14-1: Editing

Writing > Revision > Editing


When authors edit, they modify their text's structure, format and contents. It's frustrating, but sometimes people get to this stage and realize they have to discard their work and start over again.

Some people like to think of the following 6 R's as they edit:

  • Rethink

  • Reconsider

  • Review

  • Refine

  • Reorganize

  • Revive

Some Advice on How to Edit

The following paragraphs provide some ideas on how to go about editing a text.

Start with a Wide Focus and Then Narrow Down

  • Start with your paper's overall topic. That's the thesis statement. It's your text's main idea. Is it too wide or too narrow for the length of your paper? Does it clearly tell your reader what the essay is about?

  • Do you still agree with your thesis statement?

  • When you read your thesis statement, do you believe that people will learn anything in the paper? Or, is your paper going to primarily reiterate things that most people could guess on their own? The objective of your work is to inform other people. If people sipping drinks on a Saturday night could come up with the same points your paper does through casual conversation, you need to narrow your paper's focus.

  • Does the first sentence “hook” or “grab” the reader’s attention?

  • Does your introduction make it clear to readers what the text will be about without necessarily writing, "This text will... ?" Between the first sentence and the thesis statement, do you provide background information or prepare the reader for the thesis statement? Do you allude to the "who," "where," "why," "what," and "how" that generally surrounds the thesis that is about to be announced?

  • Does the text have a title? Is it appropriate to the writing style? Does it connect with the thesis statement? Is it capitalized correctly?

  • Now, consider your topic sentences. These are often the first sentences in your body paragraphs. Do they connect with the thesis statement, or do they stray off topic?

  • Examine your paragraph content. Does anything stray away from the topic sentence's topic?

  • Identify the transitional devices you use to shift from one idea to the next. Did you use any? Identify the transitional devices you use to illustrate a point, provide proof, or to give examples. Are you taking your reader by the hand and guiding them through your text every step of the way?

  • Examine the length of your sentences. Could you be stating the same thing more succinctly? Anglophones appreciate it when academic and professional texts get straight to the point. It's a different story for magazines and works of fiction. Get rid of unnecessary adjectives and adverbs. Replace long phrases with forceful verbs. Delete unnecessary prepositional phrases. Use a thesaurus to get just the right word.

  • Does the paper have a well-reasoned and interesting conclusion?

Overall Structure

  • Does the essay contain a clear introduction, body, and conclusion?

  • Is your work balanced? Do you spend too much time on one issue and very little time on another?

  • Do you fulfill your "contract" with your reader? Your thesis statement is your text's main idea. It promises your reader what you'll discuss (and it's implied that you won't explain anything else outside of the scope of that topic). Do you keep your contract? Do you thoroughly discuss the issue you promised to discuss? Do you discuss things that have nothing to do with the topic or that are not all that necessary?

  • Identify the "pattern" of your text. Your text should follow a logical pattern. If you can't find a pattern, or if you break away from it, ask yourself why. Is the organization clear and coherent? For example, does new information appear in the conclusion or does the author run off-topic? Are things presented in logical order?

  • Check your sources. Are they accurate? Are they reliable? Did you just grab the first thing that came along?

Content & Style

  • Is the paper itself on-topic? Have all of the other assignment instructions been followed?

  • Is the paper appropriate to the audience that it is being written to?

  • Does the author successfully make his or her points by providing evidence, details, or proof, followed by a clarification or an explanation?

  • Is the tone of the essay appropriate to an academic or professional situation?

  • Are there any statements or is there any language that either reader or people with opposing opinions might find insulting?

  • Does the text use gender-neutral language (unless referring to a specific noun).

  • Has the passive voice been avoided (unless done so intentionally).

  • Does the text use language that is convincing, confident, clear, and concise?

  • Does the author write creatively with fresh language [advanced]?

Research & Sources

  • Are sources credible / reputable / reliable?

  • Does the author interpret or synthesize the research (the clarification or explanation)?

  • Does the author show (rather than tell) the reader how the research is relevant and important?

  • Has every source been commented on?

  • Is the source evidence strong?

  • Are there any gaps in logic or Is there any fault or error in the author’s demonstrated reasoning?

  • Are sources in both the essay and in the Works Cited section correct?

  • Do quotations seamlessly “flow” with the text around them to form a natural sentence?

  • Does the author identify sources, even in paraphrases?

  • Are recommendations and predictions accurately interpreted?

Maintaining this website requires alerts and feedback from the students that use it when they see a problem or have a suggestion.

Attribution information for this page: Jamie BridgePage keywords: