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Editing? Are you kidding me? 

Editing? Are you kidding me? 

By Kim Byrd-Rider

Professors and editors will only allow a certain amount of time for your paper because their time is precious (expensive) and needed elsewhere. The professor/editor will do a technical edit, if it is not already done. Working through the following five edits before submitting a paper is like cleaning and organizing your house before the maid comes. If you clean first, then she/he spends all of her/his time doing the things you can’t possibly get to like cleaning toilets, windows, window sills and baseboards. If you don’t pre-clean, the maid charges $35/hr. to pick clothes up off the floor. That’s a waste of money because you can easily pick up clothes yourself if you put in some time. Not thoroughly pre-cleaning a paper is using the valuable asset of a professor/editor’s insight for revision and wasting it on having them change your verbs from passive to active. You can easily do edit yourself if you put in some time! 

Trust me, I learned everything in this paper the hard way from Harvard University professors. I had one professor who edited my paper and wrote in the margin, “Are you kidding me? You do know you are at Harvard?” That’s when I knew I had to step up my game! I now get A’s on my papers. I think the biggest mistake we all make is that we only do edit #5 and not #1-4. We semi-polish a poorly organized paper that has technical problems. A paper like that won’t translate to others well, regardless of the quality of the content. Here is how I edit now… 


Good editing requires at least five edits. 

Do your research on the topic. Google scholar is a great place to start and you can choose the dates of the research on the left sidebar. The research needs to be less than three years old (exception explained in #4). Write a rough draft: get your ideas out. Write out all of your content. You can always delete later. Add your references in their best most edited form to the reference page, now. There is nothing worse than documenting all of your references at the end. By then, your references get confused with one another and even lost. Document your references with precision from the beginning and along the way. Even with your best efforts at reference precision, your references will still have mistakes to be cleaned up in edit #5. This should take days for a 10-page paper. Maybe spend two days researching plus three half days of writing. The content tends to get convoluted if you write all day long. Fresh eyes are important and save time later. Remember, as you are focused on one type of edit level, you can still correct other types of errors but keep returning to that edit’s focus. If I see something that needs to be addressed more thoroughly in the next edit, I tag it with (??????-write a note) so I can’t miss it when I get to that edit. It usually involves additional research-#4 and I don’t have time for that rabbit hole during my technical edit-#2. The following are the five, beginning to end, edit focuses: 

  1. Order: Read through and move paragraphs around to where they should be for clear, sequential and orderly points. Almost always, you will end up moving the last paragraph to the top because during the writing process we all synthesize our thoughts with the research and land the conclusion well. Naturally, the most insightful and stellar ideas end up in the conclusion but those fireworks need to be in the introduction.  The intro needs to interestingly clarify the paper’s purpose and main points. Don’t save the best points for last. Put them first or you will lose your reader to boredom. The original intro usually gets deleted by about 80% as you do this edit. The wrap up is found in the last paragraph. When you notice any problems like spelling or sentence structure, correct them as you go along so the next edits become more focused. Don’t be surprised if you reorder paragraphs two or three times during these edits as you rethink what order most powerfully and logically delivers the content. Save the transition sentences for the last edit (5) when the paragraph order is set. (Approximately 3 hours for 10 pages) 

  1. Technical: Read through and clean up all the technical problems: references, punctuation, run-on sentences, etc. Change; it, that, those, they and this type words to actual nouns avoiding confusion on your subjects. Try not to put two prepositional phrases in a row and absolutely not three in a row! Make sure the reference list is perfect and all your references in the text reflect a reference on the list. Check to be sure no additional references are on the list. A shortcut for reference lists: go to Google Scholar, type in the title of your reference, click on the ( ” ) under your reference, then copy/paste the style you want. Highlight your copy text, right-click to “paragraph”, choose “hanging” and that will format your references. Highlight your text again and click the AZ button next to the paragraph button in word and it will alphabetize them for you. APA style is the standard style for psychology and medical departments use, which can be found on In text references need to have all the authors listed the first time you reference the article. After that, you can use the last name of the (first author, & et al., year). You do not have to list them all again. (Approximately 3 hours for 10 pages) 

  1. Smoothness: Read through again and make sure the verb tenses agree. Past, present, future…pick one and stick with it. When referring to reference articles you can switch tenses to the past but make sure to come back to your chosen tense. Check for verb redundancy and then vary the verbs. Use an online thesaurus for a quick way to find exciting and varied new words. While you are doing this, make sure all the plural and singular nouns agree with their verbs. Change as many passive verbs (is, are, was, were, has been, “to be verbs”) into action verbs as possible. (Approximately 3 hours for 10 pages) 

  1. Doctor it up: Wait a day or two and read through again to check what is missing, what isn’t clear, what needs deletion. Add a chart for unclear or complex topics to simplify them. Notice if things have not been referenced and they should be. You will probably have to search and add more research for ideas needing some reference backup. Your research must be less than three years old. If it is older, you must state in your paper why it is old. Sometimes research is called “sentinel” research. This means it is the gold standard and new research has moved on to something else instead of re-studying topics with tons of good research about them. In that case, you reference old research. You must explain in your paper that there wasn’t any new research found on this topic and you had to use sentinel articles. Sentinel research can make your paper stronger but it will take you longer to make sure it is really sentinel. Include research that has novel, interesting and creative perspectives and then expand on it. People want to learn something new or at least a new way to view something they already know. This automatically bumps your paper to a higher level of desirability. Add relevant and entertaining stories at this point to spruce up the readability factor. (This could be days of work depending on the research needed.) Add pictures now, if appropriate. 

  1. Polish: read through again to add polish and clean up. The paper should be relatively clean by now but polish means to go back with the previous four editing steps in mind. This step is like detailing a car. You go back over all the nooks and crannies looking for specks of grime you missed and I guarantee you will find some. You are looking for all of the previous editing suggestions (#1-#4). Check one last time on the best paragraph order. Then, make sure paragraphs transition smoothly. If not, add transitional sentences.  If you find yourself polishing a lot of text, keep reading through from beginning to end until there is nothing left to polish, no grime anywhere. Of course, use spell check and grammar check software during this phase. is a great software tool for this. If using word, click on edit at the top, then click select all, then click on find (in edit), then click replace. Word will give you a tool to the left. If you put a problem word in the first bar and then the fixed version of the word in the second bar it will find and change the word or punctuation throughout your paper or one time for you. I am old school and tend to put two spaces after a period, which is not done anymore. In this tool, I always change my accidental two spaces to one space. Cutting and pasting a lot also creates unwanted extra spaces. I also check hyphenated words with this tool, making sure they are consistently hyphenated throughout the paper. Many times, it doesn’t matter how you space, hyphenate, abbreviate or number something but it is critical that it is consistently done throughout the paper. Check those things with this tool. Also, make sure your medical terms are spelled consistently throughout the paper with the tool. Spellcheck won’t know medical terms and you will overlook them. (Approximately 1 hour, four to five separate times with fresh eyes each time: 4-5 hours for 10 pages). 


After all that, I turn the paper in to the professor or editor as a ROUGH DRAFT and they take me seriously. From there, the professor or editor can spend all of his/her editing time focusing on ideas and concepts to strengthen the paper for me, instead of technical editing. 

Next, the paper goes through revisions, according to the advice of the professor or the editor! Like a great work of art, it never really ends but it does improve… 

Like picking up clothes off of the floor, editing takes time but you will be proud of the ending product. Your readers will love you for the extra effort! I hope this helps… 





I'm Dr. Kim
Byrd-Rider, PT

In our Soul School at Firm Water Road, we are dedicated to helping people create healthy habits that can last a lifetime. Our program combines various modalities, including positive psychology, mystics, physics, and lifestyle medicine, to help our clients achieve optimal wellness. We specialize in Healthcare Workers, Military Members, School Teachers, and Students, but our holistic approach to wellness is beneficial for everyone. Let us help you achieve your health goals today.  Join us at or subscribe to the youtube channel

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