Proofreading Tips for Proofing a Document
If you don’t make sure that you’ve eliminated every error, your work will not look its best. Editors, professors and anybody else who reads your piece will notice the mistakes and treat your work accordingly. Even the most popular, rich and famous writers still proofread, so you shouldn’t neglect this step either.
These proofreading tips will make your proofreading easier and more effective. When you’re finished, you should have a professional piece that’s ready for the world to read and admire.
When you begin revising, open your document and use the “save as” feature to create a new copy of the same file.
Give this second file a slightly different name: “John’s Science Paper” should be renamed to something like “John’s Science Paper 2.” Make revisions to the second file without changing the first.
This way, you can work without losing anything important from your first draft. There have been many writers who wrote over what turned out to be some of their best sentences and paragraphs – with no way of retrieving them later.
You should save a new copy of the file every time that you’re ready to make big changes to the previous copy.
Yes, you’ll end up with several copies of your short story or research paper, which will of course take up more space than just one copy would. However, you’ll appreciate having all of these copies around if you decide that you want to retrieve something from the first draft.
Give yourself plenty of time between revisions.
If your professor wants the paper four weeks from now, go ahead and get started. That way, you can set aside each draft for a day or two to “mellow.” When you go back to that paper, you’ll have a fresh approach, making it easier for you to analyze and spot mistakes.
This will also eliminate much of the stress that students face when they’re very close to deadlines but haven’t done enough work on their papers.
Work on one type of mistake at a time.
This way, you won’t be overwhelmed by trying to catch misspelled words, misplaced commas, unclear sentences, short paragraphs and every other type of error all at once. Fixing one thing at a time does wonders for your stress levels!
Don’t rely on spell check.
This function doesn’t know the difference between “two” and “to.” Only humans will catch the mistake in “I spent to dollars today.” Read carefully to catch all of these easily missed errors.
You can trust the grammar check, but only to a certain extent.
This feature can be just as wrong as its friend, spell check. Make sure that you understand why you’re getting the “green line treatment.” If the word processor tells you that the colon is not the correct punctuation to use in that place, search for information about the colon and where it really belongs. If the grammar check is right, you can correct the sentence. If it’s wrong, you’ll know why you can ignore it.
Read your work aloud.
This is a great way to catch awkward phrases, missing words and other mistakes that might be hard to catch when you read silently. You don’t have to read aloud to somebody else: reading to yourself works well.
Read your piece aloud again.
This time beginning with the last sentence. Then read the next to last sentence, the second to last sentence, etc. This sounds like a waste of time, but actually helps check your transitions. This technique also helps you create a more balanced piece because you’ll find areas in which you didn’t elaborate enough (which is easy to miss when you’re reading from first sentence to last).
At this point, you should reread your piece one more time – from front to back. This is a quick pass to make sure that you’ve found and corrected all of the mistakes that you can possibly locate.
Now print out a fresh copy and ask somebody else to read your paper.
This second person’s perspective will differ from yours in many ways. He or she will catch problem areas that you didn’t even notice. Don’t be embarrassed when this happens: this is the entire point of having a second pair of eyes on the paper. Correct these problems and, if you have time, ask that person to give the piece another quick read.
At this point, you have a paper that’s very close to being the final draft. Now you need to check formatting.
Make sure that all of the pages follow the correct style for what you’re doing. For example: if you’re submitting a short story to a magazine editor, you should double space your writing. If you’re working on a research paper, make sure that your cover sheet and works cited pages are formatted correctly.
Don’t forget to check the seemingly “little” things, like margins and font sizes.
Experienced readers – especially professors – can tell at a glance if you’ve followed the directions or guidelines closely or if you’ve blown off something. Don’t let one small oversight keep your paper from looking its best.
If you have access to other writers who produce this type of paper – i.e. you belong to a group of fiction writers, or you’re a student writing a research paper – you should tap into those resources.
They can help you improve your writing and you can return the favor when they’re working on their own projects. Check the local or campus library, community bulletin boards and even the Internet for groups of writers who can assist you with your work.
One of the most important things to do when you proofread your writing is to take notice of the work’s strong points. Occasionally circling a nearly perfect sentence – one that makes you proud every time you read it – will help keep your spirits up while you revise your work.
We hope you were able to use some of our proofreading tips to help you become a better writer. If you have any tips or tricks, please share them with everyone in the comments below!