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Edit and Proofread My Writing: Getting Started

Introduction

You're done with the last word of that 20-page paper. Hurray! Save and Print, right? Well...

There are several essential steps to be taken after that last word is typed out: You need to edit, proofread, and generally check over your paper before it's printed. 

Formatting Your Document

Formatting your document is usually done before you start writing, but if you didn't do that step then, you definitely need to do it now.

The format of your document will differ depending on the style guide you're using, which will depend on the class and what the instructor wants. Most of the time you'll be working in APA, MLA, or Chicago/Turabian. Naturally, each style wants papers in that style set up slightly differently. What does your title page need to look like? What size are the paper's margins? Is there a specified font and/or type size to use? 

All of those questions (and more) can be answered by looking in the style manual. If you don't own a copy of the style you're working in, there are copies of style manuals in the Reference Desk area of Milne Library that you're free to use in the library. You can also find online help for many style manuals.

What Should I Do When Editing?

Merriam-Webster defines editing as "to prepare as literary material for publication or presentation; to alter, adapt, or refine, especially to bring about conformity to a standard or to suit a particular purpose." When you edit your writing, there are several things you should do:

  • Check sentence structure: e.g., is your sentence a complete sentence (subject, predicate, expresses a complete thought)?
  • Check grammatical structure: e.g., do you have subject-verb agreement (if your sentence's subject is plural, is the verb form also plural)?
  • Check for clarity: e.g., does your writing express exactly what you want to say in a way that your audience will be able to understand?
  • Check facts: e.g., have you confirmed that the facts you use to support your arguments are true? are there any inadvertant errors?
  • Check for continuity: e.g., is what you say on Page 3 the same as what you say on Page 8? if what you're editing is fiction, has a character's hair color changed from page to page?

What Should I Do When Proofreading?

Merriam-Webster defines proofreading as "to read and mark corrections." When you're proofreading your work, you should:

  • Check spelling
  • Check punctuation
  • Check formatting

First Year Experience Librarian/Liaison to Communication, Geography, & Languages & Literatures

Sherry Larson-Rhodes's picture
Sherry Larson-Rhodes
Contact:
Milne Library Research Instruction Office
585-245-6038