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Most students believe that once you have finished writing a paper, there is very little you can do to influence the grade you are going to get for it. After all, teachers and professors are supposed to evaluate your ability to write and express your thoughts, and you have already done everything you could about it, right? Well, not exactly. After the essay is ready, you still have plenty of room for improvement, at least if you are ready to dedicate some time and effort to it. In this article, we will cover some useful practices you can apply before submitting your paper to get a better grade for it.
Give It a Rest
It is never a good idea to start editing and analyzing your paper immediately after you finish writing it. The memory of it is still too fresh in your mind, and you will be constantly tempted to skip over parts you remember and know so well. Take a break from it and occupy yourself with something completely unrelated. If you can afford it, set it aside for a day or two. However, even a couple of hours will go a long way towards making sure you look at your own writing from a new perspective.
Reread the Question or Prompt and Make Sure You Addressed Everything
Before you go any further, you have to make sure you answered all the questions posed by the task. Even if you are sure you addressed all the issues mentioned there, do it anyway, for you may have missed a sub-question or forgotten to include an example for some of your statements. Even if you remember the questions you were supposed to answer when you began, you could have deviated from them as you progressed.
Use an Online Essay Grader
An essay grader or checker is a software tool that analyzes your essay (or any other type of paper, for that matter) and points out potential issues with it. While these programs vary in functionality, usually they can help you with grammar, spelling mistakes, syntax, word use, sentence structure, and punctuation. In other words, they are similar to spellcheck functions present in most word processors, but their capabilities go way beyond them. Some are available commercially, but you can easily find a free online essay grader if you look for it a little bit.
Check Grammar, Spelling, and Punctuation Manually
Free essay graders are good auxiliary tools, but you should not fully rely on them. They are still just algorithms, and their possibilities are limited. While they can help you weed out simpler mistakes, typos, and more obvious grammatical inconsistencies, they cannot replace manual editing and proofreading. Therefore, you should either invest some time into doing it yourself or ask somebody to do it for you.
Check Facts and Figures
Few things are as embarrassing as founding your argument on incorrect data and finding out about it too late. Even if an individual fact or figure does not play a significant role in your reasoning, using factually incorrect info ruins your credibility.
Make Sure You Referenced Other People’s Ideas
Your professor will pay most attention to two things: firstly, what you personally have to say about the subject matter, your own voice. Secondly, the way you engage with sources, i.e., opinions and ideas of other people. A well-written essay should maintain a balance between the two: you should both say something of your own about the topic and make use of the existing body of literature on the subject matter. You should pay particular attention to referencing the information and ideas of other people you used in your writing. When you quote or paraphrase somebody, always make sure you make it obvious, lest you are accused of plagiarism.
Make Sure You Follow Your Formatting Style
While formatting may look like a mere formality to you, professors pay a great deal of attention to it, and failing to follow the requirements of your assigned style can ruin your grade even if your paper is otherwise excellent. So make sure you check if you comply with it, paying special attention to the bibliography, quotations, and footnotes.
Eliminate Vague Words and Broad Generalizations
While you may have to pay attention to different things depending on your topic and discipline, some things are bad for your writing style no matter what you write. Vague words and meaningless generalizations are two such examples. Words like “extremely”, “always”, “somewhat”, “exceedingly” do not really add anything to your argument and do not serve any other purpose but to bloat your word count.
The same goes for sweeping generalizations. When you say something like “It is obvious to anybody”, “The Iliad is the most important work in Western literature”, “The Second World War had long-lasting consequences for European politics” are so broad and all-encompassing that they do not mean anything. Look through your writing in search of such expressions and remove them.
Check for Overly Long Paragraphs
Are there any paragraphs that seem to be too long (e.g., longer than half a page)? Are any paragraphs significantly longer than average? If so, you may want to shorten, reformulate or break them up into smaller parts. If your essay looks like a wall of text, it is hard to read and process.
Check if Your Paper Flows Naturally
Check the overall flow of your writing. Do paragraphs follow each other naturally? Are they logically connected to each other? Are there any gaps in your reasoning? Do you clearly express your argument from the very beginning and follow through with it without deviations from the main point? If something is wrong with the flow of your paper, make sure you make the necessary corrections.
All these tips may not look like much, but when used together, they can significantly improve your chances of getting a good grade for your writing. Make sure you apply them consistently with your every writing assignment, and you will soon notice the difference.