Revising and Proofreading

Effective revision and proofreading are often what separate stronger papers from weaker ones. So make sure that you leave yourself enough time to transform your insights and ideas into a well-written, persuasive paper.

When you are ready to revise, please use the Writing and Revising Checklist. The following tips may also help!

  1. Take time away from your paper. After completing a draft, set it aside -- ideally for a day, but for a few hours at least. Do something else! It is far more productive to return to a draft with a fresh eye than to try to revise something you’ve just written: time off will help you see more clearly the gaps between your intended meanings and their written expressions, between what you wanted to say and what you actually said.
  2. Read your completed draft and imagine that you are someone else. Focus on the argument and the argumentation. As someone else, ask three questions: From the thesis statement, is it clear to you what the writer is going to try to persuade you to accept? Does the essay actually make the argument that the writer articulated in the thesis, or does it end up arguing something else -- maybe (hopefully!) something more complicated, challenging, and significant? Does the beginning of each paragraph give you a clear statement of its point and provide you with a transition that gets you from the point of the preceding paragraph to the point of the present paragraph? Now turn back into yourself and revise as necessary!
  3. Read your completed draft out loud and slowly, and listen to your writing, pausing only to mark passages that are awkward or for whatever reason just don't sound quite right. Then go back and revise them. (Another way to think about this tip: read with your ears, not with your eyes.)
  4. Get feedback from others: some students benefit from the Academic Skills Centre (905-828-3858), others from friends. All professional writers collaborate with other writers or editors, and you should make a habit of getting feedback from a variety of readers too. Readers can help you identify the areas of your paper that are unclear or need to be developed further. They can also make you aware of grammatical and stylistic problems, which are often highly idiosyncratic and therefore hard to identify on your own.
  5. Run a spellcheck. Then read your completed draft silently and slowly, carefully proofreading in order to see and catch any remaining typos, weird formatting or font changes, or any other visible problems that need to be fixed. Then fix them. (This time, in other words, read with your eyes, not with your ears. To help their eyes, some people like to print out their writing and proofread in hard copy, using a ruler, which they move down the page line by line, forcing the eyes to focus on discrete parts of sentences one at a time rather than on whole sentences.)
  6. Leave yourself enough time to transform your insights and ideas into a well-written, persuasive paper.