Many students believe that writing a paper is the most difficult and the most important part of working on an academic assignment. After all, what is there left to do after you have finished writing? A quick check for grammar mistakes and typos is more than enough to finalize the essay before you hand it in. It is a widespread point of view – and a completely misguided one.
Editing and proofreading go far beyond such a primitive check for obvious mistakes – at least when it is done by an experienced proofreader who knows what he/she is doing. Even the best essays can be graded poorly if you do not edit and proofread them properly – in other words, by forgoing this stage of writing or not paying it the attention it deserves you severely harm your chances. In this article, we will cover some of the most common mistakes students make when they edit and proofread their papers (or try to do so).
1. You Do not Give Yourself Enough Time
To most students, editing and proofreading comes as an afterthought at the very best. They tend to put off writing until the last possible moment, do it in a hurry, and when they are done with their essay, there is often virtually no time left to do any in-depth editing. When the deadline is tomorrow morning, it is midnight already and you spent the best part of the day writing a paper, it is usually not a very conducive situation for working. Even if you force yourself to sit through it and edit your paper, it is unlikely to do you much good.
The only way out is to plan your time better. Start writing earlier. Expect things to take longer than you think. Set aside time for editing beforehand.
2. You Rely on Online Tools Too Much
Most students tend to use sites like Grammarly or Ginger to go through their essays in search of mistakes and stylistic inconsistencies. Do not get us wrong – these tools can be quite helpful, especially when your grasp of English leaves much to be desired. However, they are just algorithms and rather simple algorithms at that. While they can help you weed out the more obvious mistakes and flaws, they are completely helpless when it comes to more difficult and complex sentences and grammatical structures. They both miss mistakes and return false positives. In other words, blindly following their recommendations is not a very good idea.
3. You Do not Ask for a Second Opinion
Even if you believe yourself to be an awesome editor and proofreader, you can still benefit from asking a specialist to take a look at your paper. As the paper’s author, you are always a bit biased and are less likely to notice certain types of mistakes. Fortunately, these days you can simply visit an online essay editing website and get an opinion of an expert in exchange for a small sum of money. Do not forgo this opportunity – having your essay proofread by a specialist is completely different from asking a friend to skim over it.
4. You Take Every Piece of Advice to Heart
The opposite of never looking for feedback and second opinions is taking feedback too seriously. Some people accept everything they hear about their writing at face value. It is as if they by definition treat someone else’s opinion as more valuable than their own, and try to incorporate any tips and suggestions they hear into their writing immediately, irrespectively of how well it fits the bigger picture. If you accept too many suggestions from too many source, not only do you risk losing your individual voice – you are likely to turn your paper into a disjointed mess as well.
5. You Are a Bit Too Eager to Use a Thesaurus
A thesaurus is a viable tool to diversify your language a little bit, but relying on it too much can make your essay look weird or even ridiculous. Some students think something along these lines, “My vocabulary is insufficient, I have to add a few long and unusual words into my writing to make it look more sophisticated”. It is a common failing – many amateur writers try to make themselves look more intelligent and deep by using long and complex words. It is a poor tactic. Firstly, it is immediately obvious when you do it. Secondly, it usually produces a diametrically opposite effect. Thirdly, people tend to appreciate short, simple and laconic wording more anyway.
6. You Do Editing and Proofreading Together
Editing and proofreading are two different things. When you edit, you look at the paper’s overall structure, style and organization. You may rearrange parts of your essay, delete, rewrite and add entire paragraphs, reword your phrasing and make other major changes. When you proofread, you do not pay attention to the bigger picture. You are concerned with spelling of individual words, punctuation, correctness of grammar structures and other things that do not require dramatic changes to the paper as a whole.
You should not do these two activities at the same time, because they will distract you from each other. The optimal approach is to first edit your paper and only then, when you are sure you are not going to make any new significant alterations, move on to proofreading.
7. You Go through Your Paper Only Once
You are best at weeding out mistakes when you concentrate on one type of them at a time. In other words, if you are looking for mistakes in general, your mind remains unfocused, and at least some of them are likely to evade your attention. Meanwhile, when you go through your paper several times, each time concentrating on a specific type of mistakes, you will probably get the majority of them.
Do you recognize your own behavior in these mistakes? If so, it is very likely that it is what keeps you from getting the grades you want. Pay attention to what you do, alter your editing habits, and the results will not be long in coming.
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