When you are working on improving the grammar, spelling, punctuation, and other formal aspects of your writing, instructors usually refer to that task as editing (not revising).

Use a checklist to ensure you are catching errors and actually fixing them. You may have seen examples of editing checklists. One type of checklist is a general list of common errors that writers often make; another type is a checklist based on an assignment; and a third type is a checklist you make yourself that tracks the kinds of errors you make most often. See the Grammar and Style Appendix for examples.

Using Technology to Edit

Computers revolutionized the way that we edit writing. Here are some useful tools to make editing easier and faster.

Find and Replace: If you know that you frequently make the same spelling or punctuation error, use the Find and Replace function in your word processor (in most, pressing and holding the “CTRL” key and then simultaneous pressing the “F” key will get you to the Find and Replace function). For example, if you know that you often type “though” instead of “through,” you can search for all instances of “though” and replace them, one by one, with “through,” checking each item to be sure you are making the right choice.

Spell checkers: Always use spell check. Do understand that spell check cannot find misspellings that are actual words. Spell check should mark “tge” as an error, but if you typed “accept” when you meant “except,” spell check will not help you. (See “Find and Replace” in the previous paragraph.)

Grammar checkers: Grammar checkers are sometimes correct, sometimes not. If you use a grammar checker and disagree with a suggested correction, use other resources such as dictionaries, grammar handbooks, or websites like Purdue OWL to determine what is correct. If you find that you often make a certain kind of mistake, it’s worthwhile to study up on the topic and perhaps keep an editing checklist (see the Grammar and Style appendix) to help you remember to check for that type of error. Whatever you do, don’t start randomly changing things just to make the grammar marks go away!

Screen readers: Sometimes it helps to hear your words aloud. Using a screen reader can do that for you, and it will definitely read a mistake as a mistake, without correcting it. Many word processing programs have a screen reader built in. There are also apps you can purchase, and some schools provide applications to students for free.


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The Word on College Reading and Writing Copyright © by Carol Burnell, Jaime Wood, Monique Babin, Susan Pesznecker, and Nicole Rosevear is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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