Quick tips for editing in a pinch

By Jessica Barker

At some point throughout your academic career, you’ve likely been taught that editing is essential to writing polished papers—that you should write multiple drafts, peer review, and maybe even meet with a writing tutor. These are all important steps that you should ideally take, but what if you are running short on time or you just need to do some final edits? Here are some simple steps you can take to improve your paper.

  1. Distance yourself from it

This may seem like an unnecessary step, especially if you don’t have much time, but it can make a world of difference. When you allow yourself to take time away from your paper and do something else, you will find that you are able to approach it with a new outlook. This will allow you to be more objective and catch mistakes that you might not otherwise find.

  1. Print your paper

It is helpful to print your paper—more helpful than you may realize. A simple change in format can help you spot mistakes that you might not have originally seen.

  1. Read your paper aloud

When reading silently it is easy to overlook typos and skim over grammatical errors. However, when you read out loud you are more apt to find errors since you are able to both hear and see what you have written. Use your printed copy for this.

  1. Cut out unnecessary adverbs

As you begin to read your paper out loud, one of the first things you can do is eliminate adverbs such as “really” or “very.” These words are often used with the intention of strengthening a sentence, but they tend to have an opposite effect. They usually don’t add anything to what you are trying to say and oftentimes come across as fillers, so it’s often best to just cut them out.

  1. Look for repetition

It is easy to accidentally repeat yourself when writing, particularly when you are working on a first draft. Because of this, it is important to search for repetition in your paper. Repetition may look like two consecutive sentences that contain similar ideas, or use of the same wording throughout a given section of writing. If you happen to find repetition in your paper, you can either remove it or combine the repeated ideas into one stronger idea.

Happy editing!


Jessica Barker is a sophomore majoring in theater and minoring in sociology and anthropology. After college she hopes to use theater to create social change and empower others.

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