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English 7-8

5 Editing Skills You Need To Ace High School

How often do you edit your work before you submit it? In this article, we go through the 5 essential editing skills you need to bring your English essays and creatives to the next level.

Editing is a crucial skill that many high school students overlook until they reach their HSC year. Don’t be one of them! Start refining your skills early and make it a habit before it’s too late! To help you along, here are 5 editing skills you need to ace High School!


5 editing skills you need to ace high school:

There is no way that your first draft will be perfect. There will be grammatical or spelling errors, messy and convoluted sentence wording, or a lack of coherence in your paragraphs. However, even if there are no major errors, you can always make your work better to achieve higher marks!

So, here are the 5 editing skills you need to ace high school now:

  1. Read your work out loud
  2. Print your work and edit using a red pen
  3. Work through one problem at a time
    1. Review your work at a holistic level
    2. Check your structure and paragraphs for coherence, logic and clarity
    3. Review your sentences and reword if necessary
    4. Proofread for grammatical, spelling, and punctuation errors
    5. Give a final proof
  4. Ask for feedback from peers or teachers and apply them


1. Read your work out loud

One of the most important editing skills you need to know is to read your work a loud! When you are reading large chunks of of writing in your head, your mind easily skips over words or sentences.

Wait! What?!?!

Did you notice that there were two consecutive “of”s in the previous paragraph? What about the misspelled word “a loud”?

You see, this is what happens when you don’t read your work aloud! It is crucial that the first thing you do when you edit your work is to read it out loud (and yes, “aloud” is older, but “out loud” is more widely used and accessible).

When you read your work out loud, you hear yourself speak… which helps you identify your mistakes, improve sentence structure, and make smoother transitions between your ideas.

Maybe a sentence doesn’t sound quite right… and that’s because you’re missing a comma or a word!

Reading out loud will also help you identify any gaps in your arguments and figure out the tone of your writing.

So, these are some things you should look out for when you read your work out loud:

  • Misspelled, misplaced, or missing words
  • Irrelevant words like adjectives, adverbs or tautological words
  • Grammatically incorrect sentences
  • Awkward, overcomplicated, or repetitive sentences
  • Jumps in ideas or arguments

If you want to learn more about grammar, check out our English Grammar Toolkit Guide.



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2. Print your work and use a red pen

We know that editing your work on a laptop or computer screen is much easier to do… You don’t have to put in the effort to print out your work, flip through the pages, and use a pen.

However, you may be hindering your editing process!

Editing your work on paper helps you read it in a new light and is better on your eyes!

It’s much easier to identify mistakes when you are editing a hard copy rather than a digital version because you tend to concentrate more than when you’re reading something on a screen.

So, what’s the best way to edit your work by paper? Here are some steps you should take to maximise your editing process:


a. Re-format your work

You should reformat your writing using double spacing, wider margins, and at least size 12 font.

This not only provides you with extra space to write your notes but is also easier on the eyes.

You will need that extra space between the lines and in the margin to take notes of your errors and areas of improvement. This will save you from having lines and arrows flying around the page, and tiny notes squeezed into the corner of your sheet.

Also, remember, your brain has a short attention span, so having fewer words in a line will help you better concentrate on each line.


b. Follow the words with your fingers or pen

This method isn’t just for primary school students. It’s also very useful for anyone who needs to edit their work!

Sometimes your eyes will “read ahead” and skip over words and sentences.

So, use a pen or your finger to follow the words to help you focus. This will ensure you are not accidentally skimming over words, possible errors, or skipping lines.


c. Use coloured pens

Use a red/coloured pen to mark your errors, edits and notes. This will help you distinguish your edits from your work and be easily identifiable.

There is no point in writing in black ink if your work is printed out in black. This will become confusing when you are making your edits on your laptop because you can accidentally miss some notes.



3. Work through one problem at a time

We know it’s tempting to want to finish editing your work as fast as possible.

However, your brain cannot possibly focus on all the different aspects of editing in one sitting.

That’s why it’s crucial that you read through your work a couple of times; each time focusing on something different. This way, you will be able to really put your mind and focus on each aspect of your writing.

However, we’re not telling you to ignore errors that are sticking out like a sore thumb! If you notice a spelling error whilst editing for clarity, correct it then and there. Fixing things as you go will save time and ensure you don’t forget them later!

Now, here are the different levels of editing you should be doing:

  1. Holistic level: Thesis/argument, overall idea/message, storyline etc.
  2. Paragraph level: Coherence, logic, and clarity
  3. Sentence level: Structures and wording
  4. Word level: Grammatical, spelling, or punctuation errors
  5. Final proofread round

Let’s explore these in detail..


a. Review your writing holistically

It is so important that you read through your whole essay or creative carefully, once, before you start getting into the nitty-gritty of your writing. If you’re on a time crunch, feel free to skim over your work as we’re not looking at the smaller aspects yet.

For essays or discursive, take this chance to:

  • See if you properly answered the question
  • See if you have the right structure (introduction, body, conclusion)
  • Examine if your arguments support your thesis
  • Rearrange your arguments in a logical order (if needed)
  • Take note of any parts where you go on a tangent

For creatives, you should:

  • See if you properly incorporated your stimulus / answered the question
  • See if your story flows logically and maintains continuity
  • See if your characters and setting are reliable and strong
  • Ensure you have a clear complication and resolution (or lack of resolution if that is your purpose)
  • Watch out for consistency of voice

If any of these problems arise, you should fix them as soon as possible before moving on to the next steps.


b. Check your paragraphs for coherence, logic, and clarity

Give yourself some time before you return to edit your work! You want to see everything with new eyes and a fresh mind.

This step requires you to dig deep into your paragraphs. Sometimes, you might need to rewrite a whole paragraph. We know! It doesn’t sound like the most fun thing to do, but it’s necessary to optimise your marks.

Here are the things you should be doing for your essays:

  • Ensure evidence is relevant and strong (for essays)
  • Ensure that your paragraph only discusses one main idea
  • Rearrange sentences to ensure that your analysis flow logically
  • Rewrite your paragraph (if needed)

For creatives, you should:

  • Ensure your paragraph follows one main idea
  • Ensure your paragraph is important in the context of your creative
  • Identify and cliches
  • Rewrite your paragraphs if needed


c. Review your sentences and reword if necessary

Now, it is time to examine your writing on a sentence level! This means that you have to go through your work line-by-line.

When we write drafts, we sometimes use unnecessary descriptors, have tautological words, write over-complicated or repetitive sentences, or simply use words that don’t capture what we want to say.

So, this is your chance to go back and:

  • Remove unnecessary adverbs and adjectives
  • Remove tautological words
  • Replace certain words for better words
  • Remove any repetitive words or sentences
  • Reword awkward sentences.


d. Proofread for grammatical, spelling, and punctuation errors

After rewriting paragraphs and sentences, it is time to review your work for minor edits like grammatical, spelling, and punctuation errors.

As aforementioned, the best way to do this is to read out loud, and if you want to learn more about proper grammar usage, then you can check out our Essential English Grammar Toolkit Guide.


e. Always give your essays or creatives a final proof

Before you ask for feedback on your work, you should always go through your essays/creatives one last time!

You want to make sure it’s all perfect before you ask for some feedback.



5. Ask for feedback from peers or teachers and apply them

It’s always a good idea to get a second pair of eyes on your work because they might spot something you missed! You should try asking your teachers, Matrix teachers, and/or your peers to take a read over your work.

However, don’t hassle them or force them to read your work.

Remember to always be polite and considerate of the people helping you!

Sometimes teachers are unable to read over assignments or have a limit on the amounts of revisions they can do. However, you also have your Matrix teachers and tutors who you can turn to for help.

You can always send a message to your Matrix teachers through the LMS and ask them to read over your work! They are always happy to help you.

Furthermore, you and your peers can swap essays and edit each other’s work too!


Working with your peers

Since your peers are studying the same texts as you, it’s a good way to share, develop your ideas, and provide feedback for each other’s work. You can always form study groups, make notes together, and discuss your essays together.

Discussing your essays with others is a good way to develop your perspectives and ideas. Sometimes, your arguments might clash with your peers. However, this gives you a chance to strengthen your stance with more evidence, or learn something new from them!

Furthermore, your peers can criticise the persuasiveness and logic of your arguments, and point out minor errors like grammar and spelling mistakes that you might’ve missed.

However remember, you should always repay the favour! If someone reads your work, you should also read over their work and provide feedback.

Editing and providing feedback for your friend’s work is actually helpful for you too!

When you identify their strengths and weaknesses in your peers’ writing, you are also finding different aspects that you should also focus on in your writing!

For example, if your peer is particularly good at incorporating quotes into their analysis, you can take pointers and start writing your quotes in a similar manner. On the other hand, if your peer struggles to write strong topic sentences, you will know how to strengthen your own topic sentences.

It is a learning process both ways!


Incorporating the feedback

Asking for feedback is just half of the journey, you also need to incorporate that feedback!

So, take some time to read over the feedback and then decide how much work you need to do to fix things.

Sometimes your edits are easily fixed like spelling mistakes or rephrasing a sentence. Sometimes, you may need to rewrite whole paragraphs, restructure your essays, or rewrite the whole thing!

Ultimately, it is up to you to take the advice because there will be a point where you can no longer make any changes.



Written by Tammy Dang

Tammy is a former student of Matrix and is now studying Law / Media (Screen and Sound Production) at UNSW. She is a Digital Content Writer for the Matrix Education blog. Tammy aspires to become a lawyer in the future while continuing to run her art business.


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