Proofreading Hints

What is proofreading? Proofreading is a specific kind of reading used to check for mistakes such as misspellings, omitted words, typos, and punctuation errors. Proofreading can be time-consuming, but it is important because it shows your readers that you care about and respect your writing.

Do

  • Do take a break. Give yourself some distance from your paper before you start to proofread.
  • Do make sure that you have followed the directions for the assignment. You don't want to be halfway into the proofreading process and realize that your paper did not follow the assignment guidelines.
  • Do read closely, but try not to read for meaning, which will distract you from your purpose. Use a piece of paper as a “cover” and go line by line if necessary.
  • Do remember your weaknesses. It is important to pay attention to your weak areas so that you can catch these mistakes in the proofreading process.
  • Do pay attention to the mistakes you made. Learning from your mistakes helps you improve on later assignments.
  • Do be patient. Once you find a way of proofreading that works for you, it will get easier!

Don't

  • Don't proofread as you write. Write first; do not worry about misspelled words or grammatical errors until the revision stage. Get your ideas down first. Ideas are the foundation for your paper.
  • Don't proofread in a noisy place or in front of the TV. You are bound to miss something if you do.
  • Don't rely mainly on the spell and grammar check that comes with your word-processing program. There are too many circumstances in which spell/grammar checkers miss mistakes or even give incorrect revision suggestions.

Proofreading Steps

  1. Print a copy of your paper. For most people, it is easier to catch mistakes on paper than it is on a computer screen.
  2. Read out loud. This way you can hear your own mistakes.
  3. Make a list of the things you need to check for. This will help keep you organized and allow you to avoid redundancy.
  4. Read each line backwards. This will help you catch obvious spelling and grammatical errors.
  5. Find someone (friend, roommate, or classmate) who will read your paper and give you balanced feedback.

Some Additional Proofreading Techniques

  • Know — and work to correct — your own “favorite” weaknesses.
  • Role-play. This is fun, and you can do it with friends. Split roles and read out loud. For example: Have one person be the main idea in each paragraph and have another person be the details. If a third person is available, have him or her be the introduction and conclusion. This will help you understand if your ideas fit together, and you will have multiple perspectives to help you adjust if something is out of place.
  • Make a “hierarchy chart” so that organization or paragraphs, thesis, main ideas, and details fall into place.
  • Read for each specific type of error one at a time. This may sound time-consuming, but once you teach yourself how to read for one error at a time, you will be amazed at how quickly you can go through your paper.

Proofreading Checklist

All writers have their own strengths and weaknesses. Try to develop a proofreading checklist based on your own repeated errors. Below are some suggestions of what to look for.

  • Subject/verb agreement
  • Tense agreement
  • Pronoun and reference clarity (making sure that pronouns and the nouns that they reference are clear)
  • Spelling errors & typos
  • Punctuation errors (extra or missing commas, incorrect use of semi-colons, etc.)
  • Sentence fragments and run-on sentences
  • Articles & prepositions

Azizat Danmole, Writing Coach, 2005