Checklist for Editing

When you edit a draft or revise a paper, you need to read it as a reader would - not as the writer who stayed up all night working on it and who has ideas about the topic swirling in his head. These questions will help you to read as a reader - coolly, objectively, and critically.

  • Read the first paragraph. Is the main point of this paper clearly expressed? Where is it?
  • After you read the first paragraph, stop for a moment. As a reader, what do you expect from the rest of the paper?
  • Read each paragraph carefully. As you read each paragraph, ask yourself what the paragraph is about. Is one idea fully developed? Does the paragraph contain concrete evidence to support that idea? How does the paragraph relate to the main point of the whole essay? Outlining the essay by summarizing each paragraph in one sentence is a good way to check whether you have organized logically. Should any paragraphs be re-ordered? Do any paragraphs need further development? Do you need to put in transitions anywhere?
  • Look for coherence. Within each paragraph, sentences should follow one another logically. Sometimes, however, a writer assumes that the reader is following her thought and does not provide enough information. Sometimes the writer remembers something that should have been in a previous paragraph and includes it when she thinks of it, in a place where it does not really belong. If you notice any of these problems, revise.
  • Look for clarity and correctness. Does each word - especially key words - mean what you think it should mean? Are your sentences structured so that subjects and verbs are close to each other? Have you chosen strong nouns and verbs to convey your meaning?