5 Editing Tips to Improve Your Assignments
Concise writing can directly correlate to improved grades. If you can communicate clearly in fewer words, you’re at an advantage. This often comes from drafting and redrafting. Also learn which words you can delete from your vocabulary (e.g. really, very). Phrases like ‘In this way’ or ‘On the other hand’ bite into your word count significantly. Use active instead of passive voice. Avoid adverbs. Remove tautologies. If you practice pairing back your writing, you’ll find you have more room to demonstrate information, knowledge and skills. Where other students write about three issues, you can tackle four—without sacrificing depth. Every word needs to advance your argument. Plus, this is something that everyone can improve.
2. Proof reading technique
Your assignments should be free of spelling mistakes, grammatical errors and clunky sentences that don’t make sense. There are a number of techniques you can use to improve your proof reading. Try reading it out loud, changing the font or font colour of your assignment, printing it out or reading it backwards. Don’t rely on spellcheck!
3. Edit for more than spelling
When you edit or proof read your assignment, you should be looking for more than just spelling mistakes. Here’s a handy checklist of things you should be noticing:
- Are there any spelling or grammar mistakes?
- Does each sentence make sense?
- Do I have a good balance of examples, quotes and references?
- Does it reach the level of depth required?
- Have you cut out all the unnecessary words?
- Have you repeated or overused any phrases or standout words?
- Have you used an idioms, slang or colloquial language?
- Are your sentences and paragraphs an appropriate size?
- Have you used any abbreviations?
- Do your headings, introduction and/or conclusion summarise what is actually said (rather than what you set out to communicate)?
- Does it flow well?
- Are my thoughts and the information organised logically?
4. Vary your sentence length
It’s easy to fall into a pattern with your writing. But if all your sentences are the same length, your writing will be monotonous and harder to read. This is an easy thing to fix and your marker will thank you for it. Identify the short, medium and long sentences in your assignment and vary them. Don’t have too many of the same length next to each other or in a paragraph.
4. Focus on structure
Structure is a big factor in making your assignment clear and easy to navigate. It can also support your point or make it obvious what information you think is most important. This is easier to achieve if you know what you want to say before you start, break it up into sections and use headings at least when you’re writing. Try to move the biggest issue or best argument to the start. If you need to write first and then restructure, there are some great techniques you can use: print and cut your assignment into paragraphs to play with them like a puzzle, or highlight different topics in different colours to see if there’s any strange weaving of discussion.
5. Balance your punctuation
Too many commas, semi-colons or em dashes make your writing look complicated and messy. Too few and your assignment is harder to read. Find a balance of punctuation. If you overuse commas, try throwing in a semi-colon, full stop or em dash. If you don’t know how to use a semi-colon versus a colon—or the difference between a hyphen, en dash and em dash—Google that now.
Good luck nerds! If you need more help, check out the Student Learning Centre.