Polish Your Draft in Eight Easy Steps
You’ve done all the hard work. Now it’s time to be sure your essay makes the grade.
- Grades: 3–5, 6–8
1. Compare what you wrote to the original assignment
Did you tackle everything you were asked to do? If you're writing a report on your favorite book, it's probably easy for you to write about the main character. But make sure you compared the story to another book if that's part of the assignment. Otherwise, your grade could be lower than you expect because the work wasn't as complete as the teacher wanted.
2. Spell check
First, use your computer's Spell Check function to run through the document. You can usually find it by going to the "Tools" section at the top of your page. The first choice on the scroll should be "Spelling & Grammar." Click on it and your computer will check your essay.
But don't stop there. The Spell Check function isn't 100% accurate. So you will need to also go through your writing yourself to make sure there are no spelling flaws. Print out the page and mark all mistakes with colored ink. Then go back to the computer to clean up the document. Be sure to save your essay after it's corrected.
3. Read it backwards for grammar and punctuation
It can be hard to look at your essay over and over again. Since you wrote it, you know what you meant to say. So sometimes your brain skips over minor errors on the page. That's okay — it happens to all of us!
Here's a great trick for finding those pesky mistakes. Read your paper backwards, from the last paragraph to the first. That way, you're looking less at the content and more at the technical stuff. Your brain switches out of "autopilot" and finds the places where you accidentally wrote "saw" instead of "was" or "te" instead of "the."
4. Edit for style
Here are three ways to make sure your paper has style: Check the flow between paragraphs. Use good transitions to link ideas. If the second paragraph introduces a new idea, consider starting it with "Secondly," "Furthermore," or "In addition."
- Circle every time you use the words "good," "bad," or "nice." Improve the vocabulary of your paper by breaking out your thesaurus and finding more detailed words to use in place of common ones. There are so many different ways to make your point — choose the words that say it best. Which word sounds like it belongs in an A+ paper, "good" or "superb"? "Bad" or "dreadful"? "Nice" or "lovely"?
- But, make sure you know the meaning of the word you choose to use. Teachers will only be impressed by your expansive vocabulary if you use words correctly! Use your dictionary to look up words you find in the thesaurus so you're certain the definition applies to what you want to say.
- Compare the body of writing to the point you are trying to make. Ask yourself if each sentence has to do with your subject. Does every paragraph tell the reader something new and interesting about the topic? If not, consider cutting out extra words or sentences that don't help you make and support your point.
5. Cite resources
Create a bibliography with all the sources you used for information. Include the author, title, date published, pages used, and publishing house. Usually your teacher will give you a specific format, but if you get confused, try the MLA style
6. Make a title page
Fashion a front page that tells the teacher (or any other audience) exactly what you have written about. A title should be informative, catchy, and not too long. And remember to stick your name and date at the bottom -- you want credit for all your hard work!
7. Have a friend read it
Exchange essays with a friend or classmate to get (and give) helpful suggestions on how to improve your paper. Definitely try to get an outside opinion on your writing before you hand in your assignment because "fresh eyes" will almost always find something you overlooked.
8. Grade it!
Ask yourself what you think your grade should be and why. Be honest and write down the reasons why you deserve the grade you gave yourself. If you think you deserve an A or B and your teacher gives you a lower grade, show him your reasons. You might be able to make revisions and turn it in for a better grade. At the very least, your teacher will notice the effort you put in and remember what a dedicated worker you are for next time.
By Cara "The Editor" Pitterman (as nicknamed by her friends for attacking their essays with a red Sharpie marker).