paper. Just by going through your paper one more time I know that you will have a great paper that your teacher will adore!

I hope these tips were helpful for you all. What are your best paper writing tips?

Check out my post How To Write A Kick Ass Introductory Paragraph to learn how to make a great first paragraph.