They say that the more you do something, the better you become at it, but this only fills up half of the “progress bar.” Receiving feedback is a crucial element that cannot be omitted if you want to improve any skill. This is why having an editor and a proofreader is a great opportunity, especially at the beginning of your career as a writer. Unfortunately, sometimes we may not have the luxury of having someone ready to criticize our work, and we have to know how to do so on our own. What makes the situation even worse is that sometimes we have to criticize not just someone else’s writing, but our own masterpieces.For sure, every author has his or her own set of favorite mistakes, but in this list, we’ve gathered the most common issues that every editor pays attention to. Check them out yourself and make your writing as good as it can be without any help from others.
1. Stay consistent
The main idea of your paper is more important than its grammatical mistakes, so let’s start by reading through the whole piece. Don’t let your mind be distracted by small issues: make a note of the minor flaws and come back to them later. If you are reading your paper or article and at some point find that your attention has been lost, look for the phrase that caused the lapse and read it again. The chances that it has no or little connection to the previous portion of the text are high. Reflect on how to connect the ideas in your paper and eliminate any thoughts that are not linked to the initial topic.An academic paper is a place where you have to tell your story point-by-point, chronologically (or at least causally) and with no flashbacks or other instances of “time travel.” Leave these tools for creative writing and fiction. Improve the flow of your manuscript by correctly structuring it; An introduction followed by several body paragraphs and then a conclusion is the best way to cover any academic topic, and it seems like nothing about that formula will change in the near future.A lack of grammatical and stylistic consistency in your writing is another thing your mind might stumble over. It doesn’t matter what tense or person you choose, as long as you stick to your choice from the first letter to the last full stop. When it comes to academic writing, staying consistent with the formatting style you’ve chosen is another critical skill.Break up long sentences and paragraphsOne of the most common problems in academic writing is having excessively long sentences. To solve this issue, break them up into smaller phrases. If it seems to you that the sentence loses its sense when divided in two, maybe it lacked a point from the very beginning. There is a rule that the perfect sentence should last as long as a single exhalation. Try this out by reading your long sentences aloud. Do you have enough air to make it to the end? If the answer is “no,” separate the single phrase into several. One of the methods to keep your text entertaining is alternating shorter sentences with longer ones. When you do so, your reader doesn’t get bored by seeing the same sentence structures all over your text.Most people naturally want to know when something, however pleasant it may be, will end, and your writing is no exception. Don’t let one paragraph spread over a whole page; Show your reader that the end is within reach. Various sources say that the ideal length for a paragraph is from three to eight lines, so try to follow this rule to make your text more readable.
2. Delete filler words
If your document is littered with words like “very,” “really,” or “too,” find them with Ctrl+F and delete them immediately. They are the least potent words in the English language, followed by adverbs and adjectives. In most cases, you can simply cut them out of your text entirely, but you can also make your piece of writing more diverse by exchanging them with any of the synonyms the Thesaurus has to offer.In academic writing, transitional phrases are often used to connect several ideas. Make sure that your choice of phrase is truly logical. Too many examples of “hence” and “therefore” where they are not needed can bring your ability to create causal links into question.Leave yourself notes while writingWhen inspiration strikes and it seems like your fingers are flying across the keyboard, don’t let some perky phrase stop the flow. You can think about the best word choice or the best way to set a phrase later when you are editing your text, and the only rule you should follow until then is “Don’t stop typing.” Make sure that you will understand these notes-to-self even after a couple of days.Always write down the sources the very moment you use them, because as the collective experience of all students dead and alive demonstrates, you won’t find the initial TED talk, journal article, or manuscript that influenced your opinion after you have finished the paper. If you’re sure of some opinion, mark it while writing to find further proof from a reliable source during the editing process.
3. Eliminate tautologies
Using words that are overly similar in meaning is the most common mistake that all writers make now and then, so it is wise to devote one round of your editing to this particular issue. When you edit a piece of writing, read it at least twice: the first time by reading the story as a whole and paying attention to the logic and flow of ideas, and then by reading the words separately and making sure that you’ve used them correctly.Remember that tautologies can occur both in overusing similar words and in applying the same structures to too many phrases. The second one is harder to spot, but is even more frustrating for the reader. If tautologies are common in your texts, read your papers aloud with the mic on and listen to the recording, as the repetition of words which are close to each other and identical sentence structures are easier to hear than to see.
4. Stay abstract
Academic papers are not the place for emotions, jargonisms, and contractions. Save your value judgements, emotionally loaded words, phrases with distinctly positive or negative connotations, and exclamation marks for your creative essays and fictional books. The dry, official language of facts is what is expected in a research paper or essay.In academic writing as well as in fiction, the rule “show, don’t tell” can be applied, but here this is done with the help of specificity. Opt for numbers instead of vague quantifying phrases like “many,” “little,” “drastic changes,” or “great loss.” In contrast to fiction, passive voice is acceptable and even appreciated in academic writing, wherein “I” is usually replaced with “we.” You can show your attitude to the topic by providing enough arguments to prove your point of view, and don’t be afraid to admit that you were wrong if the facts are against you.ReadRead everything you can: papers written by your colleagues, professional literature devoted to writing and editing, the oeuvres of the great authors whose writing styles you admire, and also less linguistically impressive works that will demonstrate to you what to avoid.Editing and writing are two different sets of skills, as with the former you try to imagine yourself in the shoes of the reader, whereas in the case of the latter, it’s more important for you to speak your mind than to concern yourself with what your audience will think of your text. When you’re editing, you transform into a reader who doesn’t know the initial intentions of the author, which provides a huge advantage for objectivity. This is the reason that publishing houses with enough money choose to hire editors, people who can give an outsider’s perspective because of their ignorance of what the author wanted to say by this or that phrase.This explains why so many advisers recommend that you put your writing aside for a while and go back to it in several days, as that is when you will have forgotten what your intention as the writer was and will be able to edit your own piece as an impartial reader.
5. Don’t overdo it
One of the hardest rules every writer should follow is to forget about perfectionism while editing. If you have this constant desire to make everything perfect, you know how difficult every activity can become, and that coming up with the final results converges to being impossible. Don’t edit excessively. Stop the vicious circle of reading, cutting out words, and writing new ones after the fourth try. You can do this by applying your willpower, or simply make sure that your writing is good by asking Grammarly to double-check it for you. If its algorithms say that what you have done is enough, just believe it and release the piece into the world, whether it is a paper for a client, a new post for your blog, an article, or a novel.***The only way to spot your own mistakes is to have someone around to consistently read, proofread, or edit your writing. Usually, after the 10th reminder that you’ve made the same mistake again, you will start to notice it by yourself. This is harder to do if you’re on your own. However, if English is not your native language, you can eliminate half of your mistakes by thinking twice over your word choice and googling the use of prepositions, and the second half by not reading your pieces immediately after they are written, but in two to three days.
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