The answer is nothing. But only if you do it correctly. Many students ask their tutors to edit (check, proofread, revise) their college essays, papers for work and other kinds of writing.


As a tutor, I’ve experienced all kinds of good- and bad ways- that students approach a teacher for editing. In this article, I’m going to give you my opinion as a professional editor and published writer on how to make the most of the editing process. And I bet you will not only see your writing improve, but you’ll find success when you submit your essay.



1. Don’t wait until the last minute


The last minute means waiting a day or two before the essay is needed and then asking the teacher to edit your work. Good editing takes time! I would say, if possible, give your teacher or editor a week to edit your paper. That gives both of you enough time for editing a first draft, perhaps a second draft, and then time for questions.



2. Pick the right person to edit your paper


Not all teachers are good at editing, and many just don’t like to do it. Look for teachers who say they can do editing work. On italki, many teachers have the ‘tag’ (word under their names) that says ‘editing’, and this is usually a good person to choose.



3. Decide what kind of editing you want


There are basically two types of editing. One is where the teacher edits your paper, circles the mistakes and asks you to try to correct them. I think this is the best method, because you learn from your mistakes. But this takes a very motivated student who has plenty of time to do it.


The other, more common type of editing is where the teacher does the editing and sends the paper back to the student. Some students want to know why their tutor made corrections and others don’t care about the mistakes as long as they are corrected. For me, I like it when students want to know why they have made the mistakes and how to correct them.


There’s something else to consider; what happens when you have to write your own papers or essays once you get to university? If you haven’t learned from your mistakes, you might get into a lot of trouble making the same mistakes that editors have been helping you fix in the past. Someone may even look back at your original essay and see the big difference between the perfect paper you turned in and the one you’re now writing on your own.



4. Be specific about what you want your paper, essay, or resume to do


Perhaps, you want to explain your work experience, your talent in a certain area (such as playing the piano), or your qualifications as a team player or your academic skills. This will help you and the editor keep within the theme of the paper. Also, be specific about how much editing you want; do you only want proofreading to see if there are any misspellings or grammatical errors? Or do you also want to give the teacher a free hand (let the teacher make any changes he or she wants) to alter or change the content?

If you really don’t know what you want in your essay, be honest with your teacher and he or she might question you so that you may reveal some important things that may be of great interest in your essay. Don’t worry, most teachers won’t pry too much!



5. Use ‘Google Docs’ if possible


Google Docs makes it a lot easier for you and your teacher to manipulate your article online together and make changes together. If you use Google Docs, you will see a symbol that tells you how to share your essay or letter with your teacher. If Google Docs isn’t possible, then using email will work just the same by attaching your writing to your email. Just make sure that when you want to discuss your writing, you and your teacher each have a printed copy of your work.



6. Ask your teacher how much the editing will cost


This should include time spent on the discussion of the changes. Don’t try to get something for nothing. Many students, after the editing and discussion process is over, will continue to email their tutors with additional questions that take up the teacher’s time unnecessarily. This will often make the teacher not want to edit your articles at another time.



7. Don’t select a teacher who guarantees his or her work


In other words, a teacher should not guarantee that you will get into the university if he or she edits your paper. The only thing teachers can guarantee is that they (with you) will do the best job they can in order to deliver a high quality, edited essay.



8. Don’t argue with your teacher


There is a saying that if you want to write well, ‘don’t fall in love with your own words’. This is true for everyone, not only students. Everyone needs an editor, including me (and italki editors are tough, believe me!) Just because you have a lot of corrections on your paper, it does not mean that you’re a bad writer. Especially when writing in a different language, there may be many little errors that you overlook and you should expect these. Of course, you should ask your teacher why he or she marked something as a mistake. After all, the point is not only to hand in a perfect paper, but to learn from your mistakes, as well.



9. At the end of the day, remember, the paper is your paper!


No matter how much your teacher edits your paper- a little or a lot- the paper is still yours to do what you want with. You can accept all the changes, some of them or none at all. If you want, you can hand in the essay exactly as it was before you asked for any editing help. The only thing you owe your teacher is the agreed fee. And a nice ‘thank you!’ is often appreciated.


10. Inform your teacher if your essay was successful


Teachers love it when their students give them great feedback. I am so satisfied when I hear that a paper or essay which I have edited has helped a student pass an important exam or get into a university of their choice.


Of the ten points above, I think the most important is the first one; allow yourself and your teacher enough time. If you do this, all of the remaining suggestions can be worked out easily.


So quit staring at your paper, and find yourself a teacher or editor who will help you edit, and hopefully, let your paper lead you to success.


Ilene Springer is a long-time teacher on italki. She is a published writer, the owner of, and the author of A Diary of an American Expatriate (AUK Publishers, London).


Hero image by Evan Clark (CC0 1.0)