You must revise and edit your essays

Always revise and edit your essay. Never submit the first draft of an essay for assessment. Even expert and professional writers revise and edit their work, often several times.

Usually it’s best to revise your essay after a break (revise simply means to "look again"). You’ll be less tired, and more likely to spot mistakes and identify changes that need to be made. When you revise your essay you need to ask yourself the following questions and take action indicated:

Does your essay really cover the issues it’s meant to? Look for omissions, and also for text that’s not to the point, or has been repeated. Be ruthless - if it doesn't contribute significantly to the subject of the essay then edit it out. Remember that most teachers can spot waffle a mile off - and they don't want to read it!

Do all the sentences really make sense? Have you really said exactly what you mean? If you’re unsure about some part of your essay then ask a friend to read that bit. If it’s clear to them without any further explanations from you then fine, otherwise you should try a bit of re-wording. You can only write clearly about something if you understand it clearly. So if part of your essay looks a muddle you might need to go back to your texts, and then try again. You might even need to find an additional source of information that more clearly explains what you don’t understand.

Are the paragraphs, and the sentences within them, arranged in a logical sequence? Use your essay plan to help you, but don’t be afraid to change it if that now seems the sensible thing to do. Word processors can greatly simplify editing since sections of text can easily be re-ordered. They are also a great asset if your spelling or hand writing isn't very good!

Have you kept within the word limits set for your essay? Not keeping to a word limit can lose you marks. Check how rigid your word limit is, e.g. some teachers will allow students to be within 5 or 10 percent of the word limit. You may have to state the number of words at the end of your essay, or even submit your essay electronically so that the teacher can check on the word count for him or herself. Remember that teachers are generally reasonably good judges of word counts. They will know if you try to pass off 3000 words as 5000 words!

If your essay’s too short consider adding extra examples or exploring particular arguments or subjects in a more detail. Consider the balance of your essay to see where additions can most appropriately be made.

If your essay’s too long try rewording sentences and paragraphs to make them shorter. With practice you should be able to edit out quite a few words without substantially altering the sense or information content of your essay. In fact it’s often the case that essays edited in this way will be easier and more enjoyable to read. Only cut out information as a last resort, or if you’ve clearly “wandered off” the topic. The first thing you might be able to cut is the amount of detail given about particular examples.

You will need to edit your references too. Make sure both the text referencing and the final reference list are properly formatted and complete.

Once you are satisfied with your essay content, structure, length, flow and referencing - congratulations - you've done it!