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Assignment and library skills

Drafts, editing and proofreading

Why write several drafts? Why not just write it in one go?

This section will help to:

  • Organise the process of editing and proofreading
  • Edit your first draft
  • Proofread your final draft
  • How to edit and proofread your writing

What’s the difference between editing and proof reading?

Editing and proof reading are not the same! Editing happens as you write your assignment, while proof reading is the last part of the writing process.

Aim for 3 drafts of your writing:

First draft: Focus on getting your main ideas and information down.

Second draft: Take a cold hard look at your first draft and edit it for content, structure, style, evidence and referencing.

Third draft: This is the proof reading stage when you check carefully for errors in grammar, punctuation and spelling. This is the final refinement of your writing.

Editing your first draft

Now's the time to take a good hard look at your first draft.

  • What's your main point?
  • Is it clear to someone reading the assignment?
  • Could you write it in one sentence?
  • Have you provided convincing evidence to support your main point?
  • Have you acknowledged opposing views?
  • Will your structure make sense to a reader?
  • Does it follow the conventions for academic essays or reports?
  • Check that all your information and ideas relate clearly to the assignment title and your main point.

Proofreading your second draft

Now check for misspellings, mistakes in grammar and punctuation

  • Read for only one error at a time, separating the text into individual sentences e.g. check for spelling first, then grammar, then punctuation. Find out the sort of errors you make and learn how to correct them.
  • Read every word slowly and out loud. This lets you hear how the words sound together.
  • Read the paper backwards, working from the end to the beginning. The focus then is entirely on spelling.

Note: You might need to do more than two drafts!

Editing your assignment can seem tedious, but is a necessary part of the writing process which improves the finished assignment. 

Top Tip: take it slow and check for one thing at a time.

1. Print a copy of your essay and begin by looking at the content

Begin with the introduction
  • Does it state your intentions and the structure of the essay clearly?
Look at each paragraph
  • Does it contain relevant information and have clear links to the next paragraph?
Look at the conclusion
  • Does it sum up your argument and answer the question?

2. Read your work out loud or get someone to read it to you. 

TIP: If you hear something you don’t like, change it and see if it sounds better.

Pause in your reading as punctuation dictates
  • This helps you determine how your essay flows and sounds and if you need to alter the punctuation.
Check for spelling errors
  • Read the work backwards as it will not make sense and so the spelling will be easily noticed.
Set your essay aside for a few days
  • This will allow you to go back and critique it with a fresh pair of eyes.

Reproduced with permission from De Montfort University, Leicester (UK) and released under Creative Commons License – Attribution-Non-Commercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC-BY-NC-SA 3.0).


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