I am guessing that I am not the first person to lecture about the importance of editing an essay thoroughly before final submission. I’m also confident that this advice is even more urgent when it applies to a college application essay. This week, I heard an example that validates everything I believe in as an editor.
Several years ago, a good friend serves as an admissions reader for a large, selective university. This friend was in the process of reading an admissions essay that started off heartfelt, compelling, and well written. The student shared experiences of being bullied, followed by the desire to help others who had endured the same type of abuse in school. As my friend was finishing the essay, the very last sentence practically knocked this reader over. The sentence was an insult towards a specific person, someone the writer must have known—first and last name were included—and an extremely vulgar curse word.
The reader’s best guess is that the applicant probably sent the essay to a friend (perhaps for editing or feedback), the friend inserted this line as a “joke,” and the applicant failed to notice it during the cut-and-paste process. Unfortunately, this applicant did not abide by the always-do-a-final-read-before-clicking-submit rule, and the extremely distasteful last line made its way into the final college application. To make matters worse, this was on a common application that was read by every university to which the applicant applied.
In the end, a final edit is not just about catching an absent comma or misspelled word. It is about ensuring that a mistake like this does not happen to you.
Tip of the Day: Read your drafts out loud. Studies show that when we read the same material silently, we are less likely to see obvious mistakes. Check out this article by Lifehack for more editing tips that improve writing.