How to Edit College Paper Grammar for Better Grades

Good Grammar Editing Gives Better Grades

Whether you like it or not, your grammar in writing will be judged not just by your instructors, but by your employers. Learning to write correctly is vital to getting and keeping a good job. So how do you edit your grammar? There are several steps you can do. You don't always have time for every step, so I list these with the easiest first.

You should do 1-3 on every paper you turn in. If you have time, or want to improve your grade, try doing steps 4-5 also. The more you edit, the better your grammar will be. More importantly, the more you edit your writing, the more you will learn about the mistakes you make so that you won't make them again.

As a College Professor teaching writing for 20 years, I've compiled lots of information to help college writers. I havetips and outlining strategies for all the major essays in College English. You can find all my articles by clicking my profile. Good luck on your essay!

Grammar Helps or Hurts Grade

Good Grammar equals better grades.
Good Grammar equals better grades. | Source

College Paper Grammar Editing

Which grammar error do you worry about the most?

  • Commas
  • Word Choice
  • Verbs
  • Smooth sentences
See results without voting

#1 Word Processing Program to Edit Spelling and Grammar on your College Paper

You would not believe how many students fail to do this obvious first step. Word Processing Programs are getting better and better at checking both spelling an grammar. So learn how to use this program and be sure to use it at both the beginning of your editing process and also as a last step before your print or turn in your paper (in case your editing of grammar caused you to make some typos) Don't automatically do all the corrections though. Here is how to do it:

  1. Open up two copies of your document.
  2. Put your cursor at the top of one copy of the essay (so you are sure the whole document is checked) and then start the spell/grammar check program.
  3. Look at each correction the program suggests.
  4. If you know the correction is right, then let program correct it.
  5. If you aren't sure about the correction. Click "ignore" but go to your second copy of the essay and underline that section. If you want, you can also put in the correction the computer suggested in a highlighted section, or else a different color.
  6. When you are finished, check the suggestions you weren't sure about with a friend, a writing instructor, your writing handbook or an online grammar guide.
  7. After you finish all the other steps, go back and use this spelling/grammar check one last time before you turn in your paper or print it out (especially if you've made a lot of changes).

Edit Papers on Computer

Don't try to write or edit using your phone.  You will do a better job if you can see the screen better on a desktop or laptop computer.
Don't try to write or edit using your phone. You will do a better job if you can see the screen better on a desktop or laptop computer. | Source

# 2 Re-Read Your Paper Slowly for Grammar Editing

Chances are, you can catch a lot of your grammar errors yourself if you slow down when you read. There are several tricks to help you do this:

  • Print off a hard copy of your paper if you can. Studies show that we don't read as carefully on a screen as we do on a paper copy.
  • Read the paper out loud. Our eyes skip over words as we read silently. Many of my students find most of their errors when they slow down and read aloud.
  • You might even want to read to someone else (who also has a copy to look at), so that you can both discuss anything which doesn't sound right in your paper.
  • As you read, notice if you are having trouble reading a sentence easily aloud. If you are, there probably is a problem with that sentence. You might be missing a comma, or maybe the word order or word choice is awkward. Try to re-word sentences to make them clearer.
  • Some people suggest reading backwards to try to catch errors.

Peer Editing for Better Grade

Get from having someone else look at your essay for grammar, spelling, and word choice errors.
Get from having someone else look at your essay for grammar, spelling, and word choice errors. | Source

#3 Have Someone Peer Edit Your Paper for Grammar Errors

Step two is to have someone else read your paper using my Peer Editing worksheet. Be sure you ask that person to look at the places you marked as errors from your word processing program. Ask your editor to especially look for:

  • Missing commas.
  • Missing semicolons, colons, hyphens or other punctuation errors.
  • Problems with verb tenses, passive voice or run-on sentences.
  • Mis-used words or homonym switches (there/there is the most common).
  • Places where your sentences sound awkward or they had to read twice to get the meaning.
  • Sentences where you use slang, cliches, or other language that sounds like talking rather than something you would read in a book.
  • Longer sentences with lists of words which need to have Parallelism.

Transition Word List for Sentence Starters

Adding (like And)
Contrast (like But)
Examples or to Intensify
Cause and Effect
Summarize or Conclude
As a result
In fact
In Conclusion
At last
For instance
In short
In addition
In contrast
For example
To put it differently

#4 Edit Sentence Starters for More Effective Sentences and Transitions

Has your instructor told you to use transitions? Or said that your sentences were awkward or not effective? Editing the first words of your sentence is the key to help solve both problems. I give some explanations about this in my Hub Sentence Starters as well as a list of transition words. He is how you edit your grammar for effective sentences:

  1. Circle the first word of every sentence.
  2. Now you need to decide which first words you are going to change. Highlight:
  • Sentences in the same paragraph which start with the same word.
  • Sentences which start with any of the following: And, But, So, This, Its.

3. These are the sentences you are going to change. How?

The easiest way to change sentences which start with the same word is to put a transition word in front of one (or both) of the sentences with a comma. To choose the best transition word, think about how the sentences relate to one another. Example:

People continue to smoke in spite of everything we know about the dangers of the habit. People who need to smoke are often not deterred by smoking ads.

  • In fact, people continue to smoke in spite of everything we know about the dangers of the habit. Moreover, people who smoke are often not deterred by smoking ads.

Another way to vary these sentences is to change around the order of the words in one of the sentences, putting one of the phrases at the end of the sentence in the beginning as an introductory phrase (which will need a comma). Example:

  • In spite of everything we know about the dangers of the habit, people continue to smoke. People who smoke are often not deterred by smoking ads.

A third way to fix sentence variety is to change one of the words to a synonym (use "individuals" instead of people). Often, the best sentences use all 3 techniques. Example:

  • In spite of everything we know about the dangers of the habit, people continue to smoke. Moreover, individuals who smoke are often not deterred by smoking ads.

What i so bad about But, And, So, This and It?

These five words are the most common words students use which just don't make good, professional sentences. Here's why:

"But, And and So" are actually conjunctions, which are intended to put two parts of a sentence together. We use these words when we talk because they help us to think about what we are going to say next, but they are not really effective in written communication, even though you might actually see these in a novel, or even in an article. However, one thing you should know is that this particular error often drives English professors crazy. When you see these in your paper as the first word of a sentence try one of the substitutions in the chart.

"This" and "It." Students often write sentences such as: "This is an important fact to know" or "It can cause more difficulties than it fixes." The problem is the reader doesn't know exactly what "this" or "it" is supposed to be. An easy fix for this is to just write the noun with the "this": this problem, this information, this aspect of smoking advertising, this habit etc. Similarly, don't use "it" at the beginning of a sentence. Use the noun instead (whatever "it" is!).

Frequently Misused Words

meaning of 1st
meaning of 2nd
to accept (verb means to take)
all except one (means leave out or exclude)
affect is verb to influence
effect is noun meaning result
all right
not alright, which is an incorrect spelling
a lot
not a lot, and actually a poor word for college papers
cite your sources
site as in website or place
its means "belongs to"
it's means "it is"
their (belongs to them)
there (place), they're= they are
all together/altogether
all together: a group together
altogether: completely
compare to/compare with
"compare to" is for seeing how they are the same
"compare with" is to examine how things are same and/or different
every day/ everyday
every day means each day
everyday means common sorts of things
passed is a verb, she passed the car
past means: went past, or that is in the past
than is for comparing: smaller than
then is time sequence, means "next"
two=2, to=to go, to become
too="also," "very much." I love her too.
your, you're
your=belongs to you, "your book"
you're=you are, "you're my friend"

#5 Edit Your Word Choices

Word processors can only check some types of errors. Others you will need to find on your own. Luckily, many of the most common grammar errors college students make are the same. If your instructor has written "word choices" on your paper, you can often improve your grammar pretty easily. Try the following:

  1. Check the list of "Frequent Misused Words" above. While this list isn't all the errors college instructors see, these are the most common, which means your instructor is on you like a hawk if they see them! Look for these words in your paper and make sure you've used them correctly.
  2. Look at Verbs. Verb Tenses. Especially if your instructor wrote about problems with verb tense shifts, look through your paper and circle the verbs. Make sure that you don't switch from present (now), to past tense (before), to future tense (not yet) without having a reason to do so. Singular and Plural. More importantly, be sure that the verb matches the subject. If the subject is singular (one), the verb should not be plural (more than one).
  3. Follow Instructor's Comments. If you've gotten a graded paper back from your instructor, then look to see what word choice errors were marked. Make sure you don't make the same error again. Instructors who see you are trying to improve and learn will give you a higher grade mark. If you don't understand the marks on your paper, be sure to ask. If your school has a writing lab for tutoring, be sure to visit. Or you can see your instructor before or after class, or during office hours. Don't be afraid to ask what they want, they will be glad to know you are working on your writing.

Editing Grammar Tips You Know?

Some of my best ideas have been from ideas students have given me.If you have other ideas for how to edit grammar in your essay, please share below and help other students out!

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Comments 12 comments

kelsmcdaniel 3 years ago

Wonderful reminders! Thanks :)

Perspycacious profile image

Perspycacious 4 years ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

Great piece Virginia! Colleges charge a lot for what you are posting here for free!

Well done.

VirginiaLynne profile image

VirginiaLynne 4 years ago from United States Author

Love that rfmoran--sometimes after grading a whole set of essays I start thinking that last sentence looks pretty good!

rfmoran profile image

rfmoran 4 years ago from Long Island, New York

This isn't just for college papers but useful for any writer. I like your listing of transition words and misused words. Fortunately I rite reel goode so I don't need to now this stuff.

VirginiaLynne profile image

VirginiaLynne 4 years ago from United States Author

Thanks for stopping by Praetor and jpcmc--you are absolutely right that we should use both tools and our brains. I did all my undergrad work on an actual typewiter--hard to believe it now! We didn't have it quite so easy back then!

VirginiaLynne profile image

VirginiaLynne 4 years ago from United States Author

So glad to know you found this Hub FilmPsychic--hope it helps!

jpcmc profile image

jpcmc 4 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

Such a great resource on writing. Transitional words and phrases make a huge difference in the final appeal. I'm a big fan of F7 anf Shift+F7. But these are just word processing tools. In the end I must rely on my own brain to do the editing. Voted up and shared.

Praetor profile image

Praetor 4 years ago

Outstanding article, a definite "bookmark for reference"

FilmPsychic profile image

FilmPsychic 4 years ago from Gambrills, MD

Yes! I am a college student and will employ all of your techniques on my next paper. Thank you.

VirginiaLynne profile image

VirginiaLynne 4 years ago from United States Author

Thanks Michael and billybuc! I know that I need to always remember to do these steps in my writing too!

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

A very well-crafted article! Excellent suggestions all the way through.

Michael Tully profile image

Michael Tully 4 years ago

Thanks for the excellent article, Virginia. It has been many years since I've been in college, but your advice will certainly help me write better Hubs. Voted up, useful and interesting.

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    Virginia Kearney (VirginiaLynne)1,250 Followers
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    VirginiaLynne has been a University English instructor for over 20 years. She specializes at helping people write essays faster and easier.

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