Helpful Proofreading Tips

by Jacqueline Kavana

Proofreading an important text, whether it’s an assignment or a business email, can be stressful and challenging. Sometimes the spellcheck button is not enough and can miss many common errors in text, such as misused or missing words. Because of this, it’s not a good idea to just click “submit” or send the text as soon as it’s done, just to feel relieved that your task is over. The following five tips are some strategies I find useful when proofreading my writing:

#1: Take a Break and then Re-Read Your Text Aloud

Sometimes it’s beneficial to step back and leave your text for a while in order to clear your mind and look back at the paper with a fresh perspective. Reading your text aloud will give you the chance to notice any errors in your writing that you may not have noticed when you silently read your essay to yourself. Re-reading the text thoroughly will help you put more thought into what will make your writing effective.

#2: Eliminate Distractions

As the majority of us know, it’s quite easy to get distracted. Cell phones, television, music, and even laptops can be distracting. In order to proofread your paper effectively, you need to give the piece your complete, undivided attention by focusing on your writing in a quiet setting, where others will not distract you. Proofreading a hard copy of your piece, as in, printing it out, can also help you to concentrate.

#3: Know Your Own Writing Weaknesses

This can usually be seen by looking back at the feedback and corrections made by your teachers or peers. If you notice a pattern, whether it is confusing past and present tense, missing commas, sentence fragment, or something else, you can begin to correct these mistakes before they happen. This self awareness will help you know where to focus your attention so you can learn to both correct and prevent these weak areas.This will help you improve your writing skills and make all of your pieces stronger. It is also helpful to make your own checklist of common errors that you know what you need to look out for and check off each as you thoroughly review the paper.(Checkout this complete proofreading checklist to get you started.)

#4: Read it Backwards

This tip may seem a bit crazy, but it gets you to look at your piece from a new perspective. When you read your piece backwards, you start with the last sentence in your essay and then read your way up the paper in a reversed order. While focusing on the individual sentences, you are paying attention to the word choice and sentence structure that you’ve chosen. Reading sentence by sentence this way will help you determine if your sentence structure is correct, and if the message you intended your audience to read is articulate. I recommend that you use this strategy after you’ve already read your piece from beginning to end.

#5: Get Someone to Read it Aloud to You

Feedback is crucial for improving your writing and developing your writing skills. A fresh set of eyes can point out things that you may not have noticed before in your writing. This can also be helpful when this person has an understanding of your topic, and can help build on your understanding or demonstration on the discussion. Alternatively, having a reader who knows nothing of the topic can help you by pointing out places in your writing that are confusing to an “outsider” or topics that may need to be more elaborated.

These tips on proofreading can not only help you to write effective pieces of writing, but can also help improve your skills as a writer. Before you are satisfied with only the spellcheck button, try these tips and see what a difference they can make in your text and skills as a writer and proofreader. For more proofreading strategies, click here.

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