Ask the Doctor: Proofreading and Editing

This week’s topic is about proof-reading and editing . Now, don’t just think “oh, no, not that again’ because I’m going to show you that by proof-reading and editing your work efficiently without any additional research you can get a higher grade – now that has to be good news, right? So keep reading!

Editing and Proof-reading: Why it matters

StudyingThe answer to this is in how much you care about your work and yourself. Think of your work as a representation of you as a student and as a person. It’s like dressing well and looking after your hair, skin and teeth: you wouldn’t even consider going out without looking your best so why would you send your work out looking less that its best? Either one of these things would say to whoever sees you or your work that you don’t really care: that’s why proof-reading and editing matter!

Make It Perfect Every Time

You work very hard to put an essay or dissertation together: you research it thoroughly, you argue well, you’re focused. The problem is that when you have finished your work, you are often so sick of it that you can’t bear the thought of going over it and even if you do, you see what you expect to see, not what is actually there.

This is when you need to take a break because your mind is telling you what you think you wrote whilst your eyes are tired and simply moving over the text without really reading it.

Never leave editing and proof-reading your work until the very last minute because that is when you are most likely to think “it will do’ – remember, to succeed you must never think “it will do’ unless it is perfect.

Making a difference

We’ve established that proof-reading and editing are essential to get the highest grades and in today’s competitive world, the only people who will get to the top are the best: in both attitude and performance. So let’s see how to do it, shall we?


Essay proofreadingLet’s not pretend that proof-reading isn’t boring, it is. Unfortunately it is also essential. How would you feel if you were told after you had been awarded a 2.1 that you could have got a 1st if you had proof-read more carefully? My guess is that you wouldn’t feel great!

So, here are a few simple rules to ensure that doesn’t happen:

  • Every time you finish any part of a piece of work, proof-read it – this means you have less to do at the end.
  • There is a real danger that you will overlook errors if you silently scan read – so don’t.
  • Read your work aloud so that you are looking and hearing simultaneously; you are much more likely to notice a mistake if you use two senses rather than one.
  • Ask a friend to proof-read for you – another pair of eyes is very useful and you can return the favour for them.


I am very bad at editing my own work so I fully understand that you probably are too! Somehow, it always seems more difficult to take things out than to put things in, right? Also, my own fear is that I’ll take out the “best bits’ so I really do see the problem!

The thing is that editing is an essential skill because far from removing the “best bits’, as we fear, what good editing actually does is highlight them.

Also, most of us are writing to fairly strict word-counts nowadays so you can actually reduce your mark if you don’t edit, which is the last thing you want!

So here are a few useful editing tips:

  • Read through and highlight the most important points in your work; these are the things you can’t leave out at any cost (if you’re brutally honest, you’ll probably find that there are very few of these).
  • Look for any areas where you repeat yourself and eliminate them.
  • Don’t be too long winded in arguing a point: say what you mean, support it with a short embedded quote, analyse it and move on.
  • Cut out unnecessary adjectives: even when you are writing a description, too many adjectives just screams “amateur’!

So there you are, a few tips to help you proof-read and edit successfully. If you follow these tips your grades will definitely improve and even more importantly, you won’t be throwing marks away. More again soon!

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