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Editing and proofreading: A short guide

How to edit



Editing, then, is something which takes place throughout the writing process. But what about the final edits when you think you have your essay finished? It is a good idea to read through your finished document again a few times. One useful editing technique is to have one specific focus for each reading. 

First, you might read the whole thing to make sure the document makes sense and that the material is presented in a logical order. As you read ask yourself the following:

  • Is my document well-structured?
  • Am I repeating myself?
  • Does my argument flow and is it backed up with evidence?
  • Is my evidence accurate, appropriate and in the correct place?

Second, you might read with a focus on the accuracy of your citations and reference list or bibliography.

  • Make sure you know which referencing style you are using and follow the examples and guidelines as given in your Departmental Handbook and/or use resources such as the iCite Guide  and Cite Them right Online
  • It is important to check the references carefully, even if you have used reference management software such as EndNote. 

On a third reading you could check the grammar, punctuation and spelling.

  • Are your spelling, punctuation and grammar correct?
  • Have you missed out any words?
  • Could long, unwieldy sentences be broken up?
  • Have you spelt out your first use of any acronyms?
  • Are numerical data and mathematical equations correctly presented?
  • Have you confused pairs of words such as ‘practice' and 'practise’?

Asking yourself these questions might help you to spot errors that you might have otherwise missed. 

It might be useful to have a look at Working within word limits: A short guide

Commonly confused words

Here are some of the most commonly confused pairs of words. If you know that you find these distinctions tricky you could use a dictionary or grammar guide to look them up.

  • affect/effect
  • your/you’re 
  • their/they're/there
  • then/than
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