What are some basic editing strategies for new writers?

From LitWiki

So, you need a bit more guidance in editing your essay? Keep in mid that the revision and editing process is a constant: nothing is ever perfect. However, what you're looking for are obvious errors, first, then you can concentrate on stylistic concerns. After your first draft, get your red pen and your highlighter and get ready to mark:

Label all outline elements

  • Title on the top of the paper
  • Opening sentence of the essay is short (not compound) and catchy
  • Introduction begins generally and gets more specific
  • Thesis is detailed and explicit and is the last sentence of your introduction
  • Topic sentence in each paragraph is explicit and short
  • Each body paragraph supports and develops</a> the thesis with interesting detail
  • Conclusion sums up your argument without being redundant

Circle all be verbs

  • Eliminate passive voice
  • Eliminate progressive tense
  • Choose action verbs

Underline all words ending in -s or -ing

  • check subject-verb agreement
  • check progressive tense
  • check spelling of plurals
  • check use of apostrophe (for possessives)
  • check use of -ing at the beginning of a sentence (subject — no comma; modifier — comma)

Box Transitions

  • use at the beginning of body paragraphs, beginning with paragraph 2
  • use for internal supports
  • do not use at the beginning of your conclusion

Check pronouns

  • for every pronoun, draw an arrow back to its antecedent, esp. it, this, and they
  • check agreement
  • check reference and clarity (see “this” and “it”)

Eliminate all of the following words or usages

  • you, your, yours
  • I, me, mine, we, us, our, ours
  • contractions
  • abbreviations
  • exclamation points


  • for, and, nor, but, or, yet — check comma use
  • while — use only for an indicator of time
  • consist / consist of — use only if parts are recognizable
  • contain — use only if you have a container
  • like — use only as a preposition or a verb, never as a subordinate conjunction

Eliminate the following words (word choice)

  • big
  • little
  • hard (meaning difficult)
  • a lot
  • nice
  • nowadays
  • well (at the beginning of sentences)
  • thing(s), stuff
  • very, quite, rather, really
  • hopefully
  • off of
  • at (never use at the end of a sentence)
  • more and more
  • gonna

Count sentences in paragraphs

  • introduction — at least four
  • body paragraphs — at least four, but between eight and eleven would be better
  • conclusion — at least four

Check for sentence variety

  • support sentences — simple or complex only
  • detail sentences — never simple
  • check to see that introduction and conclusion do not use all simple sentences

Run the spell check

  • typographical errors are spelling errors
  • homonyms are spelling errors, and spell checkers will not catch them

Proofread the final copy before submitting