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Library Guides

Academic English: Editing and Proofreading Assignments

Advice on grammar and punctuation, the type of language used in academic writing, and importance of finding your academic voice


Always leave time at the end of your writing up process for editing and proof-reading your work before submitting.

Editing Your Work

Editing is a necessary part of the writing process. Editing consists of checking the paper's structure, content, organisation, and general flow of the ideas. With editing you ensure your writing is clear and understandable to readers.

Here are some tips to follow when editing:

  • Firstly, have a timeout - give yourself some time between writing your essay and coming to edit it. This way you'll be refreshed and not so immersed and close to your work that you no longer see mistakes.
  • Print out the paper - for most of us seeing words on paper is more clear than seeing them on the screen. In addition, seeing them on another format provides some useful detachment.
  • Check the structure at the headings and subheadings level - are the headings and subheadings covering what they are supposed to be? Are the titles correct?
  • Check the structure at the paragraph level - is every paragraph making a point? Are the paragraph ordered logically?
  • Check the structure within the paragraphs - is the flow logical? Are you sign posting accordingly? 
  • Read your paper out loud - this helps ensure the sentences sound correct, as sometimes sentences can sound different to how they are read by your eyes.
  • Pruning - Are all your words/sentences important? Are they necessary or simply taking up space? Are they too long or over-complicated? You want each word to be meaningful, you do not want to say what you can say in one sentence, with three or four. Be concise. 
  • Check for the right word - is the meaning of the word you're using truly conveying what you want it to? Use clear, precise and concrete language. Try to avoid vague language. Be specific. For example, have you used adverbs appropriately (probably, or maybe are relevant when discussing your own opinion, but stating "many scholars probably think..." is not appropriate, in this instance you would need to be more specific, referencing scholars' names and articulating their actual views).
  • Check for sweeping statements or generalisations - the more specific you can be, the more grounded your arguments will be. Try to avoid broad, over-generalised terms. 
  • Check for repetitive use of words or ideas - for example, if you find you are using the same sort of transitional words or words to introduce a quote, think about how you could change this to make your vocabulary more informative and interesting.

proof reading



Proofreading is the final step of checking there are absolutely no errors. Again, you are advised to print out the paper and/or read it out loud. Proofreading checkpoints:

  1. Check for spelling errors - use spell check, but do not rely solely on this.
  2. Check punctuation and proper use of grammar - particularly comma use, as it is a common mistake to use too many or too few. 
  3. Check you are using the correct English - American vs. British English spelling.
  4. Check all facts are correct - make sure you have not misinterpreted data/information or written numbers, quotes or others' ideas incorrectly. 
  5. Check all quotations - have they been attributed using a reference and written down correctly.
  6. Check you are using the correct referencing style - have you used the referencing style consistently and correctly throughout.
  7. Read your essay backwards - by starting with the last sentence and going in reverse, this gives you a new perspective that helps spot typos. 
  8. Ask others to read your work - this will help to determine whether your points are truly coming across to a wide range of readers.

Grammar and Punctuation

Unsure about grammar, punctuation, or academic style? Check the Academic English guide.