Practical Tips for Composing and Editing Papers
By James D. Moore, Literacy and Legends
This list can help you economize the tasks of composing and editing your work. You have to put yourself in productive locations and in the right mindset!
Posture and Kinesthesia
- Try to blend standing and sitting while doing your work.
- Studies have shown that physical activity before writing or during breaks can produce more creative work more quickly.
- “Power Posing” such as lifting your hands or giving yourself a pep-talk can boost confidence, and therefore, productivity.
- Dress professional to write professionally. Studies have shown this works!
- Try reading your paper aloud. Imagine you are giving it as a professional speech. Doing this in the mirror can help!
- Practice writing and editing at different times of the day. Pay attention to when you best do which task. This will economize your time.
- Pay attention to the types of foods that help you think well. Typically protein is brain food; sugar and carbs are not. Also, blueberries are the only food known to help memory retention.
- Plan ahead and write a draft, then spend time away from it. Coming to a text “fresh” will help you produce better work more quickly.
Mediums and Computing
- We can identify some errors aurally better than visually, so have your computer read your paper to you as you edit.
- Print and read a paper while you edit. This 3D activity can help you see errors that you miss on a screen. Some even use scissors and “cut” and “paste” while editing.
- Invert the colors on your screen. This also helps as you read research on a computer. It relaxes your eyes and helps you concentrate.
- Try composing with your screen off or your eyes closed; this will help you not get distracted by the moving text.
- Try composing or note-taking on different mediums and with colors: pencil and paper, whiteboard / chalkboard, stick and dirt, paint, etc. (Writing while doing something creative produces thoughtful work, e.g., dry-erase markers on the bathroom mirror or dorm window!)
- If you are procrastinating or have trouble concentrating, turn off your wifi.
- Get a sense of what types of errors you make in each type of medium. Edit for these errors. (For example, I often leave the “r” off of “your,” but only when I type.)
- Edit your work backwards, one sentence at a time while covering the text above.
Space, Ambiance and Time
- If you are procrastinating or have trouble concentrating, remove yourself from your current space. Try a computer lab, library or other public place. Once you find a space that works, try not to use that space for other things, like social networking, hanging out or relaxing.
- Try playing instrumental music while you write or edit.
- If a public space is not helping, try quarantining yourself in a private space.
- Keep a notepad by your bed so when you wake up in the middle of the night thinking about your writing, you can jot down those ideas.
- Finish each day’s writing by starting the next day’s work. Sleep will help you process your ideas.
- Work in intervals. This will save you time.13
Writing and People
(Remember: All professional and academic writing is a social enterprise!)
- Have someone read your paper then report back to you.
- Find a peer who will agree to proofread your papers and you theirs.
- Meet with your readership to discuss ideas. In college this generally means your TAs and professors. (Your tuition is paying for their office hours, so use them!)