Ten Rules for Proofreading Effectively

Proofreading is probably one of the most boring jobs in your academic career. The worst part is that you have already read your text (because you created it), which simply makes it all the more boring. At least if you proofread the work of others you have the benefit of not having read it before. Here are ten rules and tips to help you proofread more effectively.

1 – Take it one sentence at a time

You can have a paragraph that is incorrectly written, but as a starting point, you should work one sentence at a time. There are a lot of grammar, punctuation and syntax rules that you need to abide by and you should checklist each rule for every sentence in order to be thorough.

2 – Use the spellchecker that comes with your word processor

This is the easy part and it picks up your spelling mistakes and grammar problems. Doing this is a modern-day given technique that everybody assumes you are going to do anyway. Just be sure you do not take the suggestions of the checker without serious consideration first.

3 – Now use a variety of online proofreading tools

There are plenty of free ones you can try, and the goal is to see if anything was missed by your word processor spellchecker. Online tools often churn out a few extra suggestions that you should consider. Just be sure you use a trusted service so that you do not click to check your work and find it on an essay writing service the day after.

4 – Work backwards through your essay

Ideally, you should forget about the point of your essay and just concentrate on the grammar, punctuation and syntax rules that apply. You can stop yourself following the thread/point of the work by working backwards–checking the last sentence, then the second last, etc.

5 – Read the text aloud

This tip is often allied with printing off a hard copy of your work. A hard copy may make reading a little easier, but that is really all it can offer you, whereas if you read aloud then you force yourself to read every word. It is a lot harder to skim read (accidentally as we all do) if you have to vocalize every word on your document. It helps you pick up on smaller errors such as putting “at the” in the wrong order.

6 – Use a proofreading service

This is a little dangerous, especially if you do it with your dissertation, because there is no guarantee that your proofreader will not steal your work and sell it on. Your dissertation is quite valuable because it is fresh and it is for this year (i.e. it is current) which means there are hundreds of other students out there that would be willing to buy it and pass it off as their own. Go for an established company that has a very good reputation and a solid confidentiality/privacy policy.

7 – Highlight the parts you are not 100% sure about

When you proofread in detail, you are likely to find elements of your text that are hard to proofread. These are the parts of your text that look correct but still make you suspicious. There are many grammar, punctuation and syntax rules that become skewered when you are working with a large document. Highlight the ones you think are suspicious and come back to them later. Quite often, you can Google the lines and see if others have had similar problems. You can study online resources about grammar, punctuation and syntax rules to see if you have made a mistake, and you can even ask someone else who is more of an expert than you are.

8 – Check the weight of your essay segments

The easiest way to do this is to write a mini-summary of each paragraph. Just one or two lines will be enough. Read through your summaries and see if you focus on one argument a lot more than any others. If you feel that this focus is not necessary or that you have weighted too much on one element then you can change your work to suit. Doing this will also help you check the flow of your writing and determine which segments and elements should be next to each other.

9 – If you are tired then come back to it

Proofreading is already a snore-a-minute ride, and if you are tired you will skim read by default. Get some sleep and come back to it because you are guaranteed to miss your errors if you are tired.

10 – Make a note of your changes

You can highlight your changes in red so that you may come back to them later. This is done because sometimes a change in the context of a paragraph is damaging to the essay as a whole. You may accidentally contradict yourself because you are thinking about proofreading and not the message or point of the text (which is what you are supposed to do). Highlight your changes in red so that the next time you do your read-through you can be sure you have not made the essay hard to understand. And, you can check to see if your changes have created unwanted contradictions.

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