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Checking the essay

"There is no great writing, only great rewriting." - Justine Bandeis



A strategy

Checking the essay is the last step in the writing process. You are checking to ensure that you have communicated the relevant content with clarity and accuracy, and used the appropriate style of university writing.

When you check your writing, you are constantly searching for what it is you are saying; you are constantly thinking of the impact your words have on the reader.

Editing your own writing is not the same as correcting someone else’s work. Often by the time you are ready to edit your own, you have probably read your essay so many times that you have trouble noticing the errors. Here are some suggestions to help you become a more efficient reader of your own writing:

  • Allow some time to pass between writing and checking.
  • Read your essay, saying sentences out loud or in your head.
  • Look for one error at a time.
  • Make marks in the margin where you are unsure.

 

A three-step process

It is useful to view checking as a three-step process: revising, editing, and proofreading. This process ensures that you are checking your essay on several levels: content, essay structure, language, style and presentation.

According to Leki (1998), “when you are revising, you reconsider large chunks of your essay. Your main concern is content – that is,[WHAT] ideas you expressed, and in what order” (p. 154). The common forms of revision may include adding text, deleting or replacing a text, or moving a whole paragraph around for improved coherence and unity.

Editing is concerned with improving smaller sections of your paper (Leki, 1998). Your main concern is HOW you expressed your ideas. It is concerned with the accuracy and clarity of your writing. Editing involves looking at academic style (including referencing), accuracy of grammar, sentence structure and word use.

Proofreading is concerned with the overall appearance of your essay. This includes surface features like layout, spacing, font, consistent use of headings, punctuation and spelling.

 

 Leki, I. (1995). Academic writing: Exploring processes and strategies (2nd ed.). Cambridge : Cambridge University Press.

Conventions of academic writing style

University writing is essentially academic:

  • It is factual and supported by concrete evidence.
  • The style is formal and generally objective. 
  • The language is concise (without unnecessary words or repetition) and specific (use of precise words).
  • It follows certain conventions for referencing and citing sources.

Avoid the use of the following:

  1. personal pronouns (I, we, us, our, you, your)
  2. slang/informal vocabulary (lots, like, huge, got, stuff, massive)
  3. contractions (they’re) and abbreviations (eg, etc)
  4. active constructions where possible, if the agent is non-specific (e.g. It is recommended that... NOT We recommend that..)

 

What is considered an inappropriate or informal writing style?

Can you spot instances of informal style in the following paragraph?

One of the most attractive features of Auckland University is the diversity of clubs on campus. The university provides a variety of clubs that students can join to experience different things and meet new people. Like, you can join the UoA Canoe Club, which organises many activities every weekend. If you’re a member of that club, you’re allowed to learn water-related activities. The club also provides some free things for hire, which makes such trips more affordable for us students. Other clubs eg, rock climbing, scuba diving and surfing, etc give beginners something that they’ve never experienced before. If you’re a music student, you may even have the opportunity to form a band and record your own music! It’s a real cool facility! Through participation in these club activities, you can integrate more easily into New Zealand life and culture, if you are an international student.

Click here for a more academic writing style and explanation.

 


Referencing Conventions

Referencing is an important convention for all university writing. If you use published information and other people's research to support your arguments, you must acknowledge these sources correctly. If you quote exact words, you must integrate them smoothly and logically into your sentence or paragraph.

Some basic principles of referencing

View the presentation below to learn more about referencing and citing.

Referencing

Practice 1

Formal or informal?

Determine if each of the following sentences is written in a formal or informal style.

1. It is expected that the project will be completed by next year.

2. As you can see from the table, it’s possible to determine the corrosion rate of different metals.

3. The results were lots better than we expected.

4. The weather is expected to affect the final results of the experiment.

5. This study will benefit lots of people all over the world.

6. In conclusion, the performance of the design model was very encouraging.

7. The sort of problems that may arise during the manufacturing phase is as yet unknown, in my opinion.

8. They’ve got many problems, which they’ll have to solve very quickly.

9. A lot of people think that the weather is getting worse. They say this has been going on for ages. I think they are right.

10. Research has shown that we are now getting storms etc all the time.


Practice 2

Correcting informal style

Rewrite each of the following sentences in a more formal style. You may need to remove or change some words, or change the word order. Write in the submission box. Click save if you wish to keep a copy of your work.

Example:  We as employees must also play our part if we want the project to succeed.

Correcton:  All employees must also play their part if the project is to succeed. 

 

1.    As you can see from the data, it’s possible to determine the corrosion rate of different metals.

2.    The results turned out to be way better than we expected.

3.    The study will benefit us in society very much.

4.    It is not unlikely that people will change their views about the new Bill.

5.    The sort of problems that may arise during the manufacturing process is as yet unknown.

6.    Some teens think smoking is a real cool thing to do!

7.    We in society must do our part if we as a nation is to prosper.

8.    I personally believe that outsourcing is a viable economic decision for us New Zealanders.

9.    It is important that we as a team work together to achieve our goal.

10.  In this essay, I will focus on four key arguments.

11.  Lots of companies are beginning to recognise the role of organisational culture.

12.  They fancied western style thinking, fashion, and etc.

Click here to view suggested answers to the task above.

Suggested answers

1    From the data, it is possible to determine the corrosion rate of different metals. (Delete personal pronoun and contraction)

2    The results were a lot/much better than expected. (Replace informal words and wordiness, and delete personal pronoun)

3    The study will benefit society very much. (Delete personal pronoun)

4     It is likely that people will change their views about the new Bill. (Replace double negative)

5    The kind/type of problems that may arise during the manufacturing process is still unknown. (Replace informal word and wordiness)

6    Some teenagers think smoking is a really “cool” thing to do/ Some teenagers think smoking is fashionable. (Replace or indicate informal word and delete exclamation mark)

7    Everyone in society must do their part if a nation is to prosper./ All citizens of a society must do their part if a nation is to prosper. (Replace personal pronouns; delete wordiness)

8   Most economists believe/think/have the opinion that outsourcing is a viable economic decision for New Zealand. (Remove pesonal pronouns; point to authority, change word order)

9    It is important to work together as a team to achieve the team's goals. (Remove personal pronouns)

10   This essay will focus on four key arguments.(Remove personal pronoun and wordiness)

11   Many/A lot of companies are beginning to recognise the role of organisational culture.(Replace inappropriate word)

 


Using concise vocabulary

Replace the underlined expressions with one word.

1. Due to the fact that Because funding was a problem, the project was abandoned. 

2. Funding is an important issue at this point in time. now

3. A decision with regard to about funding for the project will be made next month.

4. A decision will be made in the not too distant future. soon

5. All the members of the team are found to be in agreement agree with the team leader.

6. The device has the ability to  can perform many functions. 

7. The project was abandoned for the reason that because funding was denied.

8. Modifications in terms of to the materials and dimensions used will have to be made to the design.

9. A great number of Many students participated in the engineering desing competition.

10. The fire was in close proximity close to the laboratory.

 

Challenge tasks

Correcting writing style

Rewrite the following text to reflect a more academic writing style. Look for contractions (short forms), informal expressions, incorrect pronoun use and gendered language.

The robotics revolution

It’s not surprising that lots of robots nowadays do jobs that are especially difficult for man. These are the sort of jobs that require great strength or pose danger.  Like, robots are very very useful in the auto-manufacturing industry where parts of automobiles must be welded together. Spray painting’s another task suited to robots cos they’re unaffected by the poisonous fumes, unlike us. Robots are way better at this task, not cos they’re super cheap or super fast, but cos they can work in places inaccessible to us humans. Robots are also useful for the assembly of electronic parts. They are good at installing chips in printed circuit boards. There’s no way that a robot will put a chip in the wrong place, once it’s properly programmed. This automatic accuracy is mega valuable in this sort of industry cos locating plus fixing mistakes is hugely costly.

Text source: Boeckner, K. and Brown, P.C. (1999). Oxford English for Computing. Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. 125. (Modified)

Click here to view a suggested answer to the task above.

Suggested revisions in bold:

It is not surprising that a lot of/many robots today do jobs that are especially difficult for humans. These are the kind of jobs that require great strength or pose danger. For example, robots are particularly useful in the auto-manufacturing industry where parts of automobiles must be welded together. Spray painting is another task suited to robots since they are unaffected by the poisonous fumes, unlike human painters. Robots are much better at this task, not because they are cheaper or faster, but because they can work in places inaccessible to humans. Robots are also useful for the assembly of electronic parts. They are good at installing chips in printed circuit boards. Once it is properly programmed, a robot will not put a chip in the wrong place. This automatic accuracy is particularly valuable in this type/kind of industry, because locating and fixing mistakes can be very/extremely costly.


Eliminating unnecessary repetition

The following statements form part of a conclusion to a feasibility design report. They contain unnecessary repetition, and poor sentence construction.

Rewrite each sentence by removing unnecessary words and making the meaning more concise and specific.

Example: This feasibility report it describes in detail a solution that is possible to effectively solve some of the problems as discussed at the meeting that we arranged to meet for this purpose. (32 words)

Correction: This feasibility report describes an effective solution for some of the problems discussed at the meeting. (16 words)

 

Conclusion

1. This design report it has described in detail a design solution that is able to perform all the necessary functions as stated in the project challenge presented to us. 

2. With each of these features being responsible for a separate function, the device is able to perform these functions simultaneously which increases its efficiency. 

3. Although many of the details of the final design have been defined, modifications might be required when it comes to the manufacturing of the device, such as the actual dimensions may need to vary and the materials used for each component of the device might need to be changed. 

4. The sort of problems that may arise during the manufacturing process is as yet unknown and so it is fairly hard to address these problems with the final conceptual design. 

 

Text used with student’s permission (unmodified)


Click here to view the answer to the task above.

Suggested revisions:

1. This report has described a design solution that can perform all the functions stated in the project challenge. 

2. Each design feature is responsible for a separate function. The device can perform these functions simultaneously, which increases its efficiency. (2 sentences)

3. During the manufacturing process, the dimensions and materials used for each component may need to be modified.

4. The final conceptual design does not address the problems that may arise during the actual manufacturing process. 


Grammar and sentence structure

The following presentation will help you identify some common errors in grammar and syntax that tend to be overlooked. 

A checklist of common errors

View the presentations to learn more about common errors to look for in your writing.

Grammar and punctuation

Practice 3

Editing basic errors

In this section you will find a number of short texts that contain basic grammatical (articles and verbs) and word form errors. Try to find and correct the errors. Before you begin to edit, read each text through completely to make sure you understand the meaning of the entire text. The number of errors is indicated for each text. Do have a good attempt before you click to check your answers. 

1.  Businesses are economic unit of the society and its first responsibility is to make goods and services according to demands of society and to maximise profit. (Samson & Daft, 2009).  (4 errors)

2. Cyclosporin is a immunosuppressant drug with molecular weight of 1202. It existing in liquid state for IV administration but also available in capsule and solution forms for oral administration.  (5 errors)

3.  Legislature is law-making branch of government and its main objective is pass a law. In order to choose members of the legislature, an election held in most countries.  Electoral systems can be categorise into two general system: proportional representation (PR) and non-proportional representation (NPR). There has been a controversy debate about which electoral system is better. According to Duverger’s law, the NPR favour a two-party system while PR tend to lead to multi-party system. Advocates of PR claim it ensure a more fair distribution of legislative seats to constituencies that may deny repreresentation under NPR.  Proponent of NPR, however, argue that most important criterion is government effective in legislature.They argue that this system tend to produce single-party government and electoral outcome is usually more decide.   (22 errors)

- Text 2 and 3 are used with the students’ permission (modified)

 

Click here to view the answers to the task above.

1.  Businesses are economic units (missing plural) of the (article error) society and their (agreement) first responsibility is to make goods and services according to the (missing article) demands of society and to masimise profit. (Samson & Daft, 2009). 

 
2.  Cyclosporin is an (article error) immunosuppressant drug with a (missing article) molecular weight of 1202. It exists (verb error) is a (missing article) liquid state for IV administration but is (missing verb to be) also available in capsule and solution forms for oral administration. 
 
3.  Legislature is the (missing article) law-making branch of a government and its main objective is to pass (verb error) laws (article error). In order to choose members of the legislature, an election is held (verb error: passive) in most countries. Electoral systems can be categorised (verb error: passive) into two general systems (missing plural): proportional representation (PR) and non-proportional representation (NPR). There has been a (missing article) controversial (word form error) debate about which electoral system is better. According to Duverger’s law, the (article error) NPR favours (agreement) a two-party system while PR tends (agreement) to lead to a (missing article) multi-party system. Advocates of PR claim it ensures (agreement) a fairer (word form-adjectives) distribution of legislative seats to constituencies that may be denied (verb error: passive) representation under NPR. Proponents (missing plural) of NPR, however, argue that the (missing article )most important criterion is government effectiveness (word form error) in legislature.They argue that this system tends (agreement) to produce a (missing article) single-party government and the (missing article) electoral outcome is usually more decisive (word form error).
 

Editing overly long sentences

Some students seem to think that long sentences indicate academic style and maturity. There is no such guideline for sentence construction. The aim should always be to write correctly and clearly using a range of sentence types. Long sentences that compromise the clarity of the meaning you want to convey are counter-productive.

Example: 

Original: Generally speaking, the committee prefers developing the Green Bay project over the Brown Bay project but promoting Brown Bay redevelopment will give the government an important role to play in quality control because ineffective regulation implementation could exacerbate the negative impact and effective state legislation could mitigate the impact of land ownership and land contamination issues. (One sentence).

Revised:  Generally speaking, the committee prefers developing the Green Bay project over the Brown Bay project. Promoting the Brown Bay redevelopment will give the government an important role to play in quality control, because ineffective regulation implementation could exacerbate the negative impact. Furthermore, effective state legislation could mitigate the impact of land ownership and land contamination issues. (three sentences).

Now you try. Rewrite each text by breaking up the long sentence into two or more sentences and improve or change the punctuation if required.

1.  The owners of the land may be reluctant to sell simply because they want to retain the current use of the land because of the location, or to preserve the distinctiveness of the area or maintain a historical connection, or are only prepared to sell if the land is used for a non-profit based development scheme.

2.  The problem of a minority government is that the government is unstable, since parties out of power can pass the vote of no confidence, and therefore a smaller party could have a disproportionate amount of power to influence legislation, as in 1996 when the New Zealand National and New Zealand First parties showed how a smaller party could be dominant in a coalition government, which was the result of the 1996 election held under the new MMP system.

Click here to view the answer to the question above

1. The owners of the land may be reluctant to sell for a number of valid reasons. They may want to retain the current use of the land because of its location, preserve the distinctiveness of the area or maintain a historical connection. In addition, sources say that they may be prepared to sell if the land is used for a non-profit based development scheme.

2. The problem of a minority government is that the government is unstable, since parties out of power can pass the vote of no confidence. A smaller party could have a disproportionate amount of power to influence legislation. This was what happened in the 1996 election held under the new MMP system, when the New Zealand National and New Zealand First parties showed how a smaller party could be dominant in a coalition government.


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