Writing Styles for Students: The Self - Editor a self - editing rough guide for academic writing

One of the most difficult writing tasks to do is to edit your own material.

Here is a ‘writer's tips’ stage by stage sequence for academic writing.

You can adapt what works to your style. Even the idea of an editing sequence in itself may be enough to get you going.

The idea is that you take a paragraph, carry out one editing action at a time, copy and paste in to each section below as you go.

Start with just one paragraph at first, perhaps the first of your paper, but it could be any paragraph of your writing.

You can download a Word version of the copy below. A PDF version of this is being planned.

Add a paragraph of your writing in the space below

(Replace Lorem ipsum (dummy text of printing industry - 1.5 line spacing for easy reading) with your own first paragraph)

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Etiam metus. Donec et felis vel diam tempus interdum. Aenean elit. In quis mi. Sed ac turpis. Etiam molestie dui et nisi. Phasellus eu ligula eget metus laoreet rhoncus. Integer tempus. Nullam convallis turpis. Duis laoreet velit sed lorem.
(Copy and paste your text into section 2 below, read through and edit as per 2)


Activity 1) Break up each long sentence. Make sure there is only one idea, concept event, or a fact per sentence.

(Copy and paste etc)


Activity 2) Make sure each sentence has the most important idea key word at the front of the sentence

(Copy and paste etc)


Activity 3) Remove any unnecessary words: like, this, If, from the beginning of each sentence. In the text remove and “which when”, “and in case of”.

(Copy and paste etc)


Activity 4) Draw a circle round the keyword idea in the first sentence and link with lines to related keyword in sentence two. Rewrite so keywords link = text will be easier to read when you have one clear link of circles and lines from beginning to end of paragraph.

(Copy and paste etc)


Activity 5) Walk up and down reading the paragraph out aloud.

(Copy and paste etc)


Activity 6) Sit down and edit paragraph again based on your gut reactions

(Copy and paste etc)


Activity 7) Repeat with the whole of your first draft paper.

Take the main idea in the last paragraph and make sure the reader knows clearly what your summary point(s) is/are in the first paragraph.

(Copy and paste etc)


Activity 8) Take the main idea in the last paragraph and make sure the reader knows clearly what your summary point(s) is/are in the first paragraph.

(Copy and paste etc)


Activity 9) Walk up and down, read out aloud, edit again. Leave for a day and do the whole thing again.


Activity 10) The Final Edit

(When all is as ‘Good as it gets’:

  • Read from back to front to spot punctuation errors.
  • Read from back to front to spot spelling errors.
  • Check diagram numbering and make references to diagrams in text.
  • Check Reference style in text.
  • Check Reference style and layout in reference section at end of paper.

Let me know if the idea works or how you adapted the method to meet your own needs.

Mike Howarth