Proofreading and Editing Basics

The basics are still mired in the technicalities of written English, but this article delivers techniques and ideas you can try in order to improve your proofreading drastically. It helps you search out things you have not thought of so that you may improve the quality of your essay and the subsequent grades you get for them.

Has a contradiction crept in?

It is possible that you have made a point within your essay and contradicted it at some point. To check for this you should make notes as you are proofreading. When you are proofreading your essay for other things such as flow, weight, impact, etc, you should also make a note of each point you make. Just a small note giving the gist of each point will suffice. When you are finished proofreading you should check your notes to see if any points contradict any others. Your points also include any quotes you have added because they may contradict a point you made earlier.

You are supposed to use the spellchecker

Online proofreading has become very popular. This is the spellchecker that comes with your word processor, and you are supposed to use it. Some people do not use it with their essays because the suggestions are out of context. For example, what if you were making a point about how some people spell things wrong. You may give examples with incorrect spellings. Your  spellchecker is going to ask you to change them, and if you are not thinking in the context of your work then you may change them by accident.

Still, the risk of this is worth it because your word processor spellchecker will pick up things you may potentially miss. Just do not take every suggestion it offers. Consider each suggestion carefully and even consider turning off the spellchecker when you hit a tough suggestion and checking the entire paragraph that contains it.

Have you put too much effort into one section?

Quite often you are asked to write essays based on questions with numerous parts. You may not have to dedicate the same amount of word count to each part, but it is unlikely that they are looking for you to dedicate most of your word count to just one section. To check to see if you have put too much weight into one part you should size up each section.

A good trick is to check the marks dedicated to each section. For example, if there are three parts to the question, the first part has 10 marks, the second has 20 and the third has 20, then you can use that to judge the word count of each section. If your word count limit is 5000 words, then the first part should be around 1000 words, and the other two parts should be 2000 words each.

Do a bit of fluff cutting

If you purposefully fluffed up your work in order to reach the word count then you have a big problem. There is a mild chance that you nailed every point in your essay and that you are such a concise writer that the amount of word count allowed to you was too much. But, the most likely reason for your need to fluff is that you have not nailed all the points, that you have missed valuable information you could have added.

If you feel you have nailed the points then you need to check your essay for conciseness. This means asking yourself if you can remove any of the fluff wording that is not relevant to the essay. Go over each paragraph one at a time and ask yourself how you may make it smaller and more concise without damaging the impact of the paragraph or blurring the point. If you can make it more concise then do it because you will score more highly in terms of structure, clarity and impact.

You have error patterns so learn them

Just like with most things in life, we get into the habit of making errors as a pattern. Learn what your patterns are and then check for them on their own. For example, if you know that you often make the “its” and “it’s” mistake, then go out of your way to check every “its/it’s” on your essay. You can use the find and replace function on your word processor to have it search out every “it” so you can check it.

Each sentence should be checked independently

We all tend to skim read when we proofread. Firstly, we do it because we train ourselves to skim read from an early age, otherwise reading would take a long time. Secondly, you are likely to skim read because you know the content of the text (you wrote it) and part of you already knows what’s coming so you feel you can slip into skim reading. Take each sentence independently and you cannot skim read. You are able to see your errors more clearly.

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