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The top 7 tips you *need* for editing your next essay

That internal sinking feeling when Teach assigns a huge essay? We've all been there—writing can be hard. But we've got you covered! While we can't write your essay for you, these top tips will help you make your next essay the best it can be.

If you still have a day or two...

Always double check the prompt

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It's the worst feeling to turn in an essay only to realize you misread the prompt. If you're confused about the Q, it's totally okay to reach out to your teacher or a classmate for clarification. And if you did interpret the prompt a little differently? See how you can align what you have more closely with the question. Often, a lot of what you've already written can still be used.

Get a fresh perspective


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You're not alone—it's the worst feeling to spend hours staring at your computer screen until you never want to read about famous chemists ever again. If you have time, take a break to clear your head. Go for a walk, shoot hoops with your sis or help your 'rents make dinner. Taking time away will help you return to your paper with fresh eyes. Plus, some new ideas could percolate in your head when you're not stuck staring at a blinking cursor.

Start with the bigger picture


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It can be tempting to jump right in and rearrange words and phrases after your first draft is all done. But try this strategy to save yourself time in the long run: look at your organization and argument first. Maybe you don't even need that long, descriptive paragraph about how wind farms work if your essay's only focused on the overall benefits of it. This way, you won't spend precious seconds fixing *all* the spelling and grammar in a paragraph, only to realize you're just going to delete it. Plus, saving all that time gives you an extra half hour to watch Riverdale. Definitely a win-win!

If you have two hours left...

Look at your intro and conclusion side-by-side


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Writing conclusions = ugh. Tons of people struggle with wrapping up their ideas, so you're not alone. But looking at your intro and conclusion together ensures that they flow seamlessly and work together to capture the heart of your paper. Was your thesis all about endangered animals in general, but your entire paper and conclusion focused on koalas? Then it's an easy fix: center your thesis on koalas and your conclusion on endangered animals. That way, your intro is focused and specific, while your conclusion looks to the future. Done!

Ask a parent, sib or friend for their advice


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Having a second set of eyes on your work is *so* useful—a lot of the time, other people pick up on what you miss. Make sure your helper doesn't rewrite your essay for you, but they can definitely double-check spelling and grammar or look at your argument to ensure it's strong and logical. Pro tip: it's a huge help to tell them what to look for ahead of time. Worried mostly about your intro and citation format? Let them know first so they can keep that in mind as they read.

If you have twenty minutes or less...

Read it aloud


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We hear you—this is definitely awkward at first! But it truly helps, trust. Voicing your own words will help you hear how the sentences sound together and if what you're saying makes sense. Try reading aloud one paragraph and see how it goes. You can even record yourself so you can listen again and catch any mistakes you might have missed. Having an audience can also help, so see if a parent or friend will listen to you read it in person or over FaceTime. You'd be surprised at how different a sentence sounds when you hear it aloud after reading it silently all day.

Focus on the little things


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If you only have a little time to edit, just do what you can! Don't beat yourself up about not having more time—we've all been there. At this point, it's probably not the best move to decide you want to write about Hamlet instead of Twelfth Night. Instead, read your essay through and look out for things you *can* fix, like spelling or grammar errors, awkward wording and citation structure. If you notice some gaps in your argument that can be smoothed out with a quick clarifying sentence, feel free to add that, too. And if you notice something bigger you don't have time to change? Make a note of it for the future. At the very least, you'll have a new tip for next time. Plus, some teachers offer essay rewrites if you really want to improve.

Good luck with your next essay!

We'd love to hear your favorite editing tips! Tag us on Twitter @girlslifemag to let us know!

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Slider image: Hannah Olinger on Unsplash

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by Ariane Faro | 3/17/2021
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