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Writing and Presentations

Proofreading and Editing

Proofreading and editing are an important part of the writing cycle. Proofreading refers to looking for mistakes such as misspelled words, incorrect punctuation and typos. Editing refers to bigger-picture issues, such as structure, flow, and clarity. Give yourself enough time before the due date to review your assignment so you can look for errors or places where it does not make sense, and then improve it. 

Once you have finished a draft of your assignment, take a break from it for a day or two. This will enable you to see it with 'fresh eyes'. Other ways to find to identify errors are to print out the assignment and read it on paper, read it out loud, or read it backwards line-by-line. Here are some areas to look at when you look at your assignment again. Also, check out the Editing a Draft guide in the Guide box on this page.

Structure

If you are writing an essay, make sure it has a clear introduction, body and conclusion. Each paragraph should also be structured (a main idea or topic sentence + evidence or examples +  a conclusion). Check the assignment guidelines and the rubric for an idea of how to structure the content. If you are writing a report, make sure that it has the correct headings and sub-headings in each section.

Grammar

This is key to making your assignment flow and be at the highest quality. Try running it through the website Grammarly (www.grammarly.com). It’s free to join and will check your assignment for basic grammatical errors as well as spelling errors. However, remember that Grammarly does miss things, especially if an error may make sense as a sentence. So once you’ve done a quick check on there, go through your assignment slowly and carefully. Try reading it out loud as this is another way to pick up mistakes you may overlook when reading it in your head. Often your mind will place a missing word when reading it in your head.

Tenses

You want to make sure that your assignment is using the correct verb tense: either past or present. It can be difficult deciding what tense to use but the general rule is:

  • Use present tense when discussing, describing, referring to anything in text no matter when or where it was written, facts, and general statements.
  • Use past tense for anything historical, reporting results of scientific studies, methods, specific findings, and reflections.

If you are unsure, talk to your lecturer about what tense they would prefer you to write in for your assignment.

When editing make sure to look over your tenses as it can be easy to slip back and forth from past to present. You want to be sure that the
tense is consistent throughout your assignment.

Technical Requirements

Each paper or subject you study will have its own technical language that you need to learn and use in your assignments. Make sure you become familiar with it and incorporate it in your assignment. Check over your assignment to make sure you have used the correct technical wording and terminology for your subject.

Now is a good time to check you have done the other technical side of editing, which is the font, size and spacing requirements set out by your lecturer, as well as your name, course name, student ID and the assignment title.

References

Now that you’ve checked over your assignment and it’s looking polished and ready to go, you will need to take a look at your reference list if you are required to have one. 

First, make sure you are using the correct referencing style for your area. For most subjects it is APA referencing, but some subjects use MLA, Chicago or IEEE. At MIT we mainly use APA and IEEE. Once you have figured out which referencing style is needed, go ahead and check out the referencing guides on the MIT Library website. These guides have everything you need to know about referencing and have examples of how your referencing should be laid out.

Editing checklist

Punctuation: Check that your commas, apostrophes, semi-colons and colons are all correctly placed.

Vocabulary: Have you used the right terms in the right context? Have you used slang or contradictions?

Clarity: Are your ideas expressed clearly? Is there logical progression from one thought or point to the next?

Paragraphs: Does each paragraph focus on one main idea?

Overall Structure: Do your paragraphs link? Does the text flow smoothly from one paragraph to the next?

Strength of argument: Have you avoided making unsupported claims or generalisations?

Repetition: Are any of your points or information mentioned more than once?

Referencing: Are all your sources correctly cited and referenced? Have you avoided too many direct quotes?