How to write well? 13 steps to editing your PhD Thesis, research papers and reports.

Great books are not written, they are rewritten.You do this by honing your work by good editing.

You can transform your writing by mastering the skill of editing your work. You are the best person to do this because no one knows the work you have done better than you. You can get your final final draft edited by a professional copy editor before final submission. You have to learn the rules of rules of grammar and be aware of common mistakes writers make so that you can fix these before you go to print and send it off to examiners.

Don’t edit while your writing. Editing is a different skill to creative writing.

Here are some tips you must try out the next time you have to write a thesis, research paper or report.

1. Edit your writing when you are well rested. If you do this when you are tired you will miss things that you would normally pick up. Put your written work away and then come back to it next day, two days or in a weeks time. Everyone who has worked on a thesis for a long time will tell you that after a while you tend to read what you want to read instead of what is on paper. Therefore, a break from the work before editing is essential. When you start editing things will jump out at you. Correct these. Trust your instincts, you will know when things don’t look right. Schedule extra time for editing, you will need it. Everyone underestimates the time required for editing your work. During the editing phase you will come up with new ideas and expressing them in various ways.

2. Read your work out alound to yourself. Focus on just listening to what you are reading. Any awkward sentences and phrases will seem out of place. If it doesn’t sound right then change it so that it sounds good. Missing words, repetitions and misspellings will come to your attention.

3. Look for words that you use in your daily language but are obviously not correct but use because you have a habit of using them. You can eliminate them and your writing will be better.

4. Cut out unnecessary words from sentences. You can eliminate several words from a sentence and improve the sentence. Look for words that you can eliminate and then delete them. You may be able to replace some words with active, direct, better or simpler words. Cut sentences which contain repetition. Remove wishy-washy phrases and unnecessary adjectives.

5. Add commas, questions marks and punctuation where ever its needed but don’t overdo it. Simplicity is always better.

6. Don’t use complex and flowery words. Simpler words are always better. You aim is to communicate clearly not show off.

7. Use active voice instead of passive voice. It is always more powerful.

8. Don’t get your tenses mixed up. This is one of the most common mistakes in writing thesis, papers and reports. People tend to shift tenses, make sure that the tenses are correct.

9. Read your work in a different format. Print out your thesis, report or paper and then edit it in pen and make the changes in your word processor. When you see the work in the format it will appear you will notice the mistakes quicker. You may want to use different fonts or sizes than the what you used for doing the writing.

10. Check the content and structure. Look at the figures, tables, section numbers and headings, references, diagrams. Do these separately one at a time. Make a list. Look at sections numbers only. Move onto the next thing on the list. Don’t look at all these at the same time. The brain likes to have a structure and focus at one task at a time.

11. Use a spell checker but don’t rely on it 100%. Use your eyes and ears as well. Some errors will pass through the spell checker, for example, words such as witch or which.

12. Read your writing backwards. When you are too familiar with your work mistakes just get past your attention. Read from end to the beginning. Break down long pieces of work into small manageable chunks.

13. Decide to let the thesis, paper or report go. You will never be 100% satisfied with your work. You will always think that you can do better and improve the work. You will reach a point when you change things just out of insecurity and then change it back.


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