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Reviewing and Editing

How to review and edit your writing


One of the best things you can do to improve your writing is to ask someone else to read and critique it. Few people like doing this but it's a reluctance you should get over. It's easier if you find someone completing a similar assignment, then you can exchange papers. In some cultures it's more difficult than in others because of a reluctance to criticise or to make suggestions to someone who is not your peer See the glossary definition .

Everyone makes mistakes. When you write, what seems very clear to you (because you've been thinking about it and rewriting it) might not be clear to someone else. So find a writing buddy and discuss your assignments right from the start. From understanding the task to checking the final draft See the glossary definition . You'll find that your writing will improve much faster if you do this.

Before asking someone to review your work decide what aspect you want them to focus on. Don't just ask them to review it without giving any instructions. Also don't ever ask them to do anything you can do yourself such as spell checking.



The following is a checklist you can use to make sure you have checked your draft thoroughly. You don't have to use every item in the list; adapt it to your purposes depending on the type of assignment you are required to complete.

If you want to print an adapted list for your own use, or to give to a peer reviewer, you can use the customisable editing checklist.

  • Task Completion

    Did you fully answer the question?

    • Did you address all the elements of the prompt Go to the Understanding the Task page?
    • Have all the instruction words Go to the Task Verbs page of the task been addressed (describe, examine, discuss, compare, evaluate …)?
    • Does your content align with the content required by the task?
    • Is your content restricted according to any limiting words in the task description Go to the task analysis page?
    • Is there enough supporting (evidence See the glossary definition, facts, reasoned argument See the glossary definition, authoritative See the glossary definition references) for the opinions you expressed?
    • Is your essay/report of the required length?
    • Is your report formatted appropriately? (according to guidelines provided with the task or by your institution, or according to generally accepted norms for the type of report you have written)?
    • Have all other parameters of the task been adhered to (deadlines, formatting, word count, cover page See the glossary definition, referencing)?

  • Structure

    Is your writing well organised?

    • Does the essay/report have a clear introduction Go to the Example Introductions page, body and conclusion?
    • Does the introduction Go to the Example Introductions page have a hook or background information leading to a thesis statement See the glossary definition?
    • Is the thesis statementSee the glossary definition clear, concise, and easy to identify as a thesis statement?
    • Is the essay/report divided into paragraphs?
    • Are the paragraphs of a reasonable length; not too long or short?
    • Does each paragraph have a clear topic sentence See the glossary definition?
    • Is the topic sentence See the glossary definition in each paragraph related to the thesis statement?
    • Does each topic sentence have clear supporting sentences?
    • Do all the paragraphs have unity? (Do all the sentences relate to the topic sentence in some way?)
    • Are your paragraphs in the right order (you may have swapped paragraphs as you rewrote your drafts)?
    • Are the paragraphs properly connected?
    • If you expressed an opinion, did you support it with reasoned arguments See the glossary definition, facts, evidence See the glossary definition, authoritative sources?
    • Have you used appropriate hedging Go to the Hedging page devices to express your ideas in a measured, cautious way?
    • Does the conclusion summarise the discussion in the body?
    • Is the conclusion related to the thesis statement?

  • Coherence and Cohesion

    Are your ideas logically connected and does your writing have a sense of flow?

    • Is there a sense of logical flow from one paragraph to the next?
    • Are relationships between ideas sufficiently clear?
    • Are relationships between ideas correctly signalled with suitable connecting phrases (transitions See the glossary definition or adverbials See the glossary definition)?
    • Have you used too many adverbials? (not every simple relationship needs to be signalled)?
    • Are cohesive devices (reference Go to the Reference page, ellipsis Go to the Ellipsis page, substitution Go to the Substitution page) and other types of cohesion Go to the Cohesion page managed well?

  • Grammar

    Is your writing grammatically accurate?

    • Did you use a grammar checker?
    • Did you check for grammar mistakes yourself (grammar checkers are not infallible)?
    • Is subject-verb agreement correct throughout?
    • Have you eliminated any sentence fragments See the glossary definition?
    • Did you correct any run-on sentences See the glossary definition?
    • Did you check for "it's" and "its" errors?
    • Did you check for "their" and "there" errors?
    • Are any of your sentences too “wordy” - containing unnecessary adjectives or adverbs?

  • Audience

    Did you adapt your writing for the kind of people who will read your text?

    • Have you used language suitable to your intended audience See the glossary definition (not too simple or difficult/technical)?
    • Have you avoided the use of offensive, discriminatory See the glossary definition, or culturally inappropriate language?
    • Is the information presented in a balanced See the glossary definition and impartial style?
    • Does your writing use the right tone See the glossary definition for the intended audience?

  • Referencing

    Are your sources authoritative See the glossary definition and reliable? Have you correctly cited and referenced your sources?  

    • Are the sources of your information authoritative See the glossary definition ?
    • Are the sources of your information reliable?
    • Are the sources of your information sufficiently recent (not out of date, or superseded)?
    • Are all of your quotes and paraphrases Go to the Paraphrasing page relevant and supportive of your arguments?
    • Are paraphrases written well and sufficiently different from the original text?
    • Are all paraphrases correctly referenced?
    • Are your quotes and paraphrases properly introduced with a signal Go to the Signal Phrases page (reporting) phrase?
    • Are all your quotes and paraphrases correctly cited Go to the Quoting and Citing page?
    • Are all you citations corrected referenced in a reference list?
    • Are all your references correctly formatted according to the style required (APA, MLA, Vancouver, Harvard, Oxford, etc.)?
    • Did you acknowledge all of your sources?
    • Have you used the correct referencing style (APA, MLA, Vancouver, Harvard, Oxford, etc.) throughout?

  • Formatting

    Is your text clearly formatted according to any given guidelines?

    • Did you abide by required formatting guidelines (typeface, font, line-spacing, margins, etc.)?
    • Is your writing in the correct format for the task you were set (essay, report, review, case study …)?
    • Have you included any necessary appendices (diagrams, tables, illustrations ..)?
    • Did you include a cover page See the glossary definition (if required)?

  • Proofreading

    Have you checked for errors?

    • Do all sentences begin with a capital letter?
    • Do all sentences end with a full stop?
    • Did you use a spell checker?
    • Have you checked the spelling manually (e.g. because spell-checkers can’t tell if you mean “you’re” or “your”)?

  • Submission

    Do you know where, when, and in what format your work needs to be submitted?

    • Are you sure where and how you need to submit your work (email attachment, LMS such as Blackboard, Canvas, Moodle, or hard copy)?
    • Are you sure what the deadline See the glossary definition for submission is?
    • Do you have a properly backed up copy of your work?
    • Do you know in what format your work needs to be submitted in (PDF? MS-Word?)?

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