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5.3: Editing Your Draft for Standard Grammar and Mechanics

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    If you have been incorporating each set of revisions as Tuyet has, you have produced multiple drafts of your writing. So far, all your changes have been content changes. Perhaps with the help of peer feedback, you have made sure that you sufficiently supported your ideas. You have checked for problems with unity and coherence. You have examined your essay for word choice, revising to cut unnecessary words and to replace weak wording with specific and appropriate wording.

    The next step after revising the content is editing. When you edit, you examine the surface features of your text. You examine your spelling, grammar, usage, and punctuation. You also make sure you use the proper format when creating your finished assignment.


    Editing often takes time. Budgeting time into the writing process allows you to complete additional edits after revising. Editing and proofreading your writing helps you create a finished work that represents your best efforts. Here are a few more tips to remember about your readers:

    • Readers do not notice correct spelling, but they do notice misspellings.
    • Readers look past your sentences to get to your ideas — unless the sentences are awkward, poorly constructed, and frustrating to read.
    • Readers notice when every sentence has the same rhythm as every other sentence, with no variety.
    • Readers do not cheer when you use there, their, and theyre correctly, but they notice when you do not.
    • Readers will notice the care with which you handled your assignment and your attention to detail in the delivery of an error-free document.

    The next chapters of this book offer a useful review of word choice, usage, grammar, and mechanics. Use them to help you eliminate major errors in your writing and refine your understanding of the conventions of language. Do not hesitate to ask for help, too, from peer tutors in your academic department or in the college’s writing lab.

    In the meantime, use the checklist on the next page to help you edit your writing.


    Editing Your Writing


    • Are some sentences actually sentence fragments?
    • Are some sentences run-on sentences? How can I correct them?
    • Do some sentences need conjunctions between independent clauses?
    • Does every verb agree with its subject?
    • Is every verb in the correct tense?
    • Are tense forms, especially for irregular verbs, written correctly?
    • Have I used subject, object, and possessive personal pronouns correctly?
    • Have I used who and whom correctly?
    • Is the antecedent of every pronoun clear?
    • Do all personal pronouns agree with their antecedents?
    • Have I used the correct comparative and superlative forms of adjectives and adverbs?
    • Is it clear which word a participial phrase modifies, or is it a dangling modifier?
    • Have I checked all nouns for number and agreement and for correct article use?

    Sentence Structure

    • Are all my sentences simple sentences, or do I vary my sentence structure?
    • Have I chosen the best coordinating or subordinating conjunctions to join clauses?
    • Have I created long sentences with too much information that should be shortened for clarity?
    • Do I see any mistakes in parallel structure?


    • Does every sentence end with the correct end punctuation?
    • Can I justify the use of every exclamation point?
    • Have I used apostrophes correctly to write all singular and plural possessive forms?
    • Have I used quotation marks correctly?

    Mechanics and Usage

    • Can I find any spelling errors? How can I correct them?
    • Have I used capital letters where they are needed?
    • Have I written abbreviations, where allowed, correctly?
    • Can I find any errors in the use of commonly confused words, such as to/too/two?
    • If my paper is typed, have I followed the correct format that my professor requires?


    Be careful about relying too much on spelling checkers and grammar checkers. A spelling checker cannot recognize that you meant to write principle but wrote principal instead. A grammar checker often queries constructions that are perfectly correct. The program does not understand your meaning; it makes its check against a general set of formulas that might not apply in each instance. If you use a grammar checker, accept the suggestions that make sense, but consider why the suggestions came up.

    Proofreading requires patience; it is very easy to read past a mistake. Set your paper aside for at least a few hours, if not a day or more, so your mind will rest. Some professional proofreaders read a text backward so they can concentrate on spelling and punctuation. Another helpful technique is to slowly read a paper aloud, paying attention to every word, letter, and punctuation mark.

    If you need additional proofreading help, ask a reliable friend, a classmate, or a peer tutor to make a final pass on your paper to look for anything you missed.


    Remember to use proper format when creating your finished assignment. For most academic papers, the appropriate format would be to use 1” margins, “Times New Roman” font in 12 point, and double spaced. It is good to get in the habit of typing all papers that way which will make it easier when you are doing much longer research papers.

    Sometimes an instructor, a department, or a college will require students to follow specific instructions on titles, margins, page numbers, or the location of the writer’s name. These requirements may be more detailed and rigid for research projects and term papers, which often observe the American Psychological Association (APA) or Modern Language Association (MLA) style guides, especially when citations of sources are included.

    To ensure the format is correct and follows any specific instructions, make a final check before you submit an assignment.

    Key Takeaways

    • Revising and editing are the stages of the writing process in which you improve your work before producing a final draft.
    • During revising, you add, cut, move, or change information in order to improve content.
    • During editing, you take a second look at the words and sentences you used to express your ideas and fix any problems in grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure.
    • Unity in writing means that all the ideas in each paragraph and in the entire essay clearly belong together and are arranged in an order that makes logical sense.
    • Coherence in writing means that the writer’s wording clearly indicates how one idea leads to another within a paragraph and between paragraphs.
    • Transitional words and phrases effectively make writing more coherent.
    • Writing should be clear and concise, with no unnecessary words.
    • Effective formal writing uses specific, appropriate words and avoids slang, contractions, clichés, and overly general words.
    • Peer reviews, done properly, can give writers objective feedback about their writing. It is the writer’s responsibility to evaluate the results of peer reviews and incorporate only useful feedback.
    • Remember to budget time for careful editing and proofreading. Use all available resources, including editing checklists, peer editing, and your institution’s writing lab, to improve your editing skills.

    This page titled 5.3: Editing Your Draft for Standard Grammar and Mechanics is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Barbara Hall & Elizabeth Wallace (GALILEO Open Learning Materials) .

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