Essay Guide

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Editing – 2: what’s on top & what lies beneath

Two types of editing

If you find these different but related processes difficult to follow, another way to think about the editing process is to tell yourself that you need to do two types or editing: simple or surface editing; and complex or deep editing.

Simple or surface editing

Simple or surface editing involves checking spelling, grammar and punctuation. The spell checker functions of word processing are useful but must be used with caution. For example, they won’t help you to spot words which are spelled correctly but used wrongly.

If you have any doubts about the spelling of particular words then look them up. Make sure you haven’t made any mistakes such as confusing ‘their’, ‘there’ or ‘they’re’. Make sure that you are using the right form of verbs in your sentences and not leaving words out e.g. don’t write sentences like ‘All companies needs to have business strategy’. These sorts of mistakes not only make your work harder to read: they give the impression that you have not taken much care over it.

Complex or deep editing

Complex or deep editing will often involve redrafting and involves reading your assignment as if you were an outsider or a stranger to you and your work. Complex or deep editing involves asking yourself particular types of questions:

Does your essay have a central idea? Is it clear to the reader or is it hard to spot?

Do you raise questions that you don’t answer? Have you done everything you said you were going to in your introduction?

Have you said everything you want to say? You cannot assume that other people will know what you want to say.

Is there a definite sense of an argument developing? Can you follow your own argument? Do you agree with it? If not, then it needs redrafting.

Have you made an argument and answered the question set by the assignment or have you just put down everything you know or could think of about the subject?

Do the different points you make follow on logically?

Is there a good balance between the information you report and summarise and your analysis and view of it?

Is your use of subject terminology or special vocabularies clear and consistent?

Have you got a conclusion? Does it give the reader a sense of arrival?

Have you answered the questions you’ve been set or discussed the topic you were asked to explore?

Finally, check your essay against your plan

If you made an essay plan when you started thinking about your assignment, now is the time to go back to it and use it as a checklist. Have you done everything you planned to? Have you missed anything out?

Another good way of doing this is to go through your assignment and make a list of the main point or points in each paragraph. Then check this list against your original plan.

When you have done all this, you may want to redraft your assignment. You may want to rewrite individual paragraphs to make them clearer. You may want to cut paragraphs or sentences that don’t add anything to your argument. You may want to put paragraphs in a different order to make your argument more logical or to give it greater impact.