True Editing: How to Polish Your First Essay Draft

There's a reason why you get three strikes in baseball - very few of us get it exactly right the first time. This axiom holds true for your custom writing as well. No matter what type of writing project you are working on, it is very important to go back and edit your first draft. However, editing is not limited to spell checking and making sure each sentence ends with a punctuation mark. True editing involves the revision of your work to make it more clear, concise, and easier for your reader to understand. Unfortunately, many fledgling writers do not understand how to go about improving their first drafts. By following the tips provided here, you will be able to polish your custom writing and take it to a higher level of quality.

Do Not Rely on Your Computer

Virtually every word-processing software program available contains a spell check and grammar check feature. While these features are incredibly helpful, far too many academic writers become reliant on them to catch their errors and improve their sentences. It is important to remember that the suggestions these programs make are just that - suggestions. The computer is not always correct, so do not blindly accept every change it proposes. In addition, there are often many mistakes that the software cannot detect at all, so do not think that your paper is error-free simply because the program did not highlight anything.

Read Your Work

This should go without saying, but you would be surprised just how many writers never actually take the time to read their work. Reading your work does not mean skimming it over looking for spelling errors, it means actually reading your work. Sit down and read it as if you have never seen it before. Does it sound natural? Is it easy to understand? If not, changes will have to be made.

Stay on Course

Every time you write, do so with a clear, defined purpose. This could be to inform, persuade, or entertain your reader. As you read over your work, keep in mind what message you were trying to create when writing the piece. This primary message must be stated early on, and each and every sentence that follows should support whatever main point or argument you were attempting to make. Any sentences or words that do not help support your main points should either be changed or eliminated completely.

Cut the Fat

Contrary to the opinion of many students, long, wordy sentences are not preferable to clear, concise ones. This does not mean you should create boring, non-descriptive sentences, but rather to convey meaning with as few words as possible. An extra adjective here, an unnecessary adverb there, and your sentences can become jumbled tongue twisters that are difficult to read. When going over each sentence, ask yourself if you could have made the same point with fewer words. Remember, the goal of writing is to communicate effectively. As a general rule, sentences should be 15-20 words long and paragraphs should contain 4-5 sentences.

Avoid Passive Voice

When writing, try to use an active voice as often as possible, while avoiding a passive voice. Only use the passive voice when you want to emphasize the receiver of the sentence's action rather than the performer. Passive voice can usually be identified by the presence of a past participle with a form of the verb "to be," such as am, is, was, were, has been, have been, and had been.


My house was built by my father.
-> Passive Voice
My father built my house.
-> Active Voice

In the first sentence, the receiver of the action, the house, is emphasized, while in the second sentence the performer of the action, my father, is emphasized.

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