Editing is a skill you should master before you graduate. Just because you are graduating doesn’t mean you are done writing and editing papers. Not by a long shot.
Each of my jobs after graduating from college required me to write tons of emails. Sometimes I even spent a whole work day writing just one or two emails. I had to write super detailed, instructional emails. First I would write one master email and then tweek it as needed for different recipients.
I always had a co-worker read or proof my master email before I sent it out for the first time. Then, as I received responses from the recipients, I would edit it again for clarity. I could see from the recipients’ responses and questions what I needed to fix.
Editing is a real life skill
So, editing is a real life skill that you WILL use again after high school and college.
If you do not have to write emails at work, you will probably have to write a resume and cover letter at some point. Editing is super important in those instances.
Editing is not proofreading
If you are a parent reading this and will be “editor” for your student, do not proofread. By not proofreading I mean do not write in the corrections to errors.
Circle or mark where there is an error, but make the student figure out how to fix it. You could write next to an entire paragraph “review comma rules.” This points out to the student that they need to do a little review of comma rules. Or semicolons. Or capitalization.
It’s a good idea to have grammar resource books on hand for reviewing different grammar rules. Books giving examples showing how each rule is used are perhaps the most helpful.
A great grammar rule resource
My favorite source for such grammar rule review is a little blue and white book called The Little English Handbook, 4th ed. by Edward P. J. Corbett. I used this little handbook in college and carried it from job to job. The Little English Handbook by Edward P. J. Corbett and Sheryl Finkle is now in its 8th edition.
I would recommend The Little English Handbook to parents and students as their go-to source for official grammar rules. It not only lists the rules, but provides clear examples and explanations of the rules.
Parents can get familiar with The Little English Handbook and point their students to the rules they need. Much learning takes place during the editing process. Once you look up a rule several times, you will carry it with you going forward.
Of course writers can use the grammar and spellcheck tools included in products such as MicrosoftWord, Google Documents, and Grammarly. But, I think it is important to know why the rules are rules. Knowing what the rules are and why can help you take your writing to the next level.
5 simple questions to ask during editing
- Organization. Is the paper organized chronologically? Topically? Does it have clear main points followed by supporting details? Is there a clear structure to the paper?
- Repetition. Is there too much repetition? Some repetition is good when it helps organization. It’s not good when just trying to reach word count requirements.
- Sources. Are sources documented in the text and then cited properly?
- Balance. Are paragraphs parallel? Are they roughly the same length and similarly structured?
- Tense. Is the paper written in the proper tense and in 3rd person? Tense switching is common in rough drafts. Starting the paper in present tense and then switching to past tense half way through is confusing to the reader. Follow teacher instructions for tense.
Editing practice makes perfect
The more you edit your work or help someone else edit theirs, the better you will get at this underappreciated skill. Does your paper need to be perfect? Yes. Will it be perfect? No, probably not.
Edit to the best of your ability. Your teacher wants to find SOMETHING to mark up on your paper, right? Your boss, on the other hand, does NOT want to find anything to correct in your written work.
Final editing tips
I prefer to do my first edits as I compose on my computer. Then I like to do a second edit on my computer once I have a pretty good final rough draft. Next, I print out a paper copy and go through it with a pen and mark up any errors I can catch or make changes. Finally, I go back in to my computer version and make the edits I marked on my paper copy. I am old fashioned, so I like to do the paper step!