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Peer editing

Peer editing can be done during class time or electronically outside of class, as the documents below--from Northwestern instructors--illustrate.  The questions that students respond to can vary according to the nature of the assignment and the purpose of the peer review.

peer editing sheets for drafts Peer editing sheets for two essay assignments in a freshman seminar.  Providing very specific questions helps the editors give useful feedback and suggestions. 

peer feedback form literature seminar Students exchange drafts in class, complete the peer feedback form, and then discuss their written comments with one another.  Students submit the forms with their drafts so that I can read them.  I frequently refer to their peers' comments when I am writing my own comments on their drafts.   

peer review Asian diaspora freshman seminar Students do a close reading of one another's drafts to provide insight into what has and has not been conveyed by the draft.

research draft peer review Prompts peer reviewers to comment on key pieces of information, logical organization, and conclusion

research paper introduction peer response Prompts peer editor to comment on introduction, and prompts author to respond to those comments

research paper peer evaluation of claims Prompts peer editor to evaluate the paper's effectiveness in supporting claims and addressing counter-arguments

peer editing science papers Prompts peer editor to complete a checklist on the paper's content, structure, and grammar

getting the most out of peer reviews A link to NU's Writing Place that explains how to make sure you benefit from sharing your writing with peers

peer review guidelines for a personal essay These guidelines from a freshman seminar are aimed at pairs of students who are exchanging drafts before meeting individually with the instructor. 

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Northwestern University Library | 1970 Campus Drive, Evanston, IL 60208-2300 |  Phone: 847.491.7658  |  Fax: 847.491.8306  |  Email: [email protected]


The College Essay Editing Checklist


There are really 4 steps to writing the college essay. The first is thinking about how to answer the application essay prompt, the second is writing the first draft, the third is the editing stage, and the fourth is polishing your last draft.

Editing is one of the most important steps, and it’s probably the hardest. For this reason we are offering a checklist to help you with the editing stage.

After you have decided what you want to write about to answer the prompt (Stage 1), the first draft (Stage 2) should be an open flow, almost a free-writing stage. You want to try to get everything down, even if it doesn’t always make sense. It’s important to get your thoughts down. We call this stage the vomiting stage. You are “throwing every thing up” on your paper: ideas, word, memories and more. That’s why Stage 3, the edit, is so hard. You have to clean up the vomit.

Once you have written your first draft, it is best to let it ferment for a few days. So give yourself time to write your application essay; it takes more than one night! Letting your first draft sit for a few days is important to get away from what you have written before you edit so you can look at what you have written with a more objective and fresher eye.

Editing is not polishing. So many students make this mistake. Polishing is fixing up punctuation, changing usage errors, dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s. The editing stage is not that neat.

When editing you need to

  • Re-organize your paragraphs,
  • Rewrite your paragraphs to develop them more,
  • Rewrite sentences and whole sections for details,
  • Rewrite sentences to make them stronger and more varied,
  • Experiment with word changes, and
  • CUT, cut whole pieces of things that do not lead you directly to answering the essay prompt.

Here is a checklist to help you through the editing process:

  • Check out your beginning paragraph – it does not have to have a thesis statement; rather it should capture the reader’s attention.
  • Now look at the conclusion – does it pull your ideas together and speak to the essay prompt?
  • Does your overall essay show, not tell?
  • Are there specific details throughout? There should be no generalities or vagueness.
  • Is the voice of the essay personal and human? You as a person with your sense of humor and your way of relating to friends should show through.
  • Are you using active voice, strong verbs, and interesting phrases?
  • Is your wording simple and clear rather than studious, plodding and abstract?
  • Does each paragraph move forward to your final point?
  • Are the paragraphs ordered well for effect and to avoid confusion?
  • Are there transitions between paragraphs and a smooth flow from one thought to another?
  • Are your sentences clear and varied?

When you check these things out and then correct them by re-writing, you are doing a true edit.  The polishing can be the final step.

Save yourself some editing time by brushing up on the most common mistakes essay writers make . If you want to ensure that your essay really shines, consider using a professional editing service.

You may also like


Seven Ways to Make your College Essay Stand Out


Thank You Notes: Following Up After a College Interview

college essay editing sheet

Example of a College Essay that Needs Revision


Preparing the Best Answers for College Interview Questions


How to Submit a Great Art Portfolio with your College Application

5 unique tips to writing a brilliant motivational essay

6 Unique Tips for Writing a Brilliant Motivational Essay

About the author.

college essay editing sheet

Content created by retired College Admissions consultants.

Ultimate Guide to Writing Your College Essay

Tips for writing an effective college essay.

College admissions essays are an important part of your college application and gives you the chance to show colleges and universities your character and experiences. This guide will give you tips to write an effective college essay.

Want free help with your college essay?

UPchieve connects you with knowledgeable and friendly college advisors—online, 24/7, and completely free. Get 1:1 help brainstorming topics, outlining your essay, revising a draft, or editing grammar.


Writing a strong college admissions essay

Learn about the elements of a solid admissions essay.

Avoiding common admissions essay mistakes

Learn some of the most common mistakes made on college essays

Brainstorming tips for your college essay

Stuck on what to write your college essay about? Here are some exercises to help you get started.

How formal should the tone of your college essay be?

Learn how formal your college essay should be and get tips on how to bring out your natural voice.

Taking your college essay to the next level

Hear an admissions expert discuss the appropriate level of depth necessary in your college essay.

Student Stories


Student Story: Admissions essay about a formative experience

Get the perspective of a current college student on how he approached the admissions essay.

Student Story: Admissions essay about personal identity

Get the perspective of a current college student on how she approached the admissions essay.

Student Story: Admissions essay about community impact

Student story: admissions essay about a past mistake, how to write a college application essay, tips for writing an effective application essay, sample college essay 1 with feedback, sample college essay 2 with feedback.

This content is licensed by Khan Academy and is available for free at

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Improve your college essays through feedback

CollegeVine’s fast and secure essay peer review system lets you:

Learn where your essay is strong and where it can improve

Improve your writing by reviewing other students’ essays

It’s free — learn how

What current seniors are saying

Differentiating yourself is more important than ever.

With more schools going test optional, college essays can help you stand out from the rest, and they can often make the difference between a rejection and acceptance.

Essays are 25% of your application

Grades alone won’t get you accepted to your dream school. The college essay is an extremely important piece of your college application. Essays help you stand out from the rest.

Show your personality

Admissions officers want to better understand who you are through your essays. Showcasing your unique view of the world and the experiences that have led you to where you are is pivotal.

Become memorable to admissions

Admissions officers only spend a few minutes on each application. Ensure your essay will be memorable by getting honest feedback from people who don’t already know your story well.

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Write amazing college essays

Stop guessing what admissions officers will take away from your college essay. Our community of peer reviewers will let you know and provide feedback. You’ll build confidence and improve your own writing by reviewing peer essays, which help you learn to read essays just like an admissions officer.

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Learn what admissions officers are looking for

Get exposed to how admissions officers read and evaluate your essays. Our essay guides provide students with clear, actionable ways to write an authentic essay. We analyze real essays from the past to see what works to get accepted.

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Get your essay reviewed by experts

We've helped with 100,000+ college essays—we've seen it all and we know what works. Submit your own essay or watch our team of experts critique other student essays LIVE. All viewers can ask questions and get help from the expert team at no cost.

The free, all-in-one guidance platform to help you with every step of the college process

Your account unlocks all these free tools to help you apply to college with confidence

Advising livestreams

Join interactive livestreams about nearly every topic in the college process, hosted by college admissions experts.

Essays guidance and peer review

Submit your own essay for a review in less than 6 hours on the world’s first entirely free college essay review system.

Q&A with experts

Ask questions and get quick and helpful answers from CollegeVine experts and a community of supportive peers.

How is CollegeVine free?

We believe that every student deserves expert guidance. To make that possible, access to the CollegeVine platform is free for students. We partner with colleges that pay to join our ecosystem and interact with students via virtual events and 1-1 connections.

There are zero ads on our site and you can rest assured that you are always in control of your personal data. Connections with colleges are student-initiated, meaning your profile is only shared if and when you opt-in.

Essay Editing Service

Get accepted at your dream school.

Expert essay editors polish your writing to reflect the work you put into it. Professional college essay editing will:

  • Make sure that your essay will get read
  • Make sure you'll leave a positive impression
  • Make you stand out from your peers


  • College Essay Editing & Coaching

Professional editors

12 hour turnaround, 100% happiness guarantee.

corrected college essay example with comments

College Essay Editing Services

Our college essay editing package.

The first draft is always the hardest. Work with an admissions essay coach who will give you practical, step-by-step guidance on how to develop your essay and make your story come alive.

Your coach will…

  • Read your profile
  • Review your essay draft
  • Share feedback to help you refine your topic, structure, and voice
  • Leave in-text feedback and suggestions
  • Proofread for grammar and punctuation
  • Give you a roadmap to guide your revisions

We’ll help you show your best traits to college admissions officers and prove that you’re college-ready! With help from our essay coaches, you’ll improve your chances of getting accepted – so what are you waiting for?

Meet Scribbr's essay experts

At Scribbr, you can rest assured that only the best editors will work on your college essay.

All our 800+ editors have passed the challenging Scribbr Academy, which has a passing rate of only 2%.

We handpick your college essay editor on several criteria, including field of study.

Janice Scribbr essay coach

Janice holds a PhD in German studies from Duke University. As a former professor, she has helped many students refine their application essays for competitive degree programs and study-abroad programs. Today, she helps students improve their writing skills at Scribbr. In her spare time, when she's not writing or editing, she enjoys working on the small family farm that she owns and operates.

Alexandra Scribbr essay coach

Alexandra earned an Erasmus Mundus MA in cultural narratives and a BA in English from Emory University. As a teacher, editor, and writing coach, she has spent nearly a decade helping students find their voice and express their ideas.

Amy Scribbr essay coach

Originally from Maryland, Amy headed west to attend Scripps College in California, where she earned a bachelor's degree in music and gender studies. In 2009, she began working for the admissions office of her alma mater, where she focused on reviewing applications and interviewing prospective students.

“Extremely professional and timely”

Extremely professional and timely! Regis did an amazing job bringing my admission essay to life. It went from overly wordy and unclear to very professional and concise. If I don’t get into my desired program, it won’t be because of my essay.

How it works

Get quality feedback in 4 easy steps, upload your college essay.

Upload your college essay , and tell us a little about yourself. We’ll match you with a certified college essay coach.

Sit back and relax

Your coach will edit your essay and share in-depth advice to help you strengthen your structure, content, and narrative.

Receive your feedback

We’ll send back your fully edited essay. Applying to college is nerve-racking, but at Scribbr you never have to wait for long.

Revise and submit your essay

Thanks to your coach’s feedback, you’ll feel clear about the next steps and confident when you hit “send” on your application.

Scribbr & academic integrity

Scribbr is committed to protecting academic integrity. Our proofreading service, our AI writing tools ( plagiarism checker , paraphrasing tool , grammar checker , summarizer,  Citation Generator ) as well as our free Knowledge Base content are designed to help students produce quality academic papers.

We make every effort to prevent our software from being used for fraudulent or manipulative purposes.

Your questions, answered.

We know that waiting for feedback can be nerve-racking. If you select our faster deadline option, you’ll hear from your personal statement editor in 12 hours or less – including on weekends and holidays. 

We never engage in rewriting or adding text at Scribbr. Our personal statement editors will make grammatical corrections and leave suggestions using Word’s track changes and commenting feature. However, we always make sure that your perspective and voice remain front and center in your essay.

We know that waiting for feedback can be nerve-racking. If you select our faster deadline option, you’ll hear from your college essay coach in 12 hours or less – including on weekends and holidays.

Yes. All our college essay coaches are subject-matter experts and can help you make decisions regarding the content of your essay. Your coach will help you make a strong case for your admission.

Our essay coaches will provide feedback on…

  • Whether your topic is appropriate and how to strengthen it
  • Whether your essay demonstrates positive traits and authenticity
  • Whether the narrative flows smoothly and grabs the reader’s attention
  • How to dig deeper and show self-reflection and insight
  • What content is missing and should be added
  • What content is weak and should be removed
  • How to shorten your essay to meet a word count limit

However, we will never…

  • Write or rewrite content for you
  • Research or fact-check your essay’s content

If you have any questions, feel free to email [email protected].

Yes! Our essay coaches can help you reduce your word count by up to 25%. You can choose to receive this feedback through direct edits or suggestions in comments – just select your choice when you upload your essay.

When you submit your essay to our College Essay Editing & Coaching service, you’ll be asked to indicate what type of content feedback you would like to receive. You can choose from three options:

Dig deep and challenge me

Give me the standard treatment

Tread lightly

Whichever option you choose, you’ll receive in-depth content feedback from your essay coach. However, the type of feedback your essay coach provides may differ, and the option you should choose depends on what outcome you want from the review. You can always elaborate on what type of feedback you want in your note to your essay coach.

Learn more about the three options below.

Choose from three options

If you choose this option, we’ll challenge you to write the best possible essay – no content suggestions are off-limits, including reorienting your topic or reframing your story. Students who choose this option aren’t afraid to go back to the drawing board if it’ll increase their chances of getting accepted. You may have to roll up your sleeves and do some more work on your essay, but your essay will be much stronger because of it.

Select this option if your priority is to have the best possible essay, even if it requires some extra work on your side.

We’ll strike a balance between “dig deep and challenge me” and “tread lightly.” We may suggest changes to your structure and narrative, including removing weak content, elaborating on certain sections, and adding content to strengthen your arguments. You may have to rework sentences and paragraphs, but we won’t suggest major content changes.

With this option, we’ll focus on improving your essay in a way that requires little additional work from you. We’ll provide you with targeted suggestions for how to refine your essay’s structure and narrative, but we will work within your current structure and topic. While you may have to make a few tweaks here and there, we’ll aim to return you a polished draft that’s ready to be submitted to your chosen colleges.

Select this option if you are fairly satisfied with your essay and don’t want to make major changes or if you have limited time to revise.

At Scribbr, we promise to make every customer 100% happy with the service we offer. Our philosophy: Your complaint is always justified – no denial, no doubts.

Our customer support team is here to find the solution that helps you the most, whether that’s a free new edit or a refund for the service.

Get in touch, with real people

We answer your questions quickly and personally from 9:00 to 23:00 CET

Support team - Nina

Knowledge Base

Finish your college essay with scribbr’s top-rated guides.

College Essay

How to Write a College Essay

What colleges look for in an essay, choosing your college essay topic, college essay format & structure.

college essay editing sheet

How to Write Your College Essay: The Ultimate Step-by-Step Guide

Getting ready to start your college essay? Your essay is very important to your application — especially if you’re applying to selective colleges.

Become a stronger writer by reviewing your peers’ essays and get your essay reviewed as well for free.

We have regular livestreams during which we walk you through how to write your college essay and review essays live.

College Essay Basics

Just getting started on college essays? This section will guide you through how you should think about your college essays before you start.

  • Why do essays matter in the college application process?
  • What is a college application theme and how do you come up with one?
  • How to format and structure your college essay

Before you move to the next section, make sure you understand:

How a college essay fits into your application

What a strong essay does for your chances

How to create an application theme

Learn the Types of College Essays

Next, let’s make sure you understand the different types of college essays. You’ll most likely be writing a Common App or Coalition App essay, and you can also be asked to write supplemental essays for each school. Each essay has a prompt asking a specific question. Each of these prompts falls into one of a few different types. Understanding the types will help you better answer the prompt and structure your essay.

  • How to Write a Personal Statement That Wows Colleges
  • Personal Statement Essay Examples
  • How to Write a Stellar Extracurricular Activity Essay
  • Extracurricular Essay Examples
  • Tips for Writing a Diversity College Essay
  • Diversity Essay Examples
  • Tips for Writing a Standout Community Service Essay
  • How to Write the “Why This Major” Essay
  • How to Write a “Why This Major” Essay if You’re Undecided
  • How to write the “Why This College” Essay
  • How to Research a College to Write the “Why This College” Essay
  • Why This College Essay Examples
  • How to Write The Overcoming Challenges Essay
  • Overcoming Challenges Essay Examples

Identify how each prompt fits into an essay type

What each type of essay is really asking of you

How to write each essay effectively

The Common App essay

Almost every student will write a Common App essay, which is why it’s important you get this right.

  • How to Write the Common App Essay
  • Successful Common App Essay Examples
  • 5 Awesome College Essay Topics + Sample Essays
  • 11 Cliché College Essay Topics + How to Fix Them

How to choose which Common App prompts to answer

How to write a successful Common App essay

What to avoid to stand out to admissions officers

Supplemental Essay Guides

Many schools, especially competitive ones, will ask you to write one or more supplemental essays. This allows a school to learn more about you and how you might fit into their culture.

These essays are extremely important in standing out. We’ve written guides for all the top schools. Follow the link below to find your school and read last year’s essay guides to give you a sense of the essay prompts. We’ll update these in August when schools release their prompts.

See last year’s supplemental essay guides to get a sense of the prompts for your schools.

Essay brainstorming and composition

Now that you’re starting to write your essay, let’s dive into the writing process. Below you’ll find our top articles on the craft of writing an amazing college essay.

  • Where to Begin? 3 Personal Essay Brainstorming Exercises
  • Creating the First Draft of Your College Application Essay
  • How to Get the Perfect Hook for Your College Essay
  • What If I Don’t Have Anything Interesting To Write About In My College Essay?
  • 8 Do’s and Don’t for Crafting Your College Essay
  • Stuck on Your College Essay? 8 Tips for Overcoming Writer’s Block

Understand how to write a great hook for your essay

Complete the first drafts of your essay

Editing and polishing your essay

Have a first draft ready? See our top editing tips below. Also, you may want to submit your essay to our free Essay Peer Review to get quick feedback and join a community of other students working on their essays.

  • 11 Tips for Proofreading and Editing Your College Essay
  • Getting Help with Your College Essay
  • 5 DIY Tips for Editing Your College Essay
  • How Long Should Your College Essay Be?
  • Essential Grammar Rules for Your College Apps
  • College Essay Checklist: Are You Ready to Submit?

Proofread and edited your essay.

Had someone else look through your essay — we recommend submitting it for a peer review.

Make sure your essay meets all requirements — consider signing up for a free account to view our per-prompt checklists to help you understand when you’re really ready to submit.

Advanced College Essay Techniques

Let’s take it one step further and see how we can make your college essay really stand out! We recommend reading through these posts when you have a draft to work with.

  • 10 Guidelines for Highly Readable College Essays
  • How to Use Literary Devices to Enhance Your Essay
  • How to Develop a Personalized Metaphor for Your College Applications

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Argumentative Essay Peer-Editing Checklist

I use the below checklist with my students so they can improve the drafts of their argumentative essays . Feel free to use it (or edit it as long as you don't redistribute it) if you find it useful for your class.  Note that there are APA-related questions.

There are two pages. The first page is for the prepared students who brought an essay draft to class to show their partners. The second page is for unprepared students who only have their essay in their heads (it's a verbal exercise). If your students are all prepared, then you can disregard the second page.

peer-editing checklist

Peer-review Checklist Preview

Argumentative Essay Draft Peer-Editing Checklist

Pair-work : Answer the below questions based on your partner’s essay.

  • The essay has a clear thesis statement presenting its stance at the end of the introduction paragraph. (YES/NO) If YES, write the essay’s thesis statement below:
  • The essay presents a counter-argument to the author’s stance. (YES/NO) If YES, write the counter-argument points below:
  • Can you easily find a refutation or response to each of the above points?

Point A: (YES/NO)

Point B: (YES/NO)

(Point C: (YES/NO))

  • If YES, is the refutation persuasive? (YES/Somewhat/No)
  • Does the essay ignore any obvious counter-arguments? (YES/NO) (Answer should be NO)
  • Do the regular body paragraphs begin with a clear topic sentence that states the overall topic of the paragraph? (Example topic sentence: “ Furthermore, outsourcing can reduce company costs .” < If this were the topic sentence, then the whole paragraph would be about reducing costs.) (YES/NO)
  • Does each paragraph have at least three sentences? (YES/NO)

If time allows…

  • Does each in-text citation contain the author’s last name and the year of publication? (YES/NO)
  • Count the number of authors cited. Do all of these authors appear in the References? (YES/NO)
  • Are there any non-cited authors in the References? (YES/NO) (Answer should be NO)
  • Are the References entries listed in alphabetical order?
  • Do all sources accessed online have a DOI or URL?
  • Are the sentences clear? Highlight the sentences you don’t understand.

Research Essay Worksheet – Verbal Explanation (Essay draft not Ready)

Part 1 (Pair Work) : Stance, Counter-argument, and Refutation

Present the below points to your partner about your essay. You do not need to write anything–explain it as clearly as possible verbally.


  • My essay argues that ….


  • Critics of this view argue that (1) ….
  • Some people also might argue that (2) ….


  • Point #1 is not (completely) true because ….
  • Point #2 is not (completely) true because ….

Part 2 : Once finished, give feedback to each other. Consider the following points:

  • Are the most obvious counter-arguments mentioned?
  • Does the refutation address the specific points of the counter-argument?
  • Is the refutation convincing

Part 3 : (Time Permitting) Verification of peer-reviewed sources

Paste a minimum of three peer-reviewed sources that you plan to use below.

Confirm with your partner that these sources are peer-reviewed, i.e. journal articles or published books.

Best of luck with your classes.

-- Peer-editing worksheet created by Matthew Barton (copyright) for

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Revising and Editing

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It can be helpful to use the Writing Center in the initial stages of writing a paper, such as for generation of ideas (brainstorming), research guidance, and overall organization. After your first draft is complete, then begin the process of revising and editing. Your very last step is proofreading (See TIP Sheet: Proofreading).

During revising, the rough draft is evaluated for the larger issues of general content, organization, and tone, by adding, deleting, and organizing information as necessary. The Writing Center can be an excellent resource at this stage. When revising, it can be helpful to answer the questions which follow.

  • Who is your audience?
  • Why are you writing to them?
  • What will they be looking for?
  • How do you come across?
  • Will your audience be able to understand what you've written?
  • Are you objective enough?
  • Have you included enough information?
  • Do you have more information than you need?

During editing , the paper is fine-tuned for specific content, as well as organization and style at the paragraph and sentence level. To edit, it can be helpful to answer the following questions:

Content editing

  • Have you done everything the assignment requires?
  • Are all of your claims consistent?
  • Have you supported each point with adequate evidence?
  • Is all of the information in your paper relevant to the assignment and/or your overall writing goal?

Paragraph editing

  • Does your paper have an appropriate introduction and conclusion?
  • Is your thesis clearly stated in your introduction?
  • Is it clear how each paragraph in the body of your paper is related to your thesis?
  • Are the paragraphs arranged in a logical sequence?
  • Have you made clear transitions between paragraphs?
  • Does each paragraph have a clear topic sentence?
  • Do all the sentences in each paragraph stick to one main idea?

Tip: One way to edit at the paragraph level is to make an outline of the paper after you have written the first draft.

Sentence editing

  • Have you defined any important terms that might be unclear to your reader?
  • Is the meaning of each sentence clear?
  • Is the tense of verbs consistent throughout the paper?
  • Have you chosen the proper words to express your ideas?
  • Are you wordy, repetitive, or inconsistent?
  • Do you have any incomplete thoughts?

Tip: One way to edit at the sentence level is to read your paper one sentence at a time, starting at the end and working backwards, so that you will not unconsciously fill in content from previous sentences

Style editing

  • Have you used an appropriate tone (formal, informal, persuasive, etc.)?
  • Have you varied the length and structure of your sentences?
  • Do you use active voice whenever possible?
  • Do you use a variety of verbs and adjectives?
  • Have you appropriately cited quotes, paraphrases, and ideas from outside sources?
  • Are your citations in the correct format

Try to keep the editing and proofreading processes separate. If you're worrying about the spelling of a word or the placement of a comma during the revision and editing stages, you're not focusing on the more important development and connection of ideas that make a paper clear and convincing.

PROOFREADING is the last step to writing a paper.

Proofreading is the final stage of the writing process when the paper is evaluated for mechanical correctness, such as grammar, punctuation, spelling, omitted words, repeated words, spacing and format, and typographical errors. You should proofread only after you have finished all of your other revisions and editing.

For proofreading tips, please go to TIP Sheet: Proofreading .

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Editing & Proofreading

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Copyright ©1995-2018 by The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue and Purdue University. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, reproduced, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our terms and conditions of fair use.

This resource covers process and strategy, not correctness rules. For help there, see our many resources on grammar,    mechanics ,  and punctuation .

There are multiple levels of editing, and terminology surrounding editing is often used interchangeably and fluidly. These levels have some overlap between each other, rather than being totally discrete stages; similarly, developmental and substantive editing are more closely related to the "revision" step of the writing process. The four editing levels are:

  • Developmental editing: looking at the overall development of the piece, for instance looking for organizational patterns, missing information, inaccurate information, or anything that might confuse a reader
  • Substantive editing: making changes to ensure sections (all the way down to paragraphs and sentences) flow logically from one to the next, ensure each paragraph's topic sentence is present and accurate, adding new necessary material to make connections between ideas, removing unnecessary material
  • Copyediting: addressing sentence level issues such as style inconsistencies, subject-verb agreement, confusing or wordy phrasing, missing words, missing or inaccurate citations, and any other mechanical or grammatical issues that may be present
  • Proofreading: usually the "last pass" before submission or publication; ensuring everything is correct and no lingering errors such as typos, missing words, missing punctuation, etc. remain.

In general, writers should follow this list down in order when revising and editing, from higher order to lower order concerns (in other words, from bigger or more impactful issues to smaller and less impactful issues).

While many writers edit alone at some point during the process, many writers also edit with a partner or writing group. Working with others is strongly recommended when editing; typically, this stage of the writing process comes last or close to last, meaning that writers are more likely to overlook mistakes or potential opportunities (because they have been working on the text for so long). It can be hard for writers to imagine other possibilities beyond what they have already written. A partner or group brings fresh perspective and a real audience who can offer feedback and tell the writer more about what it's like to read their writing. 

If you're intrigued by the idea of a writing group but not sure where to start, you might check out these resources: 

  • OWL Vidcast: Writing Groups & How to Form Them
  • Writing Groups Toolkit from University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill

Editing Before Submission

When you're ready to edit, it's important to start with higher order concerns and move down to lower order concerns (as stated above). For higher order concerns, see the editing and revision tips on our Organization and Structure page. For lower order concerns (and sometimes higher order concerns — you might realize something about organization while reading carefully for sentence level issues!), here's a list of strategies that our tutors recommend in sessions with graduate writers. They're usually adaptable to different preferences you might have about working digitally vs. on paper, or working alone vs. with a partner or group. Be creative to find what works for you!

  • Read aloud. You can do this yourself, get your computer to read your text out, or ask a friend. Hearing your writing read aloud can help identify places where sentences are confusing or difficult to read, highlight missing words, and create some distance between you and your writing so you can more easily evaluate it.
  • Color code. You might do this by highlighting or changing font colors on your screen, using markers on paper, or even without color using font styles and sizes. This technique is useful for various applications, including identifying parts of sentences, identifying particular words or phrases you repeat often, or categorizing sentences by idea to check organization.
  • Pick individual issues. When you read through with your focus on only one thing, like correcting comma errors or looking for all the places you write "the ways in which," you're less likely to miss instances of that error by getting distracted with other issues.
  • Use checklists. Venues such as journals and conferences often have checklists for authors to use when preparing manuscripts; if you don't have a checklist from a professor, you can sometimes use these checklists to help guide your editing for writing for courses as well. You can also keep a checklist of known issues that your writing partners, professors, tutors, or mentors have mentioned on previous writing assignments to help you look for things you know you do (for instance, one former tutor always put her topic sentences at the ends of paragraphs — she keeps this item in a revision and editing checklist and it's one of the first things she addresses when she edits).

Editing with Feedback

Often, graduate students will be writing or editing with some type of feedback. This could be from peers in a class, from an instructor or mentor, or from a peer reviewer at a conference or journal. If you're in this situation, please see our resources on writing with feedback for more strategies and tips.

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How to Write a Personal Statement

A personal statement can be a key part of your college application, and you can really make yours shine by following a few tips.

[Featured Image] A lady with pink hair is holding a piece of paper with a laptop on her lap.

When you're applying to college—either to an undergraduate or graduate program—you may be asked to submit a personal statement. It's an essay that gives you the chance to share more about who you are and why you'd like to attend the university you're applying to.  

The information you provide in your personal statement can help build on your other application materials, like your transcripts and letters of recommendation, and build a more cohesive picture to help the admissions committee understand your goals.

In this article, we'll go over more about personal statements, including why they're important, what to include in one, and tips for strengthening yours.

What is a personal statement?

A personal statement—sometimes known as a college essay —is a brief written essay you submit with other materials when applying to college or university. Personal statements tend to be most common for undergraduate applications, and they're a great opportunity for an admissions committee to hear your voice directly.

Many colleges and universities in the US, especially those using Common App , provide prompts for you to use. For example, "Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea" or "Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time" [ 1 ]. If the school you're interested in attending doesn't require prompts, you will likely want to craft a response that touches on your story, your values, and your goals if possible.

In grad school, personal statements are sometimes known as letters of intent , and go into more detail about your academic and professional background, while expressing interest in attending the particular program you're applying to.

Why is a personal statement important?

Personal statements are important for a number of reasons. Whereas other materials you submit in an application can address your academic abilities (like your transcripts) or how you perform as a student (like your letters of recommendation), a personal statement is a chance to do exactly that: get more personal.

Personal statements typically:

Permit you to share things that don't fit on your resume, such as personal stories, motivations, and values

Offer schools a chance to see why you're interested in a particular field of study and what you hope to accomplish after you graduate 

Provide an opportunity for you to talk about past employment, volunteer experiences, or skills you have that complement your studies 

Allow colleges to evaluate your writing skills 

Bring life to a college application package otherwise filled with facts and figures 

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How to write a personal statement.

As we mentioned earlier, you may have to respond to a prompt when drafting your personal statement—or a college or university may invite you to respond however you'd like. In either case, use the steps below to begin building your response.

Create a solid hook .

To capture the attention of an admissions committee member, start your personal statement with a hook that relates to the topic of your essay. A hook tends to be a colorful sentence or two at the very beginning that compels the reader to continue reading.

To create a captivating hook, try one of these methods:

Pose a rhetorical question. 

Provide an interesting statistic. 

Insert a quote from a well-known person.

Challenge the reader with a common misconception. 

Use an anecdote, which is a short story that can be true or imaginary. 

Credibility is crucial when writing a personal statement as part of your college application process. If you choose a statistic, quote, or misconception for your hook, make sure it comes from a reliable source.

Follow a narrative.

The best personal statements typically read like a story: they have a common theme, as well as a beginning, middle, and end. This type of format also helps keep your thoughts organized and improves the flow of your essay.

Common themes to consider for your personal statement include:

Special role models from your past

Life-altering events you've experienced

Unusual challenges you've faced

Accomplishments you're especially proud of

Service to others and why you enjoy it

What you've learned from traveling to a particular place

Unique ways you stand out from other candidates

Be specific.

Admissions committees read thousands of personal statements every year, which is why being specific on yours is important. Back up your statements with examples or anecdotes.

For instance, avoid vague assertions like, "I'm interested in your school counseling program because I care about children." Instead, point out experiences you've had with children that emphasize how much you care. For instance, you might mention your summer job as a day camp counselor or your volunteer experience mentoring younger children.

Don't forget to include detail and vibrancy to keep your statement interesting. The use of detail shows how your unique voice and experiences can add value to the college or university you're applying to.

Stay on topic.

It's natural to want to impress the members of the admissions committee who will read your personal statement. The best way to do this is to lead your readers through a cohesive, informative, and descriptive essay.

If you feel you might be going astray, ensure each paragraph in your essay's body supports your introduction. Here are a few more strategies that can help keep you on track:

Know what you want to say and do research if needed. 

Create an outline listing the key points you want to share.

Read your outline aloud to confirm it makes logical sense before proceeding. 

Read your essay aloud while you're writing to confirm you're staying on topic.

Ask a trusted friend or family member to read your essay and make suggestions.

Be true to your own voice.

Because of the importance of your personal statement, you could be tempted to be very formal with structure and language. However, using a more relaxed tone is better than you would for a classroom writing assignment. 

Remember: admissions committees really want to hear from you . Writing in your own voice will help accomplish this. To ensure your tone isn't too relaxed, write your statement as if you were speaking to an older relative or trusted teacher. This way, you'll come across as respectful, confident, and honest.

Tips for drafting an effective personal statement.

Now that you've learned a little about personal statements and how to craft them, here are a few more tips you can follow to strengthen your essay:

1. Customize your statement.

You don't have to completely rewrite your personal statement every time you apply to a new college, but you want to make sure you tailor it as much as possible. For instance, if you talk about wanting to take a certain class or study a certain subject, make sure you adjust any specifics for each application.

2. Avoid cliches.

Admissions committees are ultimately looking for students who will fit the school, and who the school can help guide toward their larger goals. In that case, cliches can get in the way of a reviewer understanding what it is you want from a college education. Watch out for cliches like "making a difference," "broadening my horizons," or "the best thing that ever happened to me."

3. Stay focused.

Try to avoid getting off-track or including tangents in your personal statement. Stay focused by writing a first draft and then re-reading what you've written. Does every paragraph flow from one point to the next? Are the ideas you're presenting cohesive?

4. Stick to topics that aren't controversial.

It's best not to discuss political beliefs or inappropriate topics in your essay. These can be controversial; ideally, you want to share something goals- or values-driven with an admissions committee.

Polish your writing skills on Coursera.

A stellar personal statement starts with stellar writing skills. Enhance your writing ability with a writing course from a top university, like Good with Words: Writing and Editing from the University of Michigan or Writing a Personal Essay from Wesleyan University. Get started for free to level up your writing.

Article sources

1. Common App. " 2022-2023 Common App Essay Prompts ," Accessed January 9, 2024.

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