An academic essay is normally produced through a process of drafting and editing. After the first version (draft) of an essay is written, it is carefully reviewed and amended in a controlled process of improvement (editing) and rewriting (drafting), working towards a final product (finished essay) which will be the work that is submitted. It is important that the final product is a concise, coherent and logically structured piece of writing, which has addressed all parts of the question.
The first draft is not the final product, so can serve as a way of easing into the writing process. Using your essay plan, just aim to get some ideas down at this stage. Relax and keep the first draft below the word count, but make sure that you are producing content that is addressing the question that you have been given (many students will display the question they are writing about on the desk in front of them for easy reference); then it is probably easier to follow up with further research to add content rather than make decisions about where you can cut word count at the later editing stage.
Editing means making changes to the content of the essay with a view to improving your argument, cohesion and coherence (flow), and coverage of the topic. This involves identifying any areas that need to be cut and any areas that need to be added to. Aim to avoid repetition and redundancy (information not relevant to the question). Also make sure that content is logically paragraphed (blocked together) and ordered systematically so that it flows and makes sense.
This process of drafting and editing should be continued until you are confident that the essay has addressed all parts of the question fully and that your argument is fully comprehensible to an educated, but non-specialist reader. You can check this by referring to the marking criteria to make sure that you are satisfying the indicative content. This is normally achieved within three drafts. When you have reached this stage you are finally ready to proofread the essay before it is submitted.
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