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Grad. Studies Home

Proofreading: Why It's Different from Revising/Editing and How to Do It Effectively

Proofreading is the final step of the writing process. 

After you have revised and edited your writing for content, organization and style,  it's time to look for all the little things you might have missed when your mind was on bigger issues. 

So now  it's time to check the grammar. (There was no use worrying about it earlier, because you were still changing words and sentences and paragraphs around. Who wants to spend time correcting something that might just get deleted?)

The trick to being a good proofreader is to know where your typical weaknesses are and then look specifically for them.  Don't try to proofread for everything all at once.  Read through once, just focusing on the punctuation, another time just looking at pronouns, etc.

Ten tips for effective proofreading
  1. Read your paper out loud.  When you stumble, check that spot. Often, there will be a problem that your ear picked up in that part of the sentence.

  2. Get someone else to read the paper to you while you follow along on screen or on paper.  If you read, it's easy to skip over problems and read what you meant to type, not what you actually did type.  Another person is more likely to read exactly what's on the paper.

  3. Use  text-to-speech software and let your computer read the paper to you.  There are many such software programs available.  Check www.readplease.com, for instance. It's free; you just have to download the program and install

  4. If you are proofreading from the monitor, change the font size and style so that the words look different. (Just remember to change them back before printing.)

  5. If you are proofreading from the monitor, choose TOOLS > OPTIONS > GENERAL from the menu in Microsoft Word and then choose "Blue background with white text." 

  6. Consider proofreading from a printed copy at some point in the process. Most people cannot read as well from the monitor as from paper.

  7. Let time pass between the writing of the paper and the final proofreading. The more distance you can achieve from the writing, the more likely you are to see problems.

  8. Make good use of the FIND command.  The FIND tool (in the Edit menu) is a great proofreading aid.  If you typically have trouble with commas, for instance, you could use the FIND command to highlight each comma in your paper.  This won't tell you if it's correct or not, but it will assure that you have taken a look at each one and made your decision on whether that comma is necessary. If you often find yourself using the plural "have" when you meant to use "has," use the FIND command to highlight every place you used HAVE, so that you can see if you did it correctly.  Figure out where you most often have difficulties and see if you  can use the FIND command to help you locate and assess each type.

  9. And now a word about GRAMMAR CHECK.  Use it if you must, but be aware that the computer will only find a small percentage of the grammar errors you might have made. It can be a help but it is very definitely not a complete solution.  Remember too that often a grammar check will mark an area as incorrect even though there is absolutely nothing wrong with it, so trust yourself.  Don't change something just because the

  10. Finally, the SPELL CHECK!  This should be the last thing you do before submitting your paper. Never, ever submit a paper that has not been spellchecked.