Editing a paper

Editing a Paper-Comprehensive Guide and Examples

To edit is to make corrections to a written document, text, or sound recording. When someone’s writing is edited, that person’s language mistakes are corrected.

The purpose of editing in a writing process is to improve the quality of well-written text by improving style, grammar, structure, and content to provide a better reading experience for the audience.

Editing content has many purposes, which include: clarifying the meaning in sentences, improving sentence flow so it flows more logically, clarifying ideas so they are easier to follow for the reader, correcting spelling errors and typos, etc.

The general rule for when an editor should intervene in an author’s work is when problems with style or logic prevent readers from understanding what the text is about.

What to Keep in Mind While Editing a Paper

What are the steps to take when editing a paper? Editing is not just about correcting mistakes. Many other things need attention as well. Here are some of the most important things you should keep in mind while editing your work:

1). Take a step back

Make sure you are looking at the paper with fresh eyes. Take some time away from it, and then come back to edit later with a fresh perspective. It is possible that when reading over your work again after taking a break, you may find new errors or mistakes that require fixing.

You should also give yourself enough time before editing your work so as not to feel rushed.

For example, you should not wait until the night before your paper is due to editing it.

If you do this, you may be more likely to miss some errors and mistakes because of your tiredness and haste.

2). Keep the process simple

It is best to keep the editing process simple.

This means that when you are editing your work, try not to do too many things at once. For example, rather than changing a sentence’s structure while also trying to fix its grammar mistakes and spelling errors in one go, it is better if you focus on just one thing at a time.

This way, you may have a better chance of seeing the bigger picture and catching more errors as well.

3). Read out loud the paper

This is an excellent way to find errors that may be tough to see because you have become too familiar with the content.

When you read through your paper out loud, pay attention to the way it sounds. If it does not sound right or parts of what you have written feel awkward when saying them aloud, then this indicates that your content may need some editing.

Reading out loud is especially helpful in finding errors with word choice and awkward phrasing.

For example, you may be using words that do not sound right when spoken aloud, or your sentences might feel too long and complicated to say in one breath. By reading through the paper out loud, you can find and fix these types of problems.

4). Check the facts

If you are writing about something that has to do with real-life events, it is crucial for you to be sure of your facts.

This means checking for any spelling mistakes and errors in the information you have used and double-checking what sources say so that they match up and no important detail gets left out or changed.

When writing about something that has to do with science or research, it is important to make sure you use the correct data, terms, and concepts.

For example, if you are writing about the housing market, your information needs to be correct and up-to-date.

If you just use random numbers or statistics that do not make sense, you could confuse people looking at what you have written with no prior knowledge of the subject.

It also pays off to check facts if you are writing about something related to history.

For example, if you happen to change the name of a certain historical figure or place, then this could confuse people who know about it and thus cause them not to take what you have written seriously.

At other times, errors in your paper’s facts may just lead readers astray.

For example, suppose you have written about a historical event and gotten one of the dates wrong or left out a specific detail necessary for understanding what happened. In that case, your readers will be misinformed. They will also not be able to follow along with your paper properly, even though it might otherwise be well-written.

5). Seek feedback

Asking other people for feedback before you hand in your paper can be an effective way of catching errors and mistakes that may have otherwise slipped past you.

This is because, when it comes to the subject matter at hand or writing style, another person will most likely notice things that you do not recognize on your own.

Peer editing is a good way for you to get feedback on your paper.

6). Let it go

If you have been editing your paper for a long time and still cannot seem to find any more errors, then it might be best just to let go of the piece.

Believe it or not, there is such a thing as too much editing, and spending hours on something that may already be good enough can actually make things worse.

As long as the paper is free of obvious spelling or grammar mistakes, it can be considered ready to hand in.

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What to Edit in a Paper

We have covered some important things to look out for when it comes to editing your paper. This includes checking the facts, getting feedback from other people, and finally letting go if you cannot find any more errors. What remains now is an explanation of what specifically should be edited in a piece of writing. Some common topics to include:

1). Overall structure

First of all, you want to make sure that your paper is organized in a way that makes sense.

This means having an introduction and conclusion as well as paragraphs or sections with clear topics covered within them so that readers are not left confused about what they should take away from the piece.

It is also important to check if the paper’s structure matches what you have written about in your outline.

For example:

  • Does the introduction state what you are going to write about in your paper?
  • Is there a clear topic sentence that introduces each paragraph or section so that readers know where they are getting information from within the text at any given moment?

Notice how these questions have nothing to do with spelling, grammar, or factual errors. Instead, they are asking if the paper’s overall structure makes sense and is easy to follow.

2). Text

The next thing you want to edit in your paper is the text itself.

This could entail checking whether all the information within it is correct, relevant, and properly cited if using sources other than your own personal experiences or ideas.

When editing the text itself, pay attention to the following:


Grammar is the way we use words. We can say what we want to say in simple sentences. We put words after each other and form sentences this way.

Grammatical errors happen when we put the wrong word after another one. Sometimes we use a simple word instead of a more complicated one, and sometimes it is unclear what you want to say because of this mistake.


He goes to school every day. (correct)

He to school goes every day. (wrong)

Online grammar checker tools like Grammarly would come in handy while editing grammar errors and identifying too much use of passive voice.


Spelling is when you make sure the words are right on your paper. You know, like if you write “scool” instead of “school” or “drownd” instead of “drowned.”


School, drownd. (wrong)

School, drowned. (correct)

Punctuation marks

Punctuation is very important because it helps us make our sentences clear. Punctuation errors make it hard to read a text.


John cried, “I can’t find my book. (wrong)

John cried, “I can’t find my book.” (right)

Text structure.

We enjoy reading texts which are easy to understand and follow because we, as readers, do not want to get lost in the text.

To achieve this, the writer must consider text structure.

The text structure is a pattern of organization that helps readers understand what you are trying to say by grouping information differently with different sentence structures and punctuation.

Examples of text structures include:

  • Sentences
  • Paragraphs
  • Bulleted list
  • Tables
  • Graphs
  • Quotations

3). Content

Next, you want to edit the content of your paper.

This means making sure that all information included in it is accurate and relevant for what was promised by the title of your work and the overall topic of discussion.

Some important things to look out for include:


It can be easy to take something someone said or wrote and then use it as your information without checking if it is correct or relevant to your topic.

Paying attention to data, facts, and the information you are using from other people is important.


A blog post that claims “eating chocolate daily will result in weight loss” should not be included as a source in a paper where you argue that chocolate is bad for your health.


Including information that has nothing to do with what you are writing about makes the text confusing and hard to follow because it does not help readers understand how these separate ideas connect or relate to each other in any way.


You cannot start discussing how chocolate is good for you in a paper discussing why chocolate is expensive.


When editing the content of your paper, check for clarity. Define important, complex, or new terms that you use to make sure that readers fully understand what these terms mean.


The term “biotechnology” is not commonly used and can be challenging for many people who are unfamiliar with this field of study. “Biotechnology is the scientific field which focuses on using living organisms to solve problems in society.”


When editing your paper, you will want to make sure that your writing style is clear and concise. This means that diction, tone, and voice are all on point.

Diction is the word choice that you make. You will make sure that your vocabularies are appropriate for the context of your paper and that you use words correctly according to their intended meaning.

The tone is the attitude or feeling behind what you write, and voice is how this attitude comes across in your work.


“I am so happy with my new computer” (happy, casual tone) vs. “This device has allowed me to complete tasks more efficiently than I could have ever imagined” (excited tone, formal voice)


Lastly, you will want to edit your citations.

You must use citations to give credit for your information, but it can be easy to forget about them at the end of everything.

There are several citation formats to choose from, so make sure that you are using the most appropriate one for your work.

Examples of citation formats include:

  • APA format
  • MLA style
  • Chicago style

If you have written a paper in a different format, you will want to make sure that your citations are still accurate and consistent with the citation style guidelines you have used.

You can do this by carefully checking each reference for accuracy, so there are no errors when it comes time to include them in your final draft.

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By editing your paper in these different ways, you will be able to ensure that the content of your work is appropriate for what was promised by the title and has a clear understanding of how every idea relates back to this topic.

Including all the relevant, accurate information will strengthen the overall argument that you are trying to make.

When it comes time for a reader to take in your work and think about what you have written, they should not be confused or feel as though something is missing.

After editing, comes proofreading. Actually, editing and proofreading go hand in hand with a very slight difference. Proofreading is simply reading through your work one final time at the very end of the revision process.

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