General Proofreading Tips

By Jonathan Vivet

What a ride! After writing a draft and finally feeling comfortable with the content, you’ve decided to give your paper one last look through. Regardless of whether it’s the third draft of piece you’ve poured weeks into, or an essay due relatively soon that you’ve been procrastinating on, proofreading any type of writing is monumentally important. Proofreading can seem extremely tedious, but nothing deters a confident and professional tone more than consistent little mistakes, so here are some strategies to help you along the proofing process.

Take a Break

We haven’t even started proofreading yet and we’re already taking a break? If you’ve just finished the drafting stage of a lengthy piece, taking a short break is one of the most beneficial things you can do before you proofread. Eat a snack, take a nap, or even binge watch an episode of your favorite show on Netflix (but let’s stick just one episode). Make sure you plan this step into the writing process beforehand. Taking a break will give you that extra energy boost when you come back to sift through your piece with a fine-tooth comb, finding every tiny detail. Being aware and attentive is imperative to effective proofreading and if you don’t feel up to the task yet, putting off proofreading for a few minutes might be just what you need.

Identify Common Mistakes

Do you use too many commas? Maybe you’re a habitual run-on sentence writer. Regardless of the mistakes, it’s important to be aware of common mistakes you make within your own writing. On a first proofreading session look specifically for these details. It’s likely that these mistakes will make up a majority of the proofing problems you find in your piece. Addressing these common mistakes on their own separate proofreading session will help solve the bulk of the issues efficiently.

Read Out Loud

Often when reading silently, a missed word or awkwardly phrased sentence can go unnoticed. Reading out loud forces you to hit every single word, making it much easier to find small mistakes.  It also helps you get into the shoes of your audience, putting into perspective the word choice, transitions, and sentence variety used throughout your work.  Using a read-aloud strategy in proofreading is great to work on the overall clarity of a piece. If a word or sentence seems uncomfortable to read aloud, chances are your audience feels the same way.

Find a Friend

By the time you get to this part of the writing process you generally know what you are trying to say, but your audience might not. Getting another set of eyes on your paper allows you to see how a different reader understands your work. Word choice that sounds perfectly fine to you might not fit as well for the audience you are trying to write for. Finding someone else to help you proofread helps you find errors you may of glazed over and recurring sentence structure or wording that may get distracting to your audience. Proofreading can be admittedly dry; looking at material you’ve already written and read multiple times can seem boring, so having a partner to check if you’ve missed any kinks in your piece can be just the boost needed to keep you on track.

Regardless of whether you’re writing a blog post, email, literature review, lab report, or a scientific journal article, a proofreading session helps put the finishing touches on a piece. Small repetitive mistakes can distract a reader, detracting from any overall point trying to be made. Easily solved proofreading mistakes can make your paper come off as unprofessional and rushed. In the grand scheme of the writing process, proofreading is a small, often overlooked step towards completing your paper. Taking that extra time counts.

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