Guest Author - Rebecca Graf
Writing an essay or term paper on an historical topic is a challenging endeavor. Researching, organizing, and writing can take days and weeks to complete. Unfortunately, most people think that once it is written everything is done. What comes next is one of the most important parts of writing a history assignment. You need to edit your work.
Editing is crucial in any written piece that is being submitted for others to read. Writing for a professor for a grade makes it even more important. It has become a sad trend that many outside the language arts field feel that proper grammar, spelling, and sentence structure is not important. They could not be more wrong. It is important that all work looks good, sounds good, and is done correctly.
There is nothing more irritating than reading a piece on World War I and have to read sentences over and over to understand what was being said because the grammar is all wrong. Spelling errors can mislead the reader and communicate erroneous information. The World War I piece becomes a jumble of words that cannot be understood.
When you are writing an essay or term paper on an historical topic, you are trying to communicate to the reader your thesis and show them all your support regarding it. If they are unable to read and understand what you write, the paper has failed in what it was meant to accomplish.
Another sad fact is that most people do not know how to edit their papers. If one does not know how to do it, how can it be done satisfactorily? Here are some tips to help you edit your history paper:
Let it season – After you have written your paper, set it aside. This is why you should not write your paper at the very last minute. If you wait to look your paper over, you are more likely to find mistakes that you would otherwise glance over. You will also see where you need to remove sentences or add information.
Word processing hints – Technology today helps in the editing process. Color coded lines show up to alert the writer that there is a spelling error, a possible misuse of a word, or incorrect grammar and punctuation. Software does not catch every mistake, but it will alert you to some of the big ones. Never ignore those lines. These mistakes will be inexcusable to a professor.
Read aloud – It is amazing how many mistakes you will catch just by reading your piece aloud. You will notice how a sentence does not sound right or that you put in a homophone that should be corrected. Even having someone else read it aloud to you will help you find areas that need your attention.
More eyes – Have someone else read your work. They can see it in a whole new light and point out weak areas. Many papers have gone from a “C” to an “A” potential just from having another set of eyes go over it.
Previous papers – If you have submitted previous assignments to the same teacher, read over their notes or comments. You do not need to make the same mistakes over again. The teacher needs to see that you learn from experience and are improving on your next essay about Queen Elizabeth I.
As you are editing, here are some common mistakes that you should look for:
Spelling - Check your word processing hints for anything misspelled. Catch misspelling that actually are real words and fix them.
Comma placement - This is a very common mistake. Commas should separate items in a list, keep independent clauses separate, and when dependent clauses are used in the beginning of a sentence. Check with your instructor and appropriate writing manuals, such as The Chicago Manual of Style, for the appropriate use of commas. It is important to note that you should never just use a comma because it looks like it belongs.
Run on sentences - Run on sentences are never good. These are sentences that have no punctuation to separate them and could be multiples sentences squeezed into one.
Verb Tenses - Always make sure that your verb tenses are correct. Single nouns should have single verbs. Once someone has entered high school and college, there is no excuse for in correct verb tenses.
Homophones - These are words that sound the same but are spelled differently, like in “witch” and “which”. Your word processor will not pick up on this mistake every time. These can be caught when other eyes read them or when you read your work aloud.
Capitalization - Proper nouns should be capitalized as should the beginning of sentences. In the haste of getting a paper done, this can be a common mistake our fingers make on the keyboard. Double check your capitalization.
Correction information - In your editing, make sure that your information is correct. If you meant “Henry VI”, make sure that you have not inadvertently typed “Henry V”. These mistakes are easy to make as you are typing your paper. Also, make sure that important words are not missing or the wrong side of a conflict is listed. An example is, “Elizabeth I was able to be successful because she was Catholic.” If you know your history, this sentence will make you cry or fall over laughing. Elizabeth I was Protestant. This is a very important historical fact that cannot be stated wrong. Double check all your information. You need to be reliable in your data.
Formatting - Trying to read a paper that has no indented paragraphs, has no paragraphs, or has the introduction half on the title page is very distracting and gives a very bad first impression. What you have to say in the paper is almost ignored as the reader cannot get past the visual issues. Keep your formatting in line with what your professor wants and keep it clean.
Citations - Having proper citations is very important when writing an essay or paper. If you do not, you are in danger of plagiarism which can result in a failing grade and even expulsion from a school. Verify that you have citations where needed and that they are done in the format desired by your instructor.
Bibliography - Never submit an historical piece without giving a “Works Cited” page or a “Bibliography.” This is formal and how most instructors expect works to be turned in.
Editing papers is very important. Never submit your history work without reviewing it. Turn in only your best.