Thursday, 31 March 2016

Essay editing checklist (+ free printable!)

Essay editing checklist |
Anyone else all for essays over exams? I haven't actually written a very long essay for about a year (year abroad perks), only a few short ones for Mannheim and 1 for Warwick, so I'm feeling pretty pleased about that.

I was helping my boyfriend's twin bro with his dissertation the other day, and it reminded me of how long a process editing essays are. I usually don't mind writing them, but when it comes to editing, that's when I want to face-desk.

I usually have a to-list (as always) with my essays so I make sure there's nothing I forget to check for when I'm editing a draft, and today I thought I'd share that list with you, especially for all those who've reached wits end with their dissertations!! Don't think I don't see you all complaining on Twitter ;)

First things first, I find the easiest way to edit an essay is by editing a hard copy. After I've finished a first draft, I'll print it out, and then get the coloured pens out to edit. Though I know some people prefer editing on a screen, it's personal preference. Do whatever suits you.

Essay editing checklist of things to look out for:


Not sure this needs to be said, but it really does need to be checked for. You can't always rely on spellcheck (it just changed Cardboard to carbonara in a presentation I was editing and I nearly didn't spot it.) There are some quite handy online tools you can use as a shortcut, but also make sure you go through and check yourself.

Correct tone of language

Make sure your essay is in the correct tone. It should be formal and not use any colloquialisms or slang. Also make sure you don't use any conjugations (to check this quickly I do a Ctrl+F and search for apostrophe marks). Passive voice is usually used for formal writing, so try to use more of that, and avoid "I" or "my"


Before submitting your essay, you should double check all your references. Make sure the links work, they are formatted correctly and consistently, you have used the same referencing style throughout and you have referenced everything you need to.

Argument flow

Check your essay flows well. This is quite difficult to do on your own, because it will flow well to you as you wrote it. But try to be super critical and look at the essay as a whole. My English teacher used to cut my essays up into paragraphs and then make me rearrange them in the most logical order, and then rewrite the topic sentences and linking of the paragraphs so they flowed well.

Backed up points

Are your arguments backed up? Another one from my English lesson days. PEE. I'm sure most people know this from G.C.S.E, but it stands for Point, Evidence, Explain, and yes, it is still relevant. It's an effective way of structuring your points, to ensure that you've backed up what you're saying and you have an explanation for it.

Get rid of fillers

Unless you're trying to reach that word count. No I'm kidding. That's bad advice. Get rid of fillers, and it'll make your essay sound better I promise. I'm talking things like unnecessary articles, redundant adjectives, 'really', 'very', 'in order' and so on.

Check the introduction

I usually go back and rewrite the introduction altogether when I've finished writing an essay. It's a very important part of your essay so it should never be overlooked. The best introduction I ever wrote (it was amazing – I'm still proud) I spent so long on, and I got a solid 74 (a First) for that essay. I'm still convinced the module leader read the intro, thought 'yeah this girl knows what she's talking about and sounds intelligent', didn't read the rest and just slapped a first mark on.

I got a bit off track. Intro = important. Marker's will already have an opinion on your essay after that paragraph. Make sure you've clearly stated your thesis and introduce the topic to your readers well.

Is your essay on topic?

Check that EVERYTHING contributes to your argument. If it doesn't add any value or isn't directly linked to your topic, then take it out. It'll just weaken your essay.

Proof-read (yourself and others)

Proof-read, proof-read and proof-read again. Ideally, with a bit of time in between every read-through as you'll find you pick up on more mistakes this way. Also do your best to get someone to read through it for you. What you think makes sense, might not make sense to someone else, and they are much better at picking out awkward phrasing. If you really can't find anyone who'll give it a read through for you, read it aloud to yourself.

As a bonus tip: Make sure your essay doesn't sound like this

"Objective considerations of contemporary phenomena compel the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must invariably be taken into account." - George Orwell.

Free Printable Checklist

Essay editing checklist |

Download and print the free printable checklist

What do you always make sure you check for in your essays?

Hannah Lane

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