Allison Rosaci, Non-fiction and Multimedia Panelist
Congratulations on finishing up your writing – whether it be a creative project or a paper for class, that’s a great accomplishment! However, don’t get too caught up in the celebration – it’s always good practice to look over your work before you submit it to your professor or to a literary journal. Here are some of the strategies I use when I’m giving my work one last look before handing it in.
Take a break from it!
The hardest time to find anything worth changing is right after you’ve finished it. One of the last things you want to do after spending hours writing is look over your work again right away. It’ll be much harder to spot anything when you’re tired from writing and have been staring at a computer screen for hours on end. Go outside, look at a tree, or take a nap! Some time away from your writing will make you better prepared to look at it later.
Read it out loud!
Trust me, you’ll feel pretty silly doing this, but it does work to help you find some of the little mistakes you might gloss over when reading silently. When reading aloud you’re more likely to notice where something really does sound off. It’s easy to read something in your head and have it sound perfect, but sometimes when you read it out loud you’ll find that you’re tripping over your words. You may also notice while reading it might feel more natural to use different words or sentences than what you wrote on the paper. If you find any instances of this, write down what you said while reading next to the original text and decide which would be better for your piece. Maybe what you said out loud was too colloquial or doesn’t quite fit with the rest of the paper, or you may find that it suits your work much better than what you had written before.
Print it out!
While this is one that really comes down to personal preference, I find it to be much easier to edit my work when I have a physical copy in front of me. Apart from getting me away from the computer screen, it definitely forces me to go a little slower and focus more rather than quickly scrolling up and down a Word Document.
Look at it more than once!
Personally when I write, I like to go through multiple ‘rounds’ of editing. Sometimes you’ll make an edit to your work and go back later and wonder why you decided to change a word or add a punctuation mark – which is why looking at it more than once will be a great help! I usually will do each editing session with a different colored pen so I can write notes where I changed my mind about certain edits I considered making.
Ask your friends!
I know I can be guilty of being too attached to my work and feeling like there’s nothing that needs to be changed or fixed – which is why having a fresh set of eyes look over your work will help a lot! This can also reveal spots where you know what you mean, since you wrote it, but it might be less clear to a different reader.
Utilize the Writing Center!
At UConn, and most other colleges, we have a Writing Center with dedicated Writing Tutors who are there to help you! They’re specifically trained to spot errors in any kind of writing and can offer some very helpful advice when adding to or changing your writing.
Read one section at a time!
It can be overwhelming looking at your longer pieces all at once, so don’t be afraid to split it by paragraph, line, or page number! If you zero in on one portion at a time, you’re more likely to find small mistakes you wouldn’t have noticed looking at the whole thing.
Whether your piece is a creative one or something for a class, one or all of these tips should help you add the finishing touches to your work. While I tend to use a similar process when editing creative pieces or scholarly papers, everyone has a different process. Be sure to do whatever works best for you and the piece that you’re working on. No matter which steps you take, be sure to give one final glance at your work – you’ll never know what little mistakes you may have glanced over!