4.14 Writing is refining

While your argument can be clear in your mind, it may not necessarily be expressed clearly in your writing. Therefore, revising, editing and proofreading are particularly important in the process of writing.

As a skilful critical writer, you’re expected to “check through [your] writing several times, often by reading aloud, looking for any phrases that may be awkward to read or which could be open to a different interpretation by others” (Cottrell, 2011, p.169).

You’ll also need to ensure that your final draft is free of punctuation, grammar and spelling mistakes.

The amount that we expect students to go through their assignment before they submit it and check it and revise it is actually quite a lot. Because even though this is a writing assignment where you might be writing a report, we don’t really want to assess you on your grammar or things like this. We want to assess you on your engineering, and what you are going to be like as an engineer. So when students submit their assignments, they need to be considering what that piece of work says about them as an engineer. And there’s two quite important characteristics of a good engineer. The first one is attention to detail. So if your assignment has got thousands of spelling mistakes or it’s messy or it’s hard to understand, you’re not really portraying yourself as someone who’s attentive to detail and is likely to be good at that engineering skill. The other thing that is quite important for engineers to do is to be able to use all of the tools in their toolkit. And perhaps one of the most important tools in their writing toolkit is the spellchecker. So, before students submit their assignments, I want them to show to me that they have good attention to detail, and that they have checked it, and that they’ve used all the tools that are available to them.

It’s very important for students to revise, edit and proofread their work. In fact, I would tell students they should spend more time revising and editing than they spend writing the assignment to begin with. Because it’s in the revising and editing process that the clarity of their argument really will come through.

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Further reading

Revising and editing (University of Toronto)
• Editing checklist  (York University) 
Punctuation (University of Toronto)
Spelling (University of Toronto)
Conciseness (Purdue University)
GrammarSmart (University of Auckland)

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