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Guest Blog: 8 tips for writing your report – by Sandra

Posted by on June 16, 2013

From Dr. Maille: Some schools require a report as part of your science fair project – this is especially true for higher level competitions. Even if you don’t have to write one, you should because it will help you prepare for your presentation. Ultimately, a well written report will help you stand out against your competition – so check out these great tips from Sandra:

8 tips to edit your work

If you want to distinguish yourself as a great writer, a step above just being good, you need to develop a key skill; the ability to edit your own work.

If you don’t have your own personal editor, you are on your own. Whether you want to be or not. No matter how much you may hate editing, do not skip this important step. The following tips will help make this undesirable task easier to handle.

1. Don’t Edit as You Go
We aren’t talking about fixing typos or rewriting the occasional sentence. Don’t go back and reread the entire chapter, or even the current section. You will always find things you want to change later, if you change it as you write, you will just end up doing it again later.

2. Give it a Rest
Sometimes you can be too close to a project to approach it from an editorial perspective. Try waiting a few days after you finish writing before you edit it your work. This will give you a chance to get the ideas you had when you were writing out of your head. If you are in a time crunch and don’t have a few days, at least wait an hour or two.

3. Change the Format
By reading your work from a different format, you will see the words in a whole new light. Printing a paper copy, or converting it to read on your tablet are great ways to change it up. Sometimes even just a different font and type size will help put things in a new perspective.

4. Look at the Big Picture First
On your first pass through the completed document, look for major content issues as opposed to dissecting each individual sentence. Look for these types of things:

● Sections that need major revision
● Chapters or sections that don’t belong at all
● Areas that need more clarification

5. Time to Face the Chopping Block
Chances are, if you are like most writers, you often like the sound of your own typing. On your second pass, look to cut the unnecessary fat from your work. Ten percent is probably a good target to shoot for. If you are wondering what needs to be cut, keep an eye out for these:

● Unnecessary words – descriptive language that doesn’t add any value
● Repetitive points – when you have said something once, that’s usually enough
● Weak language – things like “it is believed that…” or “in my humble opinion….”

6. Spell Check Plus
You should always use a spelling and grammar checker for your work. Be careful however not to rely on this tool alone. There is no substitution for good, old-fashioned proofreading. Spell checkers are great at what they do, but they can’t catch things like homophones and wrong word usage.

7. Slow Down
You may not be able to, but reading your document from the bottom up lets you concentrate on the individual sentence without getting bogged down in the content you already fixed. This last pass through your document should be checking for final formatting and spelling errors.

8. Know When to Stop
There will always be “just one more” thing to change, a comma to move, or a section that you think works better the way it was yesterday. If you find yourself changing things more than once, it’s time to stop.

Here is the cold, hard truth: the work is never going to be perfect. I know that’s hard for some of you to hear, but the sooner you come to terms with this devastating news, the sooner you can put down the proverbial red pencil and do something much more important, getting your report in on time.

Sandra Miller is edtech writer from Brooklyn and uses editing service Help.Plagtracker to make her writing perfect.

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