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Edit & Proofread My Writing: Getting Started


You're done with the last word of that 20-page paper. Hurray! Save and print/send to Brightspace, right? Well... There are several essential steps to be taken after that last word is typed out: You need to edit, proofread, and generally check over your paper before it's truly finished. 

Formatting Your Document

Formatting your document is usually done before you start writing, but if you didn't do that step then, you definitely need to do it now. The format of your document will differ depending on the style guide you're using, which will depend on the class and what the instructor wants.

The most commonly used styles here at Geneseo are APA, MLA, or Chicago/Turabian, but there are more specialized styles for certain fields of study. Naturally, each style wants papers in that style set up slightly differently. What does your title page need to look like? What size are the paper's margins? Is there a specified font and/or type size to use? 

All of those questions (and more) can be answered by looking in the online style manual (for complex/unusual questions you may need the printed style manual...or you can meet w/a librarian for help). Check the Cite My Sources & Use Style Guides research guide (, in the list of the library's Research Guides, to find the section on the style you're using. In that section will be links to online help.

What Should I Do When Editing?

Merriam-Webster defines editing as "to prepare as literary material for publication or presentation; to alter, adapt, or refine, especially to bring about conformity to a standard or to suit a particular purpose." When you edit your writing, there are several things you should do:

  • Check sentence structure: e.g., is your sentence a complete sentence (subject, predicate, expresses a complete thought)?
  • Check grammatical structure: e.g., do you have subject-verb agreement (if your sentence's subject is plural, is the verb form also plural)?
  • Check for clarity: e.g., does your writing express exactly what you want to say in a way that your audience will be able to understand?
  • Check facts: e.g., have you confirmed that the facts you use to support your arguments are true? are there any inadvertant errors?
  • Check for continuity: e.g., is what you say on Page 3 the same as what you say on Page 8? if what you're editing is fiction, has a character's hair color changed from page to page?

What Should I Do When Proofreading?

Merriam-Webster defines proofreading as "to read and mark corrections." When you're proofreading your work, you should:

  • Check spelling
  • Check punctuation
  • Check formatting

Research Instruction Librarian for the Sciences, Languages, & Honors