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Editing Strategies

Editing and Proofreading Strategies

What are Editing and Proofreading?

Revising your work is an essential part of the writing process because it helps you ensure that your writing is as clear as possible. There are two steps to revising: editing and proofreading.

Editing refers to the revision of higher-order concerns: content and structure.  

Proofreading refers to lower-order concerns: sentences, grammar, and punctuation.

Unfortunately, editing and proofreading aren't always easy and not everyone gives this part of the process the time, effort, or intention it really needs. Try using these strategies to help you find and address as many issues as possible so you can hand in your very best work!

Editing Strategies

Use these strategies to help you edit the content and structure of your writing:

It is always recommended that you start with an outline before you write because it helps you organize your thoughts in a logical way. However, it can be easy to go off-topic as you start writing, even if you started with a great outline!

Once you finish a draft of your paper, check if you stuck to your original plan by creating a reverse outline. In other words, take your essay draft, and break it down into its component parts. See if you can easily identify the key pieces you would include in your outline, such as

  • the thesis in both the introduction and conclusion,
  • topic sentences,
  • evidence,
  • analysis, and
  • concluding sentences.

If you find that any of these parts are missing, you can revise the structure and content of your paper accordingly.

It can be difficult to think critically about your own writing when your ideas are still fresh in your mind. Not only that, you can give yourself a break so you are more refreshed when you start the editing process. The more time you can give yourself between writing and editing, the more likely you are going to see issues such as

  • illogical organization,
  • ideas that are off topic,
  • unclear explanations or analysis, and
  • lack of connections between ideas.

Intentionally reading your work with your intended audience and purpose in mind will help you catch any issues with tone in your writing. As you read, ask yourself

  • Are there any words/concepts that might need to be explained or defined?
  • For an academic paper, am I using words or phrases that may be too conversational or unprofessional (e.g. slang, contractions)?
  • Is there any obvious bias in my writing?
  • Is my writing culturally/socially sensitive (e.g. avoids idioms, uses person-first language, etc.)?
  • Have I followed writing conventions that are typical for my field or for this mode of communication (e.g. bulleted lists vs. full paragraphs, use of visuals, use of 1st/2nd person pronouns such as "I" or "you")?


Proofreading Strategies

Use these strategies to help you proofread sentence-level errors such as grammar and punctuation:

Our brains are really good at remembering our intended meaning in our writing. Because of this, we often don't notice issues like misspelled words or missing punctuation. Therefore, a great proofreading strategy is to try to trick your brain into thinking it's looking at a new piece of writing:

Edit on Paper

You probably wrote your paper on a computer, so try printing your assignment and proofreading on paper. It will truly feel like a new piece of writing, and it will give you a break from looking at a computer screen all day!

Change the Font

If you don't have a printer or don't want to waste paper, you can try changing the font of your assignment before proofreading. 

Reading your work out loud not only forces you to focus on each word as you read, but it also allows you to hear what your writing sounds like. This strategy is particularly helpful for catching issues such as run-on sentences, choppiness due to lack of varied sentence structure, and repetition. To use this strategy, 

  • read to yourself or a friend or
  • listen to your writing by using text-to-voice software such as Read and Write Gold, which is available to Conestoga students for free!

If you try to find every little error in your writing at once, there's a good chance you will miss many of them. The more focused you are when proofreading, the more you'll catch those mistakes!

It can be really helpful to take a look at feedback from past assignments to get a better idea of common errors you make. For example, if you have a tendency to write sentence fragments, proofread your paper at least once only looking for sentence fragments. If you are unsure about what the error means or how to fix it, check out our grammar resources or book an appointment to learn more!

Being intentional with your proofreading will not only help you find errors, but also urge you to learn more about your common issues and how to address them. 


Grammar and spelling software such as MS Word's editor or Grammarly can be really convenient to use. However, this software can make mistakes and may sometimes make or suggest changes that will alter your intended meaning. Therefore, it's up to you to review any of the software's suggestions and decide for yourself whether the change would be effective for your writing.

Students have free access to Grammarly Premium. Grammarly’s software helps improve spelling, grammar, tone, and style by analyzing writing and providing recommendations and explanatory notes. Therefore, not only can Grammarly help you identify potential issues, its explanations can help you learn about your errors and make better decisions about whether to accept its suggestions.