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Home > Medical > Free Essay Tips and Advice > Final Touches

Take a Break
The Hunt for Red Flags
Read Out Loud
Get Feedback!

Writing is not a one-time act. Writing is a process, and memorable writing comes more from rewriting than it does from the first draft. By rewriting, you will improve your essay – guaranteed. There is no perfect amount of drafts that will insure a great essay, but you will eventually reach a point when your confidence in the strength of your writing is reinforced by the thoughts of others. If you skimp on the rewriting process, you significantly reduce the chances that your essay will be as good as it could be. Don’t take that chance. The following steps show you how to take your essay from rough to remarkable.

Take a Break!

You have made it through the first draft, and you deserve a reward for the hard work. Before you do anything else – take a break! Let it sit for a couple of days. You need to distance yourself from the piece so you can gain objectivity. Writing can be an emotional and exhausting process, particularly when you write about yourself and your experiences. After you finish your first draft, you may think a bit too highly of your efforts – or you may be too harsh. Both extremes are probably inaccurate. Once you have let your work sit for a while you will be better able to take the next (and final!) step -- proofreading.



Once you have taken a break away from your essay, come back and read it through once with a fresh perspective. Analyze it as objectively as possible based on the following three components: substance, structure, and interest. Do not worry yet about surface errors and spelling mistakes, focus instead on the larger issues. Be prepared to find some significant problems with your essays and be willing to address them even though it might mean significantly more work. Also, if you find yourself unable to iron out the bugs that turn up, you should be willing to consider starting one or two of your essays from scratch, potentially with a new topic.

Use the following check-lists to critique the various parts of your essays.

Substance refers to the content of your essay and the message you are sending out. It can be very hard to gauge in your own writing. One good way to make sure that you are saying what you think you are saying is to write down, briefly and in your own words, the general idea of your message. Then remove the introduction and conclusion from your essay and have an objective reader review what is left and do the same. Compare the two statements to see how similar they are. This can be especially helpful if you wrote a narrative, to make sure that your points are being communicated in the story.

Here are some more questions to ask regarding content:

Have you answered the question that was asked?
Is each point that you make backed up by an example?
Are your examples concrete and personal?
Have you been specific? Go on a generalities hunt. Turn the generalities into specifics.
Is the essay about you? (The answer should be "Yes!")
What does it say about you? Try making a list of all the words you have used to describe yourself (directly or indirectly). Does the list accurately represent you?
Does the writing sound like you? Is it personal and informal rather than uptight or stiff?
Read your introduction. Is it personal and written in your own voice? If it is general or makes any broad claims, then have someone proofread your essay once without it. Did they notice that it was missing? If the essay can stand on its own without it, then consider removing it permanently.


To check the overall structure of your essay, do a first-sentence check. Write down the first sentence of every paragraph in order. Read through them one after another and ask yourself the following:

Would someone who was reading only these sentences still understand exactly what you are trying to say?
Are all of your main points expressed in the first sentences?
Do the thoughts flow naturally, or do they seem to skip around or come out of left field?

Now go back to your essay as a whole and ask yourself these:

Does each paragraph stick to the thought that was introduced in the first sentence?
Is each point supported by a piece of evidence? How well does the evidence support the point?
Are all of the paragraphs of roughly the same length? When you step back and squint at your essay do they look balanced on the page? If one is significantly longer than the rest, you are probably trying to squeeze more than one thought into it.
Does your conclusion draw naturally from the previous paragraphs?
Have you varied the length and structure of your sentences?


Many people think only of mechanics when they revise and rewrite their compositions. But as we know, the interest factor is crucial in keeping the admissions officers reading and in making your essay memorable. Look at your essay with the interest equation in mind: personal + specific = interesting. Answer the following:

Is the opening paragraph personal? Do you start with action or an image?
At what point does your essay really begin? Try delete all the sentences before that point.
Does the essay "show" rather than "tell?" Use details whenever possible to create images.
Did you use any words that you wouldn’t use in a conversation? Did you take any words from a thesaurus? (If either answer is yes, get rid of them!)
Have you used an active voice?
Did you do the verb check? Are your verbs active and interesting?
Have you overused adjectives and adverbs?
Have you eliminated trite expressions and cliches?
Does it sound interesting to you? If it bores you, it will bore others.
Will the ending give the reader a sense of completeness? Does the last sentence sound like the last sentence?

The Hunt for Red Flags

How can you know if you are writing in a passive or active voice? Certain words and phrases are red flags for the passive voice, and relying on them too heavily will considerably weaken an otherwise good essay. To find out if your essay suffers from passivity, go on a hunt for all of the following, highlighting each one as you find it:
there is
it is essential that
in conclusion
I feel
  I hope
have had
it is important to note that
in addition
  for instance
in fact
I believe
can be
may/may not
When you are done, how much of your essay is highlighted? You do not need to eliminate these phrases completely, but ask yourself if each one is necessary. Try replacing the weak phrases with stronger ones.

When you are satisfied with the structure and content of your essay, it is time to check for grammar, spelling, typos, and the like. There will be obvious things you can fix right away: a misspelled or misused word, a seemingly endless sentence, or improper punctuation. Keep rewriting until your words say what you want them to say. Ask yourself these questions:

Did I punctuate correctly?
Did I eliminate exclamation points (except in dialogue)?
Do I use capitalization clearly and consistently?
Do the subjects agree in number with the verbs?
Did I place the periods and commas inside the quotation marks?
Did I keep contractions to a minimum? Are apostrophes in the right places?
Did I insert the name of the proper school for each new application?

Read Out Loud

To help you polish the essay even further, read it out loud. You will be amazed at the faulty grammar and awkward language that your ears can detect. It will also give you a good sense of the flow of the piece and will alert you to anything that sounds too abrupt or out of place. Good writing, like much music, has a certain rhythm. How does your essay sound? Interesting and varied, or drawn out and monotonous. Reading your essay out loud is also a good way to catch errors that your eyes might otherwise skim over while reading silently.
ALWAYS Get Feedback!

We’ve mentioned this point many times throughout this site, but it can never be emphasized enough: get feedback! Not only will it help you see your essay objectively, as others will see it, but it is also a good way to get re-inspired when you feel yourself burning out.

You should have already found someone to proof for general style, structure, and content. If you have to write multiple essays for one school, you should also have had them evaluate the set as a whole. Now, as a final step before submitting your application, find someone new to proof for the surface errors that will only be seen with fresh eyes. Print out this page and have them check off the questions as they proof.

And, as we said earlier, if you are having trouble finding someone willing (and able) to dedicate the time and thought that need to be put in to make this step effective, you may want to consider getting a professional evaluation. IvyEssays offers a number of different editing services. Whether you are looking for quick feedback or a full edit, we have an option for you.
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