Writing an assignment is a lot of work. Not only do you need to do your research and before you start writing, but you also need to write the damn thing. When you’re finally done, you just want to print it or send it off to your teacher, and not think about it anymore.
Ever felt this way?
But most students forget that writing is just part of the process. Revision is just as important as writing the paper.
You need not only to revise your content, but you also have to look out for grammar, vocabulary, or punctuation mistakes.
In my faculty, you can lose up to 30% of your grade for language mistakes!
Thankfully, I have always been good with that sort of thing (and I have grammar and writing classes to help me with that).
So today, I decided not only to share my tips to hand in the best paper ever, but I’m also sharing a wonderful tool that can help you ace your assignments!
So, you’ve finished writing your paper. But don’t think you’re done just yet! To make sure you paper is the best it could be, you need to revise it. But where do you start?
The first thing you should check is your content. I can’t really help you with that because each assignment is different. There’s not really a “good way” to revise your content, aside from asking yourself the following question: do I answer the question or the topic? Reread your paper to make sure you do, and if the answer is yes, then you’re probably good.
Also, if you used anyone else’s work in your assignment, make sure you cite your sources. Make it clear and follow the citing format required in your department. Plagiarism is something that will follow you all of your life. And, in college, it’s normal (and well regarded) to have many sources in your paper!
The next thing to revise is your structure. Are your ideas clear? Are the transitions between your paragraphs smooth and logical? That’s why revising your structure is important.
You should have one idea per paragraph. Your paragraph should start with the main idea, which you can explain in secondary ideas with examples to support what you are saying. To make sure you don’t have too many ideas packed into one paragraph, reread each of your paragraphs and summarize them with one keyword or keyphrase. Have more than one? That means that you need to divide your paragraph!
Then, make sure your transitions are smooth and logical. Reuse the keywords from the previous exercise and see what logical connection you can make between your paragraphs. If you can’t seem to find the link, then chances are your reader won’t be able to either! Add transition words or phrases to strengthen your links. Sometimes you’ll have to add a few sentences to make the link appear clearly to your reader. Do the same exercise with the ideas contained within each paragraph.
Abigail from Living the Gray Life also wrote an amazing blog post to help you with text organization, from arguments to sentence structure!
What is normative revision, you ask? This aspect of revision covers all things that are normative, such as vocabulary, spelling, grammar, syntax, punctuation and typography.
This should be the last thing you do in your writing process. Set time aside for this step, because it’s one of the most important. It’s so easy to lose points in that category, but it’s also the part you have most control over.
After you’ve finished writing your paper, set it aside for at least 24 hours so you can come back to it with a fresh mind. Sometimes, staring at the same text for a long time can make you oblivious to the most obvious mistakes. So sleep on it and come back to it a day or two later. You’ll be a much better corrector!
This step should be done on a printed version of your paper. I’ve been told countless times how important that is. You will see your mistakes much more easily while correcting on paper than you would on screen.
I don’t always do this, but I’ve seen much better results when I do this!
Some people like to revise the entire thing with each category of mistakes (spelling, grammar, vocabulary, punctuation, syntax and typography) all at once, but others prefer to do a revision for each category. Do what works for you. If, like me, you normally don’t make that many mistakes, you can just revise thoroughly once, and you’ll spot all of your mistakes. But if you know you make more errors, you should probably reserve one revision for each category.
Reread every letter of every word very slowly to make sure all the words are spelled correctly. Not sure about something? Look it up! Better safe than sorry.
That’s a step that can take a lot of time, especially if you know it’s a weakness for you. Check each of your verb tenses. Do they agree? Have you used the right verb tense in the right context? Do your articles agree with the nouns they are attached to? Look out for any complex grammar rule that you know you always have a hard time with! Now is the time to reread each of your sentences slowly and make sure you have used impeccable grammar.
Grammar is particularly difficult in French, so I always reread my assignments carefully and give grammar my undivided attention. Tools, such as Antidote in French (which is also great for vocabulary and syntax) and Grammarly in English, exist to help you with getting your grammar perfect.
Try to vary the vocabulary you use. Avoid dull words and verbs such as “to have” and “to be” (unless they’re used in perfect tenses). Also, try to make sure you have used the right word to say what you mean. Some words cannot be used in certain contexts.
Stop at every punctuation mark you encounter and ask yourself: is it used correctly? Every comma and every period has a purpose, so make sure it serves yours! Also, verify if there are any places that are missing any punctuation marks (usually commas). Punctuation also helps to make a text more alive, so it can be a great exercise of style to switch things up a little bit. Don’t overdo it, though!
Syntax is the structure of your sentence. Make sure your prepositions are used in the right places, and that the word order of your sentences is right. Then again, these errors are more frequent in French (as we have a lot of structures that are incorrectly adopted from English), and it’s my personal weakness.
Typography is everything to ensure that your text is readable. Have you capitalized correctly? Are there any blank spaces where there shouldn’t be? Have you followed the presentation format required by your department? That’s normally the last thing I do before I print the final version.
A FEW REVISION TIPS
Give yourself time! Plan ahead! Like I mentioned earlier, allow yourself at least 24 hours between the moment you finish writing your paper and the moment you start revising. You’ll see your assignment with brand new eyes, and you’ll be much critical of your own work!
Ask a friend to read over your final version. Having someone else (someone who is good at writing, preferably) read over your paper will help you to see things in a different perspective. They can normally see things we cannot, because they haven’t read the text before! I have two good friends to whom I always send any of my assignments, and it helped me improve my work significantly!
Do more than one revision! Revision shouldn’t be a thing you do just once and get it over with. It’s something you should do numerous times during your writing process! Doing at least two revisions help see all of the mistakes you might have made.
Use the tools at your disposal. I mentioned Antidote and Grammarly earlier, but there are plenty of tools you can use to perfect your language. As a communication student with a minor in writing, I am required to have a few dictionaries and textbooks designed to help improve your writing. There are books for each category of errors as well, so check them out at your library, or buy them if you want to invest your money in something that will help you write better!
What are your tips for essay writing in college?