As a lifelong reader and lover of the English language, it still shocks me that I never revised any of my high school essays. Not a single one.
I thought I was good enough already: I was a strong writer, I always got A’s on my essays and I felt confident in my understanding of grammar rules.
Nowadays, I thoroughly proofread and edit every academic paper and article I write. For the people that know me, this is hardly a surprise. I’m majoring in English creative writing, I work as the chief copy editor for the Collegian and I pick fights with my boyfriend over grammar rules.
However, no matter your major, you should be proofreading all your academic essays. Communication skills are critically important, especially in our technology-forward world.
Thanks to the internet, the written word can reach across the world in an instant, seen by millions of eyes. Accuracy — be it factual or grammatical — is key for success.
On a smaller scale, think about your resume. What message do you send to a potential employer if you use the wrong there/their/they’re? If you want your written message to be clear and understood by your audience, a revision of what you have written is important.
I believe what holds students back from reaching their writing potential is insecurity. They weren’t the best writers in high school and they won’t write for a career, so why bother getting better?
I got better at writing not just because I wrote more, but because I started editing my own work. It’s always better to submit a final draft rather than a first draft.
It took me a while to take my own advice and edit my writing, but in my second semester at Kansas State, I got my first C on a paper. That got me to look back at my work and find out how I could improve.
Practice makes perfect. Everyone is a writer, just like everyone is a math person and everyone is an artist. We may not see our own skill until we hone in on it and practice.
Editing your essays is not only a great way to polish a paper and get a better grade, it can teach you what mistakes you are routinely making in your writing. Do you always forget to use commas in certain places? Are you prone to writing run-on sentences? Familiarity with your writing style and your most common errors will help you improve your writing as you keep doing it.
Writing (and editing) is a growing process. You will not remember every grammar rule every time you write an essay, and that’s fine. As an editor, I know exactly what to look for in other people’s work, but sometimes I forget my own advice when I write. Self-editing takes time to master.
There are many tricks you can use to proofread your essay so that it doesn’t become tedious and boring.
The first trick is to leave your paper alone for a while. Give yourself a few hours in between writing your first draft and editing it. Read your work with fresh eyes, and you will be less likely to glaze over areas that need work.
Second, read your paper out loud. If something sounds confusing or weird out loud, it will probably sound the same in the reader’s head. Rewrite and restructure sentences as necessary.
Another tactic is to read your work, either paragraph by paragraph or sentence by sentence, backwards. This isolates each section from the entire paper, helping you see errors that you may have missed before.
When in doubt, have a friend look over your essay or make an appointment with the K-State Writing Center. There’s no shame in asking for help. At one point, I had two friends and a Writing Center tutor look over a single essay which I myself had spent several hours writing and rewriting. Edit and revise until you are satisfied with your work.
The best thing you can do for your writing is to edit it. No one hashes out a perfect essay on the first try. The more you edit and critically read your work, the better you will write the next time around.
Building confidence in your writing takes time and patience, but it’s worth it in the end. And hey, a better grade doesn’t hurt either.
Dene Dryden is a sophomore in English. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to [email protected]