The writing process - editing

This page has information and advice about the editing stage of the writing process.

[Previous Stage - Revising ]

When you have revised a piece of writing for its content, you are ready to check it for its accuracy. This is called editing (or proof-reading), and includes checking grammar, spelling, punctuation and capitalisation.

  • Grammar: English grammar covers a huge area and you cannot check for everything separately. The best idea is to concentrate first on verbs (tenses and forms). For example, if you have written about a past event in your life, you will need to check that the verbs are in the past tense.

    Once you have checked the verbs, you should check carefully those aspects of grammar that you personally have most difficulty with. If you don't know what they are, ask your teacher.

  • Spelling: When you read through your writing, you may stop at words that don't look right. These are often the words that you have spelled incorrectly, and you should check them in the dictionary, or ask someone to check them for you.

    If you are writing on a computer, you should run the spell check.

  • Punctuation: When you are revising your writing, you should check to make sure you have not written any run-on sentences or sentence fragments. In correcting these problems, you usually need to change the punctuation.

    When editing, you can check to make sure that other aspects of your punctuation are correct. For example: Have you correctly punctuated sentences that contain direct speech? Are your end punctuation marks correct? Have you used commas, colons and semi-colons correctly?

  • Capitalisation: Check that your sentences all start with a capital letter. You also need capital letters for all proper nouns (e.g. names of people, countries, cities, rivers). This page containing capitalisation rules may help you.

It's not easy to check all these things together, so try doing them one at a time. Of course, you may find a tense problem as you are checking spelling or a spelling problem as you are checking punctuation.

This is good, and you can make the necessary correction. You can also change the order you check your writing to suit yourself, but it's best to work through the text systematically.

It is also a good idea to wait for a while before editing. You can often find more mistakes if you check your work the next day than immediately after it's finished.

You could also ask someone else to edit your writing. But be careful: another student (especially an ESL student) may not find all your grammar mistakes or may correct something that is not wrong. So even if you do get editing help, you should certainly do a final check yourself.

Important: @ Small mistakes of grammar or spelling will not spoil a good piece of writing, but some readers get distracted by them and it is best to try and correct as many as you can.~

Here is a printable editing checklist (.pdf) that may help you edit your work effectively.

There are several interactive quizzes that give practice in spelling and capitalisation in the Writing drop-down menu on the Language Skills index.

There are quizzes that give practice in error correction in the Other grammar drop-down menu on the Grammar index.

The page entitled understanding writing mistakes gives more information on the different kinds of mistake that writers make.

[Previous Stage - Revising ] · [Next Stage - Publishing ]