How to Edit a Paper: Tips From Professional Editors

how to edit a paper

You are glad that you have finally finished the paper, and it seems that now you finally can have your deserved rest. You curl up in a blanket, put on your favorite series, start sipping tea, but there’s still something off, and then you remember – proofreading! The joy is gone, you are stressed again and wonder how to edit your paper as quickly and efficiently as possible. Luckily, there are tricks and tips you can use to proofread and edit your paper faster, and we are going to share them with you.

Before we begin, we would suggest that you divide the process into two parts – editing and proofreading. Let’s have a closer look at the difference between these two activities and the best ways to perform them to save your time and effort.

Editing vs Proofreading

If you want to know how to edit a paper, you need to understand how editing is different from, let’s say, proofreading and rewriting. You might ask, “wait, there’s rewriting?” Actually, there are many things you can do with a text after you’ve finished writing it, before you publish it or send it to your professor. We don’t want to confuse you, however, so today we are focusing on editing and proofreading solely.

We bet the one thing you heard about proofreading is that it should be done after you’ve finished writing your essay, and that no one actually does it. Proofreading can be compared to tidying your room before your mom comes to visit – you just hide the most disastrous parts, get rid of the clutter and hide everything that didn’t fit into the closet. Editing, however, requires more substantial changes. It’s like moving the furniture around your room and even throwing out a table. Enough with the analogies – let’s learn how to edit a paper in practice.

Stage One: Editing

Yes, that’s right – you should start with editing first. This is important, because editing requires bigger changes in your text, and if you start with proofreading, you will have to do the same work twice. Now, let’s have a look at some handy tips on how to edit a paper in Word, as it is the most common text editor, but they will work fine for other editors too:

1) Reread the paper aloud and even record your reading, if you have time.

You have probably heard this advice a thousand times now, but that is because it is effective. The reason for this is because you are changing your brain’s perceptional patterns. For example, if you are used to going home using the same exact path every day, you will often find yourself doing it automatically without noticing the surroundings. If you do it long enough, you might even be able to walk with your eyes closed.

The same thing happens with your text – since you’ve written it, your mind just follows the usual ways, skipping mistakes (you know what is supposed to be written, so your brain just automatically “fills in the blanks” when you’ve missed a letter in writing, for example). Here are our best suggestions on how to fight this:

  • Change things you don’t like immediately.
  • Mark things you feel like you should think about.
  • Give yourself enough time.

The point is, when you start reading the paper aloud, it breaks the usual cycle of processing information – now you have an extra sensory input, which in this instance is your voice reading the text. The brain is confused and starts paying extra attention, which allows you to find mistakes.

2) Look for repeating errors.

This is a very useful idea not only in academic proofreading, but in any activity you can engage in as a human being. Most of the errors we make in writing are typical. Everyone has a comma that is always missing or a typo that occurs in 99% percent of the cases. Start a text file or a notepad with these two lists:

  • Your personal errors.
  • A list of typical errors.

The first one requires keen observation, but it will make your writing dramatically better in the long run. The second is easily accessible on any website giving advice on how to edit papers. Typical mistakes are called so because most people make them – and just going through a list will make your essay instantly better. Don’t forget, however, to look out for your specific personal screw-ups!

3) Highlight the parts in different colors.

Oh, technology is here to make our everyday life so much easier, and we spend its marvels on Facebook and Twitter instead. Take your time to find and exploit the hidden powers of your text editor. Start with something simple, such as adding commentaries and highlighting the parts as you go on with editing. Here’s a good tip on how to edit a paper in Word text editor: mark the parts you are done with in green, parts you want to double-check later in yellow, and parts you find problematic – in red. This will help you to get back on track after you’ve taken a break from your writing.

Stage Two: Proofreading

Once you have finished making drastic changes in your paper, it’s time to polish it a little bit and do the proofreading. Mostly, the techniques are similar with the “how to edit your paper” part, with the exception that you are supposed to focus on the grammar and spelling more than on the overall congruity of the text.

1) Don’t overuse a thesaurus.

Though replacing every single word in your essay with a fancy-sounding counterpart might sound tempting, actually this can lead to an unpleasant outcome. Since you don’t use the work you find in a thesaurus quite often, you may put it into the wrong place and ruin the logic or style of your sentence. Finding synonyms to make your paper easily readable is a good idea, just remember to stay reasonable with it.

2) Read one sentence at a time.

If you have plenty of time and want to take editing to the next level, you may even rewrite each sentence on a sheet of paper to make sure it’s perfect. Don’t worry if you are not that into editing – copying a sentence to a separate text file to see it out of context usually works just fine. There are a lot of different techniques and it doesn’t really matter which one you prefer to use, as long as it serves the main goal – focus all of your attention on the single sentence you are checking.

Where Can I Get Help?

It’s okay if you are still confused and have only a vague idea of how to edit papers to make them look like academic perfection. You are now not alone in your struggle! You can always ask for help and receive top-quality assistance from our professional editors. We mainly cooperate with students from USA, UK and Australia, but we are also eager to take international orders, as long as your paper is in English.