When it comes to academic essays, the process of editing is as important as writing. In addition to eliminating the errors and mistakes that creep in during the tiresome process of writing, meticulous editing also helps improve the quality of your essay. Often scholars underestimate the power of editing or do a lousy job, both of which can be detrimental to their grades. Here are a few tips to help you edit your academic essays and research papers to perfection.
Let's admit it; we all make the mistake of repeating our sentences, deliberately or inadvertently. Repetition in the structure, rhythm, and length of sentences creates monotony in readers and distracts them. The first thing to do when editing academic essays is to eliminate such repetition. It is important to ensure that all your sentences don't start the same way or have the same structure or length.
The primary job of editing is to make essays readable and comprehensible, so you should pay special attention to the length and readability of your sentences and paragraphs. Long-winded sentences should be pruned and unnecessarily long paragraphs should be chopped such that they convey your ideas unambiguously.An effective way to tighten up your sentences is to replace lengthy portions with words, phrases or idioms that express the idea succinctly. Brevity, indeed, is a virtue in writing.
An essay with numerous typos is an eyesore; it may also impact your scores adversely, even if you submit a brilliant piece of writing. You can rely on spellcheck tools available online to eliminate spelling errors and typos. Another effective way to spot such errors is to read your essay backward, starting from the last sentence to the first. Taking a printout of the essay and reading it aloud is also an effective way to spot glaring typos and spelling errors.
This is the most difficult part of academic editing because, in order to avoid cliches, you should first be able to identify them. Moreover, cliches are sometimes useful in driving important points and ideas home, so when you avoid them altogether, your writing may appear labored and strained. The only way out here is to be watchful - that is, pay close attention to what you write; and when you spot cliches, always ask yourself whether there are betterways of conveying that idea.
Many have the habit of using "he" when referring to mankind in general or talking about a subject whose gender is not known. However, this is a guaranteed way to alienate readers. Ensure that the pronouns used in your essay are gender-neutral or gender-inclusive. That is, use words like, "men and women", "we", "people", "humans" etc. when talking about mankind in general. When referring to subjects with no specific gender, try using "he/she", but not repeatedly lest your write-up loses its readability. Switching from "he" to "she" is another option, but avoid using both pronouns in a specific paragraph or example.The best way to tackle this problem is to use plurals wherever possible.
Another important aspect of editing is to ensure uniformity across your scholarly write-up, in terms of spelling, phrases, citation styles, names, acronyms, etc. If you are using US spelling, make sure that you adhere to it to a tee. Similarly, pay special attention to the citation style you use and maintain consistency across the essay. For instance, when following the MLA stylesheet, your in-text references, footnotes, endnotes, bibliography, references, etc. should be in sync with the MLA guidelines. The citation tools and software such as Zotero, Mendeley, Endnote, etc. can be useful in ensuring uniformity and accuracy across citations.
Talking of citations, the importance of attributing and acknowledging your sources cannot be understated. It is only natural that you forget to attribute quotations or cite sources in the heat and pressure of writing. But when editing your academic essays, you should fix such oversights and redeem yourself. Each and every idea and quotation you borrowed from others should be attributed to them, failing which you may invite charges of plagiarism.
Finally, and most importantly, check your essays for grammar errors. There is nothing wrong in using online tools to detect and correct grammar errors, but keep in mind that they are never as good as human editing. You can seek help from a friend or teacher, or consider availing the services of a professional editor or an agency.
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