Take a Break
The Hunt for Red Flags
Read Out Loud
Writing is not a one-time act. Writing is a process, and memorable writing comes more from rewriting than it does from the first draft. By rewriting, you will improve your essay guaranteed. There is no perfect amount of drafts that will insure a great essay, but you will eventually reach a point when your confidence in the strength of your writing is reinforced by the thoughts of others. If you skimp on the rewriting process, you significantly reduce the chances that your essay will be as good as it could be. Dont take that chance. The following steps show you how to take your essay from rough to remarkable.
Take a Break!
You have made it through the first draft, and you deserve a reward for the hard work. Before you do anything else take a break! Let it sit for a couple of days. You need to distance yourself from the piece so you can gain objectivity. Writing can be an emotional and exhausting process, particularly when you write about yourself and your experiences. After you finish your first draft, you may think a bit too highly of your efforts or you may be too harsh. Both extremes are probably inaccurate. Once you have let your work sit for a while you will be better able to take the next (and final!) step -- proofreading.
Once you have taken a break away from your essay, come back and read it through once with a fresh perspective. Analyze it as objectively as possible based on the following three components: substance, structure, and interest. Do not worry yet about surface errors and spelling mistakes, focus instead on the larger issues. Be prepared to find some significant problems with your essays and be willing to address them even though it might mean significantly more work. Also, if you find yourself unable to iron out the bugs that turn up, you should be willing to consider starting one or two of your essays from scratch, potentially with a new topic.
Use the following check-lists to critique the various parts of your essays.
The Hunt for Red Flags
How can you know if you are writing in a passive or active voice? Certain words and phrases are red flags for the passive voice, and relying on them too heavily will considerably weaken an otherwise good essay. To find out if your essay suffers from passivity, go on a hunt for all of the following, highlighting each one as you find it:
When you are satisfied with the structure and content of your essay, it is time to check for grammar, spelling, typos, and the like. There will be obvious things you can fix right away: a misspelled or misused word, a seemingly endless sentence, or improper punctuation. Keep rewriting until your words say what you want them to say. Ask yourself these questions:
Read Out Loud
To help you polish the essay even further, read it out loud. You will be amazed at the faulty grammar and awkward language that your ears can detect. It will also give you a good sense of the flow of the piece and will alert you to anything that sounds too abrupt or out of place. Good writing, like much music, has a certain rhythm. How does your essay sound? Interesting and varied, or drawn out and monotonous. Reading your essay out loud is also a good way to catch errors that your eyes might otherwise skim over while reading silently.
ALWAYS Get Feedback!
Weve mentioned this point many times throughout this site, but it can never be emphasized enough: get feedback! Not only will it help you see your essay objectively, as others will see it, but it is also a good way to get re-inspired when you feel yourself burning out.
You should have already found someone to proof for general style, structure, and content. If you have to write multiple essays for one school, you should also have had them evaluate the set as a whole. Now, as a final step before submitting your application, find someone new to proof for the surface errors that will only be seen with fresh eyes. Print out this page and have them check off the questions as they proof.
And, as we said earlier, if you are having trouble finding someone willing (and able) to dedicate the time and thought that need to be put in to make this step effective, you may want to consider getting a professional evaluation. IvyEssays offers a number of different editing services. Whether you are looking for quick feedback or a full edit, we have an option for you.
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