Step 6 & 7: Refining & Proofreading
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Refine, Rewrite & Revise
The first draft you write should not be the one you hand up! No matter how cautious you were in your writing, or how thoroughly you planned out your structure, you will have made mistakes or written things you later want to change. Refining your assignment will involve rigorous editing of the first draft of your assignment. The purpose of editing is to enhance the effectiveness of your writing in terms of both standard and content. We also edit to help the work adhere to the set guidelines – for example, you may need to trim the words down to within the given word count. The editing process can be daunting: it can feel a little like starting again and you may feel nervous that it will result in parts of your work being cut or changed. You may have already spent so long writing an essay that you feel that you cannot improve on it. Do not be afraid of it! Editing is an important part of the process, and it will come more naturally the more you engage in it.
Editing is worth doing; even a short amount of time spent editing can bring about a great improvement in your work and increase your marks. It can be easy to miss minor mistakes, or not realise that something does not make sense until you read over it again. An essay may go through several iterations before it is properly complete. It is important to dedicate enough time to read through and edit your essay several times: each review will likely highlight something you missed previously.
There are a few strategies you can employ to make the editing process smoother. Reading your essay aloud will help you to spot small grammar or spelling mistakes. Additionally, something that might have been clear in your head might seem a lot more muddled when you read it out loud. If you find yourself tripping over your words as you speak, that is probably a sign that there is some issue with what you’ve written!
As we write, we become accustomed to what we have written, and start filling in the blanks in our heads naturally. As such, even when you are reading a text closely, you can miss mistakes you made because your brain knows what is meant to be there and fills that in instead. Therefore, it can be useful to get someone else to read your assignment. This is particularly effective if they do not have the same background as you do: if they cannot make sense of your argument or follow your logical reasoning, then you need to be more explicit and explain yourself in a clearer way.
Proofreading & Polishing your Assignment
Now that you’ve done your major edits, you can focus specifically on the spelling and grammar mistakes, and put the final touches to your assignment. By now, you should have a first/second draft of your essay complete which is ready to be read over and polished! It is important to realise that proofreading takes time and you should ideally allow a week between writing and polishing your essay. This will allow you to re-approach your assignment with a fresh pair of eyes. If you reread the paper just after you’ve written it, you will not notice some of the mistakes you made! Read the paper slowly to avoid missing mistakes and, if possible, ask a friend to read over it too. Proofreading is the last stage in the editing process. It needs to be done thoroughly and systematically, otherwise it is very easy to miss small errors that need to be changed.
As you work through your assignments, it can be useful to build a checklist to help you identify mistakes. The first step is to make a list of your common errors. This can be created by checking your tutor's feedback and making a list of recurring errors. Note down which words you frequently misspell, and whether there are specific grammar mistakes you repeatedly make. You can then use this list to focus your proofreading, but make sure to keep an eye out for other mistakes too! No matter how carefully you write, you will make mistakes here and there: this is part of the process, and now is the time to catch those slip-ups.
Take a structured approach when you read over your assignment: focus on specific potential problems, rather than trying to identify everything at one go. In your first proofread, you might focus on spelling. On your second pass, you could keep an eye out for grammar mistakes, and after that run-on sentences. Proofreading can be a bit tedious, but it’s important to spend time on it, as it can help you avoid minor mistakes that might cost you valuable marks.
The proofreading stage is also a good chance to make a final check of things like your structure and your citations. Double-check that you’re citing properly and that your bibliography is laid out correctly.
- Have you created a title page?
- Are your pages numbered?
- Do you need your student number on every page?
- Have you double-spaced your lines, and are you using the correct font?
This stage should be the stage where you put the final flourishes on your assignment, and ensure that it meets the standard of quality expected.