How to Edit Your Own Academic Writing

Regardless of your major or career path, odds are you have been assigned an academic paper during your college experience. Picture this: you spend hours upon hours writing the perfect academic paper, and when you finally finish you realize you have to go back through it again to edit it. We’ve all been there, it’s not a fun feeling, but editing your writing is essential to perfecting any written work. So, here are some tips on how to finish up that final step and edit your own academic writing. 

  1. 1. Leave plenty of time to write.

    Okay I know you’ve probably heard this over and over again, but I’m going to say it just one more time: you’ve got to stop waiting to write all your assignments until the night before or the day they are due. Hey I get it, we’re all busy bees just trying to get that degree, but at the end of the day, writing that isn’t rushed is the best writing. Think about it this way, if your writing is thoughtful in the first place, you’ll have fewer edits to do in the end. I typically plan out when to begin writing my assignments based on the factors of length and complexity. If I know writing is going to take me over four hours I typically start three days before the due date, but everyone has an individual system of their own!

  2. 2. Read your writing back out loud.

    Anna Schultz-Girl On Computer In Bed

    Once again, you’ve probably heard this tip before, but I’m telling you this changes EVERYTHING. It’s so much easier to pick up on all the little awkward phrases, misplaced commas, and misspelled words by reading your writing back to yourself out loud. When I do this, I like to use “track changes” to edit my writing as I go and then go over the suggestions again just to double-check that everything looks good. I recommend doing this during your first review of the writing and immediately before you click that “submit” button. 

  3. 3. Take some time between edits.

    One of the best tips I ever got from a professor about editing academic papers is to take a few hours or even days between edits so you can go back and really comb through everything, from the overall logic of your argument to all the little details. Taking some time between edits helps you to have a fresh perspective and can also decrease the overwhelming sensation that comes from having to edit immediately after you’re done. I also judge when I should do these edits based on the criteria I mentioned above; for longer papers, I tend to wait at least a day before going over them again.

  4. 4. Use a tool.

    One of my most valuable discoveries in college has been that of writing tools such as Grammarly. This app is great because it helps you to edit as you go by highlighting suggestions for punctuation and spelling, among other things. Personally, I don’t even have to pay for Grammarly’s premium functions in order to see an improvement in my writing. I have also enjoyed the occasional email updates Grammarly sends me which highlights my most common errors so I can learn to change my writing habits to resolve this issue. 

As midterms wear on, it’s easy to start feeling overwhelmed and flat out *done* with school, but following these tips can help you not only write and edit better papers, but keep up that momentum to finish out your midterm papers strong! Happy writing.