Essay Edit Checklist

When revising and editing your assignment, ask yourself:

Have I answered the question or task as fully as possible?

  • What is my thesis/ central proposition/ main assertion?
  • Do I make a clear argument or take a position about the topic? Do I state that position in my introduction?
  • Does my introduction or opening paragraph prepare the reader for what follows?

Is my essay clearly structured?

Are my paragraphs clearly connected and coherent? 

  • Does each paragraph begin with a topic sentence?
  • Do the sentences flow smoothly and logically from point to point?
  • Does each sentence clearly follow on from the one before?
  • Does each paragraph state its case clearly and completely, or should there be more evidence/ detail?
  • Are there adequate transitions between sentences and paragraphs? Are transitions varied or are they all the same kind?
  • Are all examples and quotes relevant to and supportive of my answer?
  • Are facts and opinions supported with examples or explanations where necessary?

Is my written expression appropriate?

  • Have I used direct and clear language?
  • Have I explained my ideas clearly and explicitly?
  • Have I kept my audience in mind? Have I said all I need to say so that my reader can understand, or am I assuming they will 'know what I mean'?
  • Have I written complete, grammatically correct sentences?
  • In long sentences, have I separated related ideas with commas or semicolons for easier understanding?
  • Is my use of tenses correct?
  • Have I used non-discriminatory language?

Have I fully referenced my sources of information? 

  • Have I referenced all the words, ideas and information sources I have used in my assignment?
  • Have I used a consistent referencing style?
  • Is there a clear distinction between my thoughts and words and those of the author(s) I've read and cited?
  • Are quotations properly introduced?
  • Are they accurate?
  • Are they formatted correctly?
  • Do the quotations add evidence or provide an authoritative voice, or am I letting the author(s) speak for me? Would writing it in my own words be more effective?

Have I remained within or exceeded the set word limit?

I don't have enough words: 

  • Have I fully answered the question or task?
  • Do I need to read more? Should I include more information or discussion?
  • Have I provided enough evidence to support my argument/s?

I have too many words:

  • Have I included only relevant information?
  • Is there any unnecessary repetition in my assignment?
  • Is my written expression as clear and concise as possible, or is it too 'wordy'?

Have I proof read and revised my assignment for errors?

  • Have I checked my spelling? Have I read through my assignment and not just relied on a computer spell checker?
  • Is all my bibliographical information correct?
  • Have I used correct punctuation? Have I ended every sentence with a full stop?

Is my assignment well presented?

  • Does the presentation follow any guidelines set by my lecturer or school?
  • Have I included a cover sheet? (assignment cover sheets are available from your school office)
  • Have I made sure my assignment is legible? Is it typed or written neatly?
  • Have I used double-line spacing?
  • Have I numbered pages and used wide margins?
  • Have I kept an extra copy?

Further reading

Barnett, S. and Cain, A. 1997, A Short Guide to Writing About Literature, Harper Collins.

Cuba, l. 1988, A Short Guide to Writing About Social Science, Harper Collins.

So, you’ve finished your essay… yay you!

But have you?

Sadly, your work isn’t quite done the minute you hit the final keystroke on your conclusion. In fact, it may have just begun.

It’s no major secret that the students who bag the top grades are those who spend time editing and refining their essays. Dull it may be, but the editing process really is all the difference between a grade your mom will brag about at the local five and dime and something so poor that your dreams of getting a scholarship are firmly dashed. If you think you don’t need to edit your essay, it could be that you do, indeed, have advanced essay writing skills that would put Mark Twain to shame, but it’s much more likely that you just can’t be bothered. And who would blame you?

The first thing you need to get your head around is that the first draft of your essay will most certainly not be perfect. Our essay editors can attest to that! It doesn’t matter how advanced your written composition skills are, there WILL be mistakes in your essay, and there WILL be room for improvement.

This handy essay editing checklist contains some useful hints and tips as to the important things you should be on the look out for when editing an academic essay. It’s by no means definitive, but it’s an ideal starting point if you find yourself wondering how the heck to turn the first draft of your essay into a finely tuned masterpiece that will knock your professor’s socks off.

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