Editing and Proofreading


When revising written work within a writing community, it is a good idea to visualize the process and workflow before you get started in earnest. While revision is a recursive (circling back) practice and writers frequently move back and forth between editorial stages, the flowchart below is designed to help you follow and appreciate the general progression of revision.

Revising After Writing Community Feedback

After submitting and receiving your peer reviews in your writing community, return to your own work and take a long, hard look at the recommendations your instructor and classmates have made regarding your draft. Remember that you are seeking ways to make the meaning clear in your essay. Do not be afraid of changing the essay in radical ways, especially if the ideas and organization haven’t conveyed the meaning you intended. Build on the strengths and add, cut, reorder, or start over where needed.

Use a Writing Rubric

After you have incorporated some of the recommendations into your revision, review the 6+1 Traits Rubric, which features the five areas (below) by which the final draft of your essay will be graded. Make sure that you are fully editing and proofreading your draft.

By editing, you are reviewing and revising the big picture items:

1. Ideas—Are my ideas and content developed? 
You are looking for ideas to be clear and focused, remaining on topic throughout the essay. Make sure your details support the central focus of the narrative.

2. Organization—Does my essay provide a logical organization, demonstrating an order or structure that supports the ideas clearly?
Give your narrative a creative title and provide an inviting introduction. Craft thoughtful transitions as the the essay progresses, making sure that the structure is logical.

3. Word Choice—Have I provided language that sounds natural and conveys the intended message of the essay?
Your essay should flow naturally from your own choice of words and phrases. Use action verbs and avoid linking verbs. Don’t forget to read aloud to see if your voice comes through in this essay.

4. Sentence Fluency—Are my sentences well-built, demonstrating a strong sense of varied structure?
One quick editing technique you can use to test for fluency is to circle the first word of every sentence. Do you see initial words repeating? Do you start sentences with articles (a, an, the) or with pronouns (or names of characters)? If so, try to incorporate some prepositional phrases and introductory clauses so you incorporate sentence variety and create a rhythm to your sentences that avoid choppiness.

By proofreading, you are taking into consideration standard writing conventions:

5. Conventions—Have I demonstrated a good grasp of standard writing conventions? Have I checked the essay for any misspellings?  Is my punctuation accurate?  Have I avoided the pitfalls of many common grammar errors?  Did I meet the word counts required for this essay?  Do I have proper paragraph structure?  Have I made sure that what I mean to say is not undermined or impeded by grammatical, mechanical, or stylistic errors?

Proofread Your Writing Backward

While there are a number of ways to proofread written content for errors, it is often useful to review your writing “backward.” That is, you read the last sentence of the essay first, then backward, sentence by sentence, until you finish your proofreading with the first sentence. This kind of reading isolates individual sentences from the essay’s context, so that you are not reading for meaning within a paragraph but for errors that may appear in individual sentences.

Apply the backward review to the Revision Practices within a Writing Community flowchart above: did you find the error?

Writing to the Final Version: Suit Up!

Writing a polished paper is, in and of itself, an intellectual challenge and following formatting guidelines in this and other college courses signals to your readers that your paper should be taken seriously as a contribution to a particular course or a given academic or professional field. Think of presenting your essay in the correct format like wearing a tailored suit to a job interview.

Of course, there’s more to making a narrative presentable than its format. The narrative should be presentable in terms of its grammar, mechanics, and style. If you would like to get a little practice with sentence-by-sentence proofreading, feel free to try either of the proofreading exercises made available by Pen and Page: