• Writing usually undergoes several drafts before completion.
  • As well as advancing, retreating helps to revisit and get feedback (Murray and Moore, 2006, p. 37).
  • You might develop ideas, make better links, reorder, cut information.
  • Proofreading is the final stage to make sure the text is error free; check grammar, spelling and punctuation with Grammarly.
Diagram to show stages of writing from author Pat Francis: panic, map/list, develop, join up, reorder, cut, proofread, format.
Figure 1: Writing Process, adapted from Francis (2016, p. 30)

Techniques for editing

  • Decide whether you prefer to read from the screen or a printed copy
  • Read aloud to check readability. Ask: ‘Can you read each sentence without stumbling or running out of breath?’ (Trimble, 2010, p. 78).
  • Find a ‘critical friend’. Can they read it without confusion?
  • Additionally, add your own comments, highlight or make notes about areas to develop/condense.
  • Download the editing checklist below to help you.

Areas to check

  • Initially, revise content and structure as these are the foundations of your argument.
  • Secondly, consider how you communicate this information (style).
  • Leave time to proofread errors as these can detract from your message (SPaG).
  • Lastly, check the appearance (format).
  • Use the video and questions below to aid editing.
Four areas to check in writing: content, structure, style, SPaG, format.

1. Content

  • Q: Has reliable evidence been used?
  • Q: Is all the information relevant?
  • Q: How have you shown your engagement with the evidence?

2. Structure

  • Q: Are the paragraphs ordered logically?
  • Q: Does the writing avoid repetition?
  • Q: Have you avoided overly long or short (couple of sentences) paragraphs?
  • Tip: zoom out of the page to see the whole structure.

3. Style

  • Q: Have you used a suitable style for the task?
  • Reports/essays follow a traditional academic style: no shortened words or slang and use of third person (he/she/it).
  • Q: Have you been precise and concise?
  • Avoid unnecessary adjectives e.g. e.g. ‘In Berger’s (1972) notable and seminal work, Ways of Seeing ‘. Check your writing’s concision with Helen Sword’s online tool: The writer’s diet.
  • Q: Have you remained objective and avoided bias?
  • Avoid use of heightening adverbs such as ‘very’, ‘really’, ‘extremely’.

4. SPaG (spelling, punctuation and grammar)

5. Formatting:

  • Q: Does the document follow correct formatting for font, spacing and Harvard referencing?
  • Q: Have longer quotations been indented from the margin?

Over or under word count?

Under Over
Look for small paragraphs (one or two sentences) to develop with evidence and/or analysis.Condense language at sentence level.
Return to your research to find additional topics to discuss.Make bigger decisions at content level.
Check for repetition.
Prioritise key points, examples and evidence.
Consider shortening lengthy quotations with ellipsis (…) or paraphrasing.

The following sources were consulted:

  • Francis, P. (2016) Inspiring writing in art and design: taking a line for a write. Bristol: Intellect Ltd.
  • Harvey, M. (2013) The Nuts and Bolts of College Writing. 2nd Edition. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company.
  • Moore, S. and Murray, R. (2006) The handbook of academic writing: a fresh approach. Maidenhead: Open University.
  • Strunk, W. and White, E. B. (2000) The elements of style. 4th edn. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
  • Sword, H. (2016) The writer’s diet: a guide to fit prose. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
  • Trimble, J. (2010) Writing with style: conversations on the art of writing. 2nd edn. London: Pearson Education.

Graphic to represent a list of eBooks available on style, grammar and punctuation.


Find information on style, grammar and punctuation: https://tinyurl.com/t7rnojt