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Writing

Revising and Proofreading 

When you revise, you focus on the strength/clarity of ideas and organization of your text. Make sure the content and structure of your essay effectively communicate your main point.   

  1. Revise your introduction and thesis statement. Your thesis statement must indicate your main idea/argument, and your introduction is a “roadmap” to your essay. Check your introduction and thesis against your body paragraphs and make them align.  

  2. Revise your body paragraphs. Each body paragraph should contain one main idea in support of your thesis. Body paragraphs need topic sentences, concluding sentences, and transitions. In the margins of your essay, write one sentence per body paragraph that states each main idea. Check these sentences against your topic sentences; they should match. Do they flow logically and support your thesis? If not, rearrange body paragraphs and/or adjust your main ideas. 

  3. Revise your conclusion. Your conclusion should refer directly back to your thesis statement, sum up the proof that supports it, and leave your reader with a meaningful takeaway. Your ideas may change as you work through supporting evidence. If your conclusion makes a different point than your thesis statement, revise your thesis! 

  4. Reverse-outline your essay. Copy and paste your thesis statement, topic sentences, concluding sentences, transitions, and conclusion into a separate document as a bulleted list. Have you clearly introduced each idea? Are there transition sentences or words connecting them? Does the order of ideas make sense? Do your main points support your thesis statement? 

Proofreading means fixing sentence-level mistakes. Proofreading is rereading to check for errors in grammar, sentence structure, word choice, etc. Proofreading is the final stage of the writing process. 

  1. Get some distance. It’s easier to recognize errors if you finish your essay early and return to it later with fresh eyes. 

  1. Print your essay. Reading your essay on paper instead of a screen gives you a fresh perspective that will help you catch and fix typos and grammatical errors. 

  1. Read your essay aloud. Reading aloud helps you hear whether the language in your essay makes sense. This is a great way to catch and fix run-on, incomplete and unclear sentences. 

  1. Eliminate wordiness. Use as few words as possible to get your points across. Choose lively words with precise meanings (see Eliminating Wordiness tip sheet). 

  1. Double-check citations and formatting. Use a style guide like the ones from Purdue OWL to make sure citations, references page, font, margins, etc. are correct. 

 

Improve your writing and study skills! Book an appointment with a writing advisor and/or academic coach on OSCARplus.  Questions? Email skills@mcmaster.ca

References 

Bullock, R., Goggin, M. D., & Weinberg, F. (2008). The Norton field guide to writing. Norton. 

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