Six: Editing and Revising
editing, make sure to pay careful attention to:
refers to the content of the essay and the message you send
out. It can be very hard to gauge in your own writing. One
good way to make sure that you are saying what you think
you are saying is to write down, briefly and in your own
words, the general idea of your message. Then remove the
introduction and conclusion from your essay and have an
objective reader review what is left. Ask that person what
he thinks is the general idea of your message. Compare the
two statements to see how similar they are. This can be
especially helpful if you wrote a narrative. It will help
to make sure that you are communicating your points in the
story. Here are some more questions to ask yourself regarding
I answered the question asked?
I back up each point that I make with an example? Have
I used concrete and personal examples?
I been specific? (Go on a generalities hunt. Turn the
generalities into specifics.)
anyone else have written this essay?
does it say about me? After making a list of all the words
you have used within the essay -- directly and indirectly
-- to describe yourself, ask: Does this list accurately
the writing sound like me? Is it personal and informal
rather than uptight or stiff?
the introduction, is it personal and written in my own
voice? Is it too general? Can the essay get along without
about the essay makes it memorable?
check the overall structure of your essay, conduct a first-sentence
check. Write down the first sentence of every paragraph
in order. Read through them one after another and ask
someone who was reading only these sentences still
understand exactly what I am trying to say?
the first sentences express all of my main points?
the thoughts flow naturally, or do they seem to skip
around or come out of left field?
go back to your essay as a whole and ask these questions:
each paragraph stick to the thought that was introduced
in the first sentence?
a piece of evidence support each point? How well does
the evidence support the point?
each paragraph roughly the same length? Stepping back
and squinting at the essay, do the paragraphs look balanced
on the page? (If one is significantly longer than the
rest, you are probably trying to squeeze more than one
thought into it.)
my conclusion draw naturally from the previous paragraphs?
I varied the length and structure of my sentences?
people think only of mechanics when they revise and rewrite
their compositions. As we know, though, the interest factor
is crucial in keeping the admissions officers reading and
remembering your essay. Look at your essay with the interest
equation in mind: personal + specific = interesting. Answer
the opening paragraph personal?
I start with action or an image?
the essay show rather than tell?
I use any words that are not usually a part of my vocabulary?
(If so, get rid of them.)
I used the active voice whenever possible?
I overused adjectives and adverbs?
I eliminated clichés?
I deleted redundancies?
the essay sound interesting to me? (If it bores you, imagine
what it will do to others.)
the ending give the reader a sense of completeness? Does
the last sentence sound like the last sentence?
you are satisfied with the structure and content of your
essay, it is time to check for grammar, spelling, typos,
and the like. You can fix obvious things right away: a misspelled
or misused word, a seemingly endless sentence, or improper
punctuation. Keep rewriting until your words say what you
want them to say. Ask yourself these questions:
I punctuate correctly?
I eliminate exclamation points (except in dialogue)?
I use capitalization clearly and consistently?
the subjects agree in number with the verbs?
I place the periods and commas inside the quotation marks?
I keep contractions to a minimum? Do apostrophes appear
in the right places?
I replace the name of the proper school for each new application?
I caught every single typo? (You can use your spell-checker
but make sure that you check and re-check every change
it makes. It is a computer after all.)
to Real Essay Gaffes