Editing an essay for style is very important because this is where you make those minor adjustments that add up to either a successful essay or a run of the mill okay one. For instance, when you’re reading a professional document of some sort and come across a typo, it makes you question the legitimacy of the resource, doesn’t it? Admissions reviewers will feel the same way when reading your essay if they come across many errors of that sort. While you may never write the perfect essay, you can certainly strive for it, right?
What is Editing For Style?
Editing for style involves tweaking, poking and prodding at every little aspect of your essay. You should edit for structure first and get the majority of the content as you’d like it before starting this process. You can think of editing for style as going over your essay with a fine-toothed comb, finding the small imperfections and perfecting them.
Before you do anything, run your spelling and grammar checkers. This is assuming that you’re using a word processor, of course. Even so, you should always run these programs to catch the more obvious mistakes right off the bat. I mean, if there’s a red squiggle under a word, you know the checker is going to get that for you.
Now, some people complete this step, print out the essay and call it quits. While you should definitely print out your essay after this step, you are nowhere near done!
With a printed copy of your essay in hand, now it’s time to read aloud to yourself. Yes, you might sound silly or as though you’re talking to yourself, but it is just a sacrifice you’re going to have to make for the betterment of your essay.
As you read, make sure you say every word that is printed on the page aloud. This will help you catch misspellings, extra words and missing words. You should also be sure to pause appropriately at all punctuation to ensure you are using each mark correctly. Correct any mistakes you find on the paper and then change these items on the copy in your word processor.
Read for Grammar and Usage
While you have that printed copy of your essay in hand, read it again, and this time look for grammatical and usage booboos. For instance, awkward phrasing is not quite so apparent when reading to yourself. Your brain just processes what you’re trying to say without questioning how you say it. However, reading aloud forces you to hear how a sentence sounds, oftentimes immediately pointing out awkward sentences and misusage of words. Grammatical errors are not always quite so easy to spot, so it may be a good idea to read the essay several times through, each time focusing on a different aspect of grammar, such as subject-verb agreement, tense, number, etc. Doing this will help you keep focused on each potential mistake type, make corrections and then move onto the next mistake type.
The Once Over
I know what you’re thinking: I have to read my essay again? Well, yes, you really do. However, you shouldn’t do this once over until at least a few days after you’ve completed the final edits. Read the essay one more time aloud to yourself. Does everything flow smoothly? Did you make any mistakes while editing? Is the format correct? Have you followed the application instructions to a T?
All you want to do is double check yourself. But don’t go overboard. No essay will ever be perfect and if you edit too much, you might just edit the life right out of your essay. Edit until you feel satisfied and then send it off. You can relax knowing you’ve done your best