Chapter 3: The Writing Process, Composing, and Revising

3.7 Proofreading and Editing Your Final Draft

Sarah M. Lacy and Emilie Zickel

You have drafted, received feedback, revised, redrafted, received more feedback, revised, redrafted…and now you are ready to polish the paper up and hand it in.

To help you engage with this step, consider using a variety of the following strategies:

Proofreading and Editing Strategies

  • Close/specific reading
    • This strategy is always important to complete, as it requires intense analysis of your paper and prose. Use any rhetorically-based reading skills you have learned and apply these to this close read.
    • Be careful not to only rely on this tactic. It can be very easy to accidentally overlook an issue if you are only reading the essay in one way.  Make sure to use this strategy in conjunction with any of these other options.
  • Reading aloud
    • This strategy is specifically helpful when checking the flow of your sources once integrated into your own work. By reading aloud, you can hear how you have synthesized the sources amongst your own work, allowing you to check that there is no break in the narrative.
    • Reading aloud also forces you to experience your writing in a different medium; in so doing, many structural and word choice issues can become clear, among others.
  • Shift your start point
    • What this means is that you start reading over your essay in the middle of the essay, rather than always from the beginning.
    • Reading an essay out of order can help your mind experience each part of the essay in a new way, keeping you from becoming tired during a read though.
  • Print the paper, then edit
    • Only working on an assignment through one medium (a computer screen, tablet, etc.) can cause your eyes to gloss over the same error over and over again. By printing out your work, you are allowing yourself a chance to physically see your work, which often leads to the recognition of additional errors.
  • Walk away
    • Sometimes the best move is to give yourself a day or two away from your paper and then come back to it with fresh eyes. Doing so will allow you to gain some perspective on your topic and some psychological distance from your work.
    • Note that this means you will need to give yourself plenty of time before the paper is due.

In addition to practicing proof-reading and editing strategies, it is also a good idea to create a checklist of common errors that many writers make. Below is a general checklist for the final editing stage of a paper. Any assignment will have additional specific requirements, and those should be found on the assignment sheet. What follows is a general checklist for ensuring general submission readiness:

Final Editing Checklist

  • Document Format
    • Is your paper laid out in the formatting that the assignment requires? (MLA, APA, CMS, etc). If you are not sure of how to meet the formatting guidelines, Google can help! There is a plethora of information out there about how to format documents, and image searches can give you a visual example.
  • Spacing
    • Almost all of the papers that you write in college will require a double spacing throughout. Have you checked to be sure that your paper is double spaced without any additional spaces after the header, the title, or any body paragraph?
  • Indentations
    • Indenting a new paragraph is a rhetorical move that signals to the reader that you are beginning a new idea in a new paragraph. You can hit tab at the beginning of each paragraph to indent.
  • Thesis
    • Is your thesis at the end of the Intro section? Does it directly respond to the assignment question?
  • Transition phrasing
    • Have you used transitional phrases at the beginning of new body paragraphs (except for the very first paragraph to follow the intro) to help guide the reader from one idea to the next?
  • Source integration
  • Works Cited
    • Even if you have used only one source in the paper, you must include a Works Cited page. Is your Works Cited in alphabetical order by the first letter in the work that you are referencing? Is the Works Cited formatted according to what the assignment requires(MLA, APA, CMS, etc)?
  • Grammar check
    • Have you gone through the essay to ensure that you’ve corrected spelling or wording errors?


Self Editing Exercise

Please watch the following video (2 minutes) and complete the embedded questions.



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ENG 100/101/102 at Cleveland State University by Sarah M. Lacy and Emilie Zickel is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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