An editor focuses on the content of your essay. This means that he or she attends to the ideas you’re trying to convey, gives you concrete suggestions as to how to strengthen and clarify that content.
Rather than just reading your essay and giving you vague feedback, an effective editor knows what belongs in your essay and what doesn’t.
Here’s a basic summary of the steps necessary to accomplish this:
Is your paper constructed purposefully and effectively? Does it answer every part of the essay question? Does your essay have a main idea? Do you have smaller ideas that connect to the main idea? Is your evidence relevant to your claims? Perhaps the most important concern is whether you’re saying something different in every single sentence.
More important than “finding another word” is knowing which words not to use. Put away your thesaurus—you already know plenty of “good” words. Choose the right words, the words with the proper connotations. (Don’t say “compassionate” when you really mean “considerate.”) No two words mean the same thing!
Does your writing flow smoothly, or does it sound awkward and choppy? If your teacher has to read something more than once, then there’s a problem. As stated above, use language that is clear but understandable. Also, be sure that your verb tenses are consistent from one sentence to the next.
Grammar refers to the way you arrange the parts of your sentences. Do your sentences vary in style, type, and length? Most student work is typified by repetitive sentence patterns. You cannot get an A if 80% of your sentences begin with their subjects.
When people think of punctuation, they usually think of errors in punctuation. Repairing these mistakes is generally the job of a proofreader. How, then, does an editor deal with punctuation? It’s easy to forget that punctuation marks are used for effect. They’re usually used to separate or emphasize important ideas. (When was the last time you used a dash in a sentence?)