Editing for Clarity and Grammar
How to Edit
There are computer programs and aids that can help you edit, and we urge you to use any of them that you find helpful. Use a grammar checker and spell checker as a first step, but follow that step with a close reading of your essay.
Tips to help edit your own work:
- Use a hard copy and give yourself a few days, or at least, a few hours between drafting and editing.
- Try reading aloud and listening to yourself as you read. Your ear can often catch problems that your eye might not.
- Use feedback from past work to learn which grammatical errors you make consistently; look for these particular errors when you edit.
- You may also ask a friend to "peer-edit", but as the essay is yours, ultimately, you must make decisions about what needs to be changed and what does not.
- Your goal is not to achieve perfection but to ensure that your sentences are clear and correct.
Become more familiar with rules of grammar, syntax, spelling, punctuation and usage; it becomes easier to edit your work when you are able to identify and understand errors.
Common Writing Errors
- Sentence Structure
- Pronoun agreement and reference
- Subject-verb agreement
- Commonly Confused Words
Be patient and do not be too hard on yourself. The more you write, and the more you edit, the more you will learn.
Clarity, Accuracy, and Style
- The tone of academic writing should be more formal than everyday language. Do not use slang or chatty expressions, such as “with that being said” or “these factors come into play”.
- For examples, avoid qualifiers, intensifiers, and unnecessary adjectives, like “very”, “really”, “extremely”, etc.
- Don't use contractions, such as "won't", don't", "can't", etc., in academic writing.
- Avoid the use of "you”, as "you" means the reader, and it’s rare in academic writing to address one's reader.
- Choose words that are simple and clear to prevent sounding awkward or overly elaborate. Choose the one-syllable word over the four-syllable word when you can.
- Be precise with your language.
- For example, in the sentence, “The committee will look at the issue of plagiarism” the words “look” and “issue” are vague. Consider word choice carefully to make the sentence clearer: “The committee will examine the rise in cases of plagiarism.”
Editing Checklist: Sentence-Level Revision
- Are the clauses in your compound and complex sentences linked properly and punctuated correctly?
- Have you avoided run-on sentences and comma splices?
- Have you avoided sentence fragments?
- Do your subjects and verbs agree in person and number?
- Do your pronouns agree in person and number with their antecedents? Do your pronouns have antecedents?
- Have you used the period, semi-colon, colon, dash and comma correctly?
- Have you capitalized the words that should be?
- Have you used language that is clear and easy to understand?
- Have you avoided slang and jargon? Are the words you used too informal? Are they overly elaborate?
- Is your language as concise as possible? Have you eliminated repetition and unnecessary words?