Some writers will argue that editing an essay is the most important step of the writing process. Editing involves looking for spelling and grammar mistakes, but more importantly, it often involves rewriting entire sentences or paragraphs to clarify major points. It may even include deleting sentences or paragraphs entirely, or restructuring and clarifying entire sections of the essay. The writer should always take a brief break between writing and editing an essay to ensure he or she can approach the essay with a fresh mind. Writers on a deadline may not have this luxury, but even a two or three minute rest is helpful.
After general proofreading has been performed to address spelling mistakes and grammatical issues, the writer will need to begin editing an essay by breaking the essay down into major parts: the introduction, the supporting paragraphs, and the conclusion. The writer should begin editing an essay by reading each part individually to ensure the function of each section has been achieved. In the introduction, for example, a clear thesis statement should be present and it should prepare the reader for the rest of the essay. That first paragraph should also include a good opening sentence that draws the reader in. Each supporting paragraph should have a topic sentence, and the conclusion should effectively outline what the essay was about.
Once the writer has analyzed the individual parts of the essay, editing an essay should continue by analyzing the overall flow of the document. This means looking at transitions between paragraphs, how effectively each supporting paragraph supports the thesis, and whether the conclusion accurately and effectively summarizes the most important point or points of the essay. The conclusion should never simply be a re-statement of the thesis statement, so the writer will need to analyze this carefully during this phase of the editing process. If the essay has a title, that title should be analyzed carefully to ensure it encapsulates the point of the essay, and to ensure that it is catchy enough to grab the reader's attention.
It helps to print off a hard copy of the document before editing an essay. It may be tempting to simply read off the computer screen, and while this is okay for some writers, in most cases a writer is more prepared to catch errors if he or she is reading a paper copy. Having a paper copy also allows the writer to make notes quickly and easily for subsequent drafts.