You must spell and grammar check, and if you are in doubt as to whether the software is correct in what it is suggesting, consult an English teacher or anyone who writes a lot for their work — tech writers, copyeditors, and freelance writers are good bets.
How’s your punctuation and capitalization? If you don’t know the rules, check with your English teacher. There are also easy-to-use books out there. Among my favorites are the The Least You Need to Know About English series, written for ESL students by Paige Wilson and Teresa Ferster Glazier. The books are expensive since they are textbooks, but the rules are expressed in language that is easy to understand and easy to remember, and a review wouldn’t hurt as you prepare for college.
Now look at your margins, line spacing, and font. Make sure they conform to what the schools are asking for. Look at the way you have done paragraphing — if you haven’t indented the beginning of paragraphs, you must make an extra space between paragraphs. If you have indented the first line of each paragraph, you do not put an extra space between the paragraphs.
Find a Picky Reader for Final Proofing
Even though you’ve gone over the essay with a fine-toothed comb, it’s time to have someone’s hawk eyes take a look. If they find polish editing to do, don’t take offense. Learn why they are suggesting the changes they are suggesting. Feel lucky if they find typos or missing words and punctuation. But do remember to stick to your guns when you truly feel what you have presented works and there is no reason for change. It is usually a body sensation that lets you know — there’s a feeling associated with realizing you know what you know, and there is a different one associated with thinking you thought you might have made a mistake, but didn’t investigate it and now someone is confirming it. If you’ve worked the process up to this point, this final editorial eye will not be asking for major changes in the essay.
In fact, leaving this final polishing editorial help to the end of the process assists you in expressing yourself earlier as you outline, write, and rewrite using reader response. You fix the final essay and not all the drafts in between because this kind of editing can get in the way of creating the very best story you can tell.
Thanks for joining us as we continue with Staying Sane through the College Essay Writing Process, an ongoing series that offers college applicants and their parents advice on how to stay on track for completing Ivy-worthy essays…without flying off the handle. We hope you enjoyed this next part of the series, and STAY SANE!
By Sheila Bender, former Accepted.com editor and founder of Writing it Real, a “community and resource center for writing from personal experience.”