Proofreading Tips

Most students know more grammar than they realize, but because we speak much more than we write, we often have trouble remembering or applying the rules of written English.  Here are some proofreading tips to help:

  1. Proofread your work more than once and wait several hours after you’ve printed out your essay to proofread it for the first time. The more you can detach yourself from your work the easier it is to proofread.   Always proofread at least once with the hard copy instead of just looking at it on the computer screen.
  2. Read your essay out loud, reading exactly what is on the page. You’ll find that you can hear errors, particularly be missing or misused –s or –ed
  3. If you have difficulty seeing your errors, you may be focusing too much on the meaning, what you meant to write, instead of what is actually there. To distance yourself from what you meant to write, try going through your paper backwards.  Begin with the last sentence, read it out loud, and then proceed to the second to last sentence, and continue until you reach the beginning.
  4. If you have a lingering proofreading problem, do some practice exercises on your specific writing challenges and then keep the practice sheets with you when you proofread and do an extra reading just for that error. Only vigilance on your part will make the problem go away.
  5. On a computer, use spell check sparingly, but not grammar check. Human grammar is too complicated and full of vagaries for a computer to check it accurately, but spelling is not.  There is no excuse for spelling errors in a college-level essay.
  6. If you have a friend proofread your essay, then you are relying on someone else to do something you should learn to do for yourself. Proofread it yourself several times first and then if you have a friend help you proofread, have that person circle the sentence with the error in it first and see if that helps you find the error. This will teach you more than just allowing someone to edit it for you.
  7. Finally, there is more to writing than getting the grammar right. Writing is an art in which you try to entertain, persuade, and educate your reader.  If you work hard on making your meaning clear and illustrating your ideas specifically, you will have fewer grammar and usage problems.