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Polishing the Final Draft of Your Essay in 3 Steps

Make sure to walk away for as long as possible – a few hours will do – before setting yourself down to polish your final draft. Reviewing with a fresh set of eyes will help you find errors more easily. Your approach in polishing your final draft will consist of three steps, each one more focused than the last. Here’s how to do it:

The Big Picture Polish:

Ask yourself several critical questions about your goal in writing your essay. For example, “What is my purpose in writing this?” and “Who is my audience?” Both of these questions will help you determine if you have accomplished what you set out to do. Think of your entire paper and ask if your paragraphs are organized logically and effectively.

Next, you want to check for errors you usually make. Perhaps you make spelling, word usage or comma errors. It is generally good to keep a list of the mistakes you commonly make and to set aside the time to search for instances of these exclusively.

The Detailed Polish:

This next step in polishing your final draft brings the lens a little closer. This stage takes a close look at each paragraph individually. While doing this you want to ask yourself “What is the main point of each paragraph?” and “Do the points in the paragraph support this main point?” These questions aim to identify any parts that are unnecessary in your writing. Excessive sentences, phrases, and even words can slow down the flow of your paper and lead your reader astray with useless information.

At this stage you should also pay special attention to your transitions, which guide your reader from the end of one paragraph to the next. These sentences tie your essay together and shouldn’t be neglected. Take the time to read your paper aloud and listen for any indication of a clunky transition.

The Nit-Picky Detailed Polish

This is the closest level of polishing you will take. It occurs at the sentence level and requires that you look at each word, punctuation mark, abbreviations, titles, numbering and more to ensure there are no mistakes and your paper is consistent.

You should also pay attention to grammar mistakes that occur within sentences, such as incorrect use of modifiers, run-on sentence, and sentence fragments. If you do find sentences that might be written incorrectly or simply read awkwardly, take the time to re-write it in its simplest form and try it out amongst the other sentences in the paragraph.

Proofreading and editing are essential to all great writing, so be sure you leave yourself enough time to conduct these thoroughly with as much attention to detail and enthusiasm as have put into the other stages of your writing.