Yes, we know – when you finally finish that paper, it’s easy to hit ‘submit’, or put your head down and go to sleep. But whether it’s on homework or an AP test, doing so could cost you valuable points. Here are ways to check your essays so you don’t lose any points!
- Ask Yourself: Did I fulfill all the requirements? Look again at the instructional sheet or your notes from class. Put a checkbox next to every requirement – 6 pages, APA style, cover page, page numbers and so on. When reading through your essay, check off each box when you see you have met the requirement. That way, you have no reason to get penalized.
- Ask Yourself: Did I cite everything? If it didn’t come from your own brain or isn’t common knowledge, it should be cited. Use a common style guide like APA or MLA to make sure your in-text citations and bibliography are formatted the right way.
- Ask Yourself: Did I deliver what I promised? Most essays, especially in the humanities and social sciences, begin with an introductory paragraph and include a thesis. If you’ve planned your essay well, you should have included the points you intend to make and an overarching argument. If you mentioned that you would make points A, B and C in your introductory paragraph, make sure you have paragraphs dedicated to each of them. Ensuring that you covered what you said you would keeps your essay coherent.
- Read your essay out loud! And no, this doesn’t mean you have to be the one doing it. If you can’t bear the sound of your own voice, websites like Text to Speech Reader and Google Translate allow you to paste in chunks of text, or even upload an entire essay and have it read back to you. Hearing your essay read out allows you to note if you have any repeated words or rambling sentences you should edit out. If you’re in an exam room, cover your mouth and whisper the words.
- Get a friend or adult to look it over. It may sound troublesome to walk up to someone and ask for a favor, but getting a second opinion can be really helpful! When you’ve read your essay over and over again, it can be easy to gloss over grammatical errors or funny-sounding sentences. When doing so, provide them with the essay’s rubrics and tell them if you want them to look at any specific areas like grammar or vocabulary.
- Have a break, then give it another take. If you’ve already looked at your work 3 times, staring at it yet another time can be boring. Try resting your eyes for 10-15 minutes (or maybe just 2-3 minutes if you’re under the time pressure of an exam), and then come back to your essay. You’ll read the essay feeling more focused and ready to improve it.