3 Rules to Follow While Writing & Editing a Paper

3 Rules to Follow While Writing & Editing a Paper

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There are no good writers, only good editors!!

  1. Write with your voice

One piece of advice that I hear many, many English teachers tell students that I completely disagree with is, “Don’t write like you talk!”  WHAT?!?! What are you talking about?  How can you not write like you talk?  If you can’t write how you talk, how in the world can you write anything?

On the other hand, the compliment that you should hear as a writer is, “It sounds like you are talking to me.”  When you do that, it is this amazing device that we English teachers call “Your voice!”  So why would they tell you not to write like you talk but at the same time tell you to find your voice in writing?  It doesn’t make any sense.

I know their fear.  They don’t want you to add cuss words or informal language, but I have heard gang members use that informal language, very inappropriate for school I might add, while talking about the rhetorical appeals.  You know what?  I am not going to correct a student’s verbal grammar if they can have a discussion applying the appeals to an academic text that we have read.  If you are thinking deeply about a subject then write it the way you’d like and edit later.

In the Montessori schools, they do not begin to grade on grammar or spelling in stories, journals, or essays until much later in students’ education.  They believe that thinking about the structure and spelling actually hinders the writing process and the student’s creativity; I agree.  This is because we normally don’t think in the way that we are expected to write. Since we don’t know how to write in an academic voice, which seems scary and can stop us from writing anything, then write it like you would say it and then apply the following tips.

  1. Delete your first paragraph

As an English teacher, I have come to the conclusion that the first question to ask yourself when editing is “Do I need this first paragraph?”  So many people get their writing topic and without thinking about how it will look, through an outline or brainstorm, just begin.  There have been so many times when I have read essays and have made the recommendation to just delete the whole 1st paragraph.  This is one of the first questions I ask myself about my own papers, “Is this first paragraph necessary?”

This is why:  most of the time that first paragraph begins the flow of thought.  We think we need to justify why we are writing instead of just getting to the point of what we are writing about.  The beginning paragraph many times can be the jumbled up thoughts that get you to the point of where you want to go with the paper.  Once all those jumbled up thoughts are out of your head and you begin to explain and prove what you are saying, then that is the stuff to keep; this is the necessary information.

But remember, don’t NOT write that jumbled up first paragraph.  Write it and get it out of your head, just don’t be afraid to highlight the whole thing and press delete once the paper is done, as challenging that might be.  That first paragraph is necessary to get your flow going.  Do it, write it, but delete it.

  1. Read EACH sentence.

This one is dedicated to my newspaper publisher brother.  When I was in my English 100 class of college while I was stationed at Kaneohe Bay Marine Corps Base, he lived with his family right outside of base in Kailua.  I figured that I had to take advantage of his editing skills so I asked him to edit my paper.  He, like the awesome brother he is, said, “No I won’t edit it, but I’ll show you how to edit.”  Ahhh, *punch to the gut* thanks, bro!

So he spent about 20 minutes showing me how to edit.  He said,

  1. Read the first sentence. Delete any unnecessary words, reorder the sentence if you can, add detail where you need it.
  2. Read the second sentence, and repeat step 1. Then read sentence 1 and 2 together to make sure they flow and make sense together.  Do you need to add a transition statement? Do the sentences make sense together? What can you add or take a way to make it more concise?
  3. Repeat this process through the whole paper by reading only 2 sentences at a time.
  4. Finally, read the whole paper again and make more changes when necessary.

This is one of those time-consuming but very effective ways to edit.  We all must agree that the first draft is not supposed to be perfect.  It is not supposed to be worthy of turning it in without editing. That’s why it is called the first draft.  Good writers = good editors.

So go against all your English teachers and

  1. WRITE LIKE YOU TALK
  2. (don’t be afraid to) DELETE YOUR FIRST PARAGRAPH
  3. EDIT LIKE A PUBLISHER

Apply these tips and be amazed at what you can do!!

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