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Suggested Editing Techniques to Use on a Finished Final Draft

The following "checklist" of items to scan your paper for will help you catch some--definitely not all--common errors in papers. It asks you in many cases to use Microsoft Words search or "Find" feature inside texts. Use this list of items to edit as one approach to a final edit of your paper.

1. First, search your paper for the word “this.” Be sure each use of “this” is followed by a noun. If you did not have a noun, figure out what “this” refers to and add the noun.


Would you like some of this? (this candy?)

We found this worked. (this technique, this procedure, this method)

There are/ There is
2. Next, search your paper for every use of the word “there.” If you have problems with homophones, also search for “their” and “they’re.” Replace every instance of an explitive where you used the word there as a subject of a sentence or clause.


There are three things that I like. (I like three things.)

When I go to the beach, there are many shells on the sands. (When I go to the beach, I find many shells on the sand.)

He found there is a big obstacle to his passing the course. (He found a big obstacle that would make passing the course difficult.)

There are some cartoons that are made for children. (Eliminate There are...that... and you have a proper sentence: Some cartoons are made for children.)

3. Search your paper for every use of the word “it” as a subject followed by a linking verb. Make sure you have a clear antecedent for “it” or replace “it” with a noun. The reader should have no confusion about what "it" refers to.


4. Evaluate your use of verbs. When possible rewrite students with active verbs, not linking verbs. Linking verbs are verbs we also call helping verbs. They do not show action. Here is the list of verbs that are always a state of being or a helping verb:

am, is, are, was, were, be, being, been,

has, have, had, do, does, did,

shall, will, should, would,

may, might, must, can, could.

Try to use these verbs only as helpers to indicate tense changes, not as the only verb in a sentence.


It was a dark and stormy night. (The night felt dark and stormy.)

I thought it was a dog. (I thought a dog was creeping toward me.)

Tell me it is true. (Tell me I am wonderful.)

           See also the guide on the Paramedic Method for revising sentences with active verbs.


5. Search for generic uses of “you” our “your” and rewrite the sentences in first or third person, unless you have a single receiver of the action. The generic "you" is an indefinite pronoun indicating "anyone"; avoid this usage because "you" as a pronoun indicates a particular person (not "anyone").


You have to be crazy to study English. (I had to be crazy to be an English major. or One has to be crazy to study English. or Anyone studying English is crazy.)

Commonly Confused Words (its/it's; there/their/they're; to/too/two)
6. If you have had commonly confused word errors in the past, search for each spelling and make sure you have the correct choice in place: there/their/they’re; its/it’s; our/hour/are; bare/bear; hear/here; or any others you have difficulty with.


7. Look at your transitions, both between paragraphs and within paragraphs. See this Guide on Coherence for more on transition sentences and transitions.


Spell Check/Punctuation 
8. After you have finished these revisions, run spell check and grammar check on your paper. Do not believe that the “checkers” are always correct, but consider what they recommend. If you are unsure of the message the “checker” is giving you, ask me to help you. Check your punctuation (including the proper handling of quotations).

Conciseness and Clarity
9. Check your paper for conciseness and clarity. Search for a few filler words, particularly "very" and "really." Revise as needed.



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