Part 7: How to Edit Your Essay

Many students lose marks for sloppy punctuation and grammar because they don't know how to proof their work. In this part of our guide, we'll give you some of the practical steps that Matrix Students learn for proofing and editing their work.
how to edit your essay

The importance of editing

Do you know how to edit your essay? You need to revise your work to make sure that it is easy to read and that your ideas are clear and concise. Poor grammar and spelling detract from the readability of your writing. Poor essay structure makes it hard to follow the logic of your argument. When you submit work, especially in Years 11 and 12, you need to make sure that it is of the highest quality!

You don’t want to throw away marks by not revising and editing your work!

Why edit my essays?

Students often write great responses and then toss away marks on silly errors. Editing is a process that will help you catch these mistakes before they take your Band 6 essays down a notch, or two! You should never submit a first draft, but do you know how to get past the first draft? Often students aren’t aware that there is a method for refining their essays. It’s not a complicated process, but it is an essential one.

Band 6 Matrix Students always edit their work.

So how do you edit an essay? Let’s take a look.

In this article we discuss:


How to edit your essay – a step-by-step process

When you edit an essay you want to follow the following process:

how to edit your essay
A flowchart of how to edit your essay

Let’s see how to go about editing in detail.


Master the editing process and boost your marks.

Learn the process for editing and proofreading your essays and creatives. In our English Term Course, we’ll teach your creative writing and the editing skills you will need for essays and creatives. Learn more.

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Step 1: Write an essay

If you haven’t done this, and are unsure of where to start, you should read the previous part of this guide, first.

If you want a comprehensive guide to essay writing, check out his series of blog posts:


Step 2. Proofread your essay

To proofread is to read your draft “proofs” before submitting them for publication. It is actually harder to proofread one’s own work than somebody else’s, but you must to get into the habit of proofreading and correcting your own work.

The best way to proofread is to read your essay aloud.

We learn grammar and punctuation through speech, so we hear any errors in a sentence’s grammar before we see them. Reading an essay aloud will allow you to spot the sentences that sound “wrong.” Once you have found a sentence that doesn’t sound quite right you can look to see what’s wrong – maybe a comma is in the wrong place, or perhaps it is not a complete sentence. If you are a little bit unsure of your grammar rules, or just out of practice, you can read up on them here.

The detailed steps you need to follow when proofreading are:

  1. Proofread your work
  2. Check the logic of your argument, make sure you have used evidence correctly
  3. Make sure that the evidence is relevant to the question
  4. Make sure you have answered the question
  5. Now you’ve identified the issues and errors in your essay, you need to edit your essay to make these changes and develop a second draft

Now you’ve spotted the mistakes, you are in the position to start fixing them. Let’s have a look at what that involves.


Step 3: Editing the essay

Editing the essay is when you correct mistakes and restructure the parts don’t present a coherent or sustained argument.

This involves the following process:

1. Make revisions to the structure and content of your essay

If you found that you haven’t answered the question, your essay presents your argument in a convoluted order, or you go on tangents, you will need to correct these.

This will involve rewriting topic sentences, rearranging paragraphs, or perhaps rewriting paragraphs. Some revisions may require you to rewrite a paragraph, don’t be afraid to do this. It may be more work, but it will improve your marks.

2. Proofread your work for grammatical, spelling, and punctuation errors

After making major revisions, you need to proofread again for minor edits. These are spelling and grammatical errors.

Don’t rely on your word processor’s spellcheck, they are not completely accurate! Read each sentence aloud, if possible.

3. Make the necessary corrections to your essay

Correct as you go. This will save time.

4. Proofread the essay again, at least once

You want to be accurate, you should always proofread a couple of times to be sure it is all perfect for seeking feedback!

Just because an essay has been proofed, does not mean it is ready to be submitted. You should try and get a second opinion first! This is called peer feedback, let’s look at what it is.


Step 4. Getting peer feedback

Teachers often can’t give you feedback on an essay for a school assignment. Increasingly, schools are limiting the number of essays a student can submit to their teacher to keep workloads manageable. The best alternative is to get feedback from your peers.

Remember, criticism is there to help you write better essays, it is not personal! Use it constructively!

Your friends and classmates are studying the same texts in the same way as you. Forming study groups to read texts, make notes, and discuss your essays will help you all get ahead. Peer feedback is incredibly useful, because if your friends aren’t convinced by your argument; are confused by your structure and logic; or can’t read your sentences because they are ungrammatical, then neither will your teacher and markers!

So, how should you go about getting peer feedback?

  1. Approach your peers and teachers for feedback
  2. Ask them to comment on your argument, use of evidence, logic and structure, and spelling and grammar
  3. Do the same for them to make it fair!
  4. Ask them to talk you through their criticisms
  5. Apply the feedback to your essay
  6. Proofread it again
  7. Make any necessary corrections
  8. Proofread it again
  9. Ask for more feedback (but don’t push the friendship!)
  10. Make corrections if necessary
  11. Proofread it again if necessary
  12. Submit!
  13. Buy your mates a coffee when you get a Band 6!

Step 5: Applying feedback – when to edit and when to redraft

When you read through your proofreading comments or the peer feedback you receive, you will need to decide how much work you need to do to fix things.

guide-proofing-and-editing-flowchart-critical-feedback-comments (1)
A student’s feedback from a Matrix English teacher


Sometimes you will only need to reword a sentence, clarify a statement, or add an example. This is a fairly simple process of editing. Sometimes you will need to make much larger changes, like rewriting whole paragraphs. In some instances, your essay might not answer the question and you will need to rewrite the whole thing!

There will obviously come a point where you can’t make any more changes. Similarly, you may not be able to redraft it successfully. At this point, you need to go back to your notes and ensure that you have a clear understanding of your text and module. This is not the end of the world! It’s better to learn this before an exam, rather than during an exam!

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Learning from past failures

Everybody makes mistakes. A key difference between Band 6 students and their peers is the ability to learn from their past shortcomings and failures. Getting poor marks and underachieving against your expectations is always hard and disappointing. it is important that we turn those experiences into positives by learning from them.

A failure doesn’t mean you are bad at something, it means that you have to work a bit harder to be good at it.

Let’s discuss some ways to use past failures for future success.

How to learn from poor results

It’s disappointing not to live up your expectations. But what do you do when you fall short in assessments and exams?

Here’s a step-by-step process:

  1. Reread your submission. Don’t just throw out the essay or assessment. Read back through it. Fresh eyes will tell you what you haven’t done well, and what you have.
  2. Compare the response to the marking criteria. Remark your response, objectively, and understand how you didn’t address the assessment criteria.
  3. Compare the marker’s feedback with your rereading of the essay. try to understand what the marker saw as your mistakes and shortcomings. You should update your study notes to reflect this new data.
  4. Ask the marker, where possible, to explain their comments. You want to get an insight into what they expect from your response, this will provide you with the data to do better in future.
  5. Take this feedback and redo the assessment. You will only improve through practice, rewriting weak responses will teach you how to make them stronger in future.
  6. Mark your rewritten response against the marking criteria.
  7. Get feedback from others. Ask your peers, teacher, or parents for their opinion. If possible have them compare the original to the revised response.
  8. Don’t rest on your laurels. Once you have revised and improved your submission, start another practice essay. You will only improve your marks through a process of continuous improvement.

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Writing a better essay

People aren’t born essayists. They improve through continuous practice. If you want to be good at playing a musical instrument you must put in hundreds, if not thousands, of hours practice. Similarly, if you want to be a good essayist, you must practice the skill.

Don’t just write one essay for each subject for practice, write several. When you receive a poor result, seek feedback and write a new one to improve. Matrix English students receive regular workshops on top of their weekly classes that are an ideal opportunity for students to get feedback and advice on school assessments.

Top English students, regardless of what they say, spend lots of time consistently reading, writing, and revising essays to ensure they get Band 6 results.

Now you’re down with editing and proofing, you’re ready to start thinking about the other sort of writing – the creative sort.


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