How to Critique and Evaluate your Own Writing
When you’re writing, you may think to yourself, “Hey, everything I’m writing is great.” You may be really confident about your writing, or maybe you’re really self-conscious and you think, “Everything I write is terrible. I can never do a good job at this.” Either way, you need to try to be more detached when you’re reading your own paper and approach it as if it was someone else’s paper.
Clarity and Logic
Pretend you’re a reader that has never read anything about this topic and ask yourself: Is this paper written in a clear and logical way? Is everything stated clearly? Are the sentences easy to understand? Is everything presented in a logical way? Did you organize your paper in the most effective way?
Ask yourself that, and then ask: Would it be hard for a reader to understand?
You are very familiar with the topic because you just wrote about it, but you needed to pretend that you haven’t seen anything about this topic before and see if you would be able to understand what you wrote. Make sure there’s nothing unclear and there are no confusing sentences. While you’re checking for all of this, look at both content and mechanics. What that means is with content you want to check for clarity and make sure the purpose was fulfilled.
Make sure everything was written clearly and logically, and make sure your purpose was fulfilled. You started with a thesis, and you should be supporting that thesis, whether your purpose was to inform someone, to give them instructions on how to carry out a task, to convince them of something, or just to give them general information for entertainment purposes. You want to make sure your purpose was fulfilled because that’s the whole reason that you’re writing.
If it wasn’t, then you need to make some revisions. With mechanics, you want to check for correct grammar and punctuation. That means you’re looking for words to be spelled correctly, you’re looking for the use of the correct words, and you’re looking for punctuation. Make sure you’ve got periods at the end of every sentence, or at least some punctuation (exclamation point, question mark, whichever one fits). Make sure you’ve got commas where they belong. Make sure you have apostrophes where they belong.
Make sure you don’t have any long run-on sentences. With your grammar, you want to especially be careful, because if you’re using a spell check option on a computer, it can catch spelling errors, but if you spell a word correctly and use the wrong version of the word, then it’s not going to catch that. For instance, if you used there vs. their. Both of these words are spelled correctly, but they mean different things. If you use the wrong one, spell check isn’t going to catch that, because the word is spelled correctly.
The same goes for where and wear and several other homonyms. You want to make sure that you are picking the correct version of the word whenever you type it out. If you spell it correctly but it’s not the right word, it’s not going to make sense. It’s going to cause some confusion whenever your reader is trying to understand your paper. You need to remember that the goal is to get your point across. Ultimately, that’s why you are writing, to get your point across.
You need to ask yourself: Has that been done effectively? If you can honestly look through your paper in a detached way and say, “I think so. I think that everything was pretty clear. It was easy to understand. If I approached this and had never heard of this topic before, I would be able to understand what the author meant,” then that’s great. That’s awesome. You did a great job with that draft.
However, if you go through and you say, “Well, there were a couple of spots where I feel like I could have clarified this and made it easier to understand,” or maybe you catch a few of these grammar problems, or maybe you see where you should put a comma here or there, then going through and critiquing your writing was a really good idea.
Even if you go through one paper and don’t find any errors, that doesn’t mean you won’t go through another one and find no errors. Knowing how to evaluate and critique your own writing is very important, so you make sure that you can effectively get your point across to your audience.