The final stage in the writing process—Polishing—consists of editing and proofreading. For this stage, your goal is not to make major revisions but simply to smooth off the edges of your work for its final presentation–much like a sculptor applying finishing touches to artwork before casting. The artist doesn't remold the clay at this point but gently sculpts and shapes, making only slight alterations to his or her masterpiece to achieve final form. Like the artist, then, your job in this final stage of writing is to use your sculpting tools, editing and proofreading, to ready your paper for presentation.


Although writers often use the term editing loosely, editing at the polishing stage is more specifically defined: fine-tune the language. At this stage, writers review and assess text by examining diction, tone, style, rhythm and flow. Intermingled, these elements work together and not only express a writer's voice, but are also influenced by a writer's intended audience. At this stage, a writer would work on diction, tone, style, rhythm and flow.

  • Diction has to do with the level of clearness and conciseness reflected in an author's choice, usage and arrangement of words. Further, word choice and the way in which a writer elects to put words, thus, sentences together determines his or her tone, rhythm and style.
  • Tone exposes attitude or mood, as expressed through the author's preferred choice, usage and combinations of words as well as the writer's preferences of sentence types, lengths and structures used.
  • Style represents a writer's distinctive and unique form of expression. Like tone, it also reveals the writer's attitude and mood, but more so, it allows the reader to discover aspects of the author's personality or take on things. Writers often intentionally change their style, depending on the format or type of message being delivered and depending upon the intended audience.
  • Rhythm further reveals a writer's tone and style just like a song uniquely expresses feelings or emotions of a songwriter. Words and sentences move, too, and their patterns deliver much of a writer's message.
  • Flow means that your words and sentences evolve and proceed smoothly, logically, consistently and continuously over time, much like a stream gently running down the side of a quietly sloping mountain.


The final phase of the writing process, proofreading means to make the final check and fix mechanical or technical flaws, such as spelling, grammar and punctuation mistakes.

  • Spelling mistakes are often hard to catch, especially with writers' modern-day dependence on spell check features available in most word processing software programs. When the spell check feature automatically replaces misspelled words with correctly spelled words, they may not always be the words originally intended by the writer. Spell check features are quick and convenient, but writers should review the spell check suggestions before accepting them.
  • Grammar pertains to the rules of syntax and inflection that define a language. Grammar is a description of language use, which is always in flux because people use language to communicate. What was "correct" fifty years ago, might not be "correct" today, which might not be "correct" fifty years from now–hence the confusion surrounding the "correctness" of grammar.
  • Punctuation includes symbols or characters, such as commas and question marks, used to break up sentences and their parts to provide clear meaning. Punctuation tells a reader how to read a sentence–when to start, stop, or just slow down; when to whisper or yell; when to emphasize or subordinat—the way the writer wants it read.

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  • How to Edit...............page 35
  • How to Proofread......page 40

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