The Absolutely Last and Final Stages in Preparing a Paper for Submission

Rule #8: If you can't give the paper an accurate title, the paper is not ready to be turned in.

        Titles provide readers' brains with useful preliminary categories for information you will ask them to process, and names for those categories.  Bland or teasing titles will force them to manage your paper's mass of information with no guidance.  Readers rarely do that job well.  Help them out.  Give them a title that explicitly defines your paper's topic, clearly indicates the kind of thesis you will argue, and gives them some clues about your most important key terms.  

Rule #9:  Before you ask your readers to read your paper, hear it yourself--read it out loud, full voice, to "the other side of your brain," and let your oral/aural language storage help you edit.

        Copy editing is a hard task, but silent copy editing often resembles more a conspiracy to protect the paper from improvement than a real attempt to find mistakes.  Your eyes will collaborate with your brain to silently correct errors unless you are saying out loud, full voice, what you see on the page.  If you stumble, there is a reason, and it probably is in the written code you have used to represent what you meant to say.  Stop and reread, again out loud, and look for what made you stop or stumble.  That's letting your brain's first language storage (oral/aural) use its superior experience to detect errors.  It has been on the job since you were in your first year of life, whereas your written language has been acquired, in its most important formal attributes, in the past ten years or so.  Use both sides of your brain!

        Spelling errors and simple punctuation mistakes are the most common problems Goucher faculty complain about in student writing.  Even otherwise good papers can irritate their readers with trivial errors so that the papers' arguments will not be heard.  Use your word processor's spelling checker with care, but use it always.  Do not automatically accept its thesaurus suggestions for misspellings until you are certain you have checked the meaning of the suggested word.  Learn your own typical patterns of misspelling.  Do you have trouble with double consonants (i.e., ll, tt, cc, ss) or word endings (plurals, verb inflections) or homonyms (sound-alike word substitution, like "their"/"there"/"they're" and "accept"/"except" and "affect"/"effect")?  Reread the paper for those specific patterns of error you know you are prone to, and if you are still not successful finding all the errors, ask for help from a Writing Center tutor.