So you’ve just added the final period at the end of your English 101 essay. You might think that with that, you’ve finished the whole project. But not so fast! There’s still the business of proofreading and editing to take care of.
Proofreading is an essential part of the essay writing and editing process. Specifically, it’s the act of going through your paper from beginning to end to pinpoint any pesky grammatical, syntactical, or spelling errors that could affect your final mark. Proofreading is not so much about the content of your paper (the actual subject matter and organization of your thoughts) as it is about your use of language and the way your ideas are expressed to the reader.
So how do you go about it? Well, it’s actually a bit more complex than it sounds. Because the fact is when you have finished writing your essay you will likely be so tired of reading and rereading it that even the occasional basic error will pass you by. Here are few tips presented by Omnipapers that will help you.
Firstly, print out your essay. Looking at it on paper is a very different experience from staring at it on a computer screen. Your brain will compute the words differently, and turns of phrase which your eyes have become accustomed to will look fresh again.
Once you’ve got your essay in front of you, give it a quick scan. You might just find a few glaring errors which were not previously perceptible to the naked eye. Once you have given it the once-over, another approach is to start at the very end and work through it backward, word by word and line by line. It might seem counterintuitive, but it will help your brain to compartmentalize each individual word by isolating it from the context of a sentence. That way the actual composition is more apparent, and you’ll spot any typos.
And when it comes to spelling, is there a certain word that catches you out every single time? Start by singling that out in your essay and checking it very carefully each time it appears. The most commonly misspelled words are ones that include the same letter multiple times, so it’s a good idea to keep an eye out for these. Examples would be “tomorrow,” “supersede” and “tattoo.” But be extra wary of “their,” “there” and “they’re,” not to mention “your” and “you’re.”
Similarly, is there a grammatical practice that you have never quite got the hang of? Take the semi-colon for instance (“;”). We all know they look good in an essay, but do we really know what it’s for? If you misuse grammar, this can have a detrimental effect on your grade. Some teachers scan for this kind of stuff and are just waiting to mark you down for it. Maybe you could find a guide online, print it out, and keep it pinned above your desk. That way you’ll always remember to check for that particular feature whenever you set about proofreading your work.
Here are a few other key things to focus on in the proofreading process:
- First, step away from your work for a little while. Make sure that you have time to catch your breath and do something else before returning to your work with a fresh pair of eyes. It’s vital to take a little personal space to recharge your batteries. That way, when you come back to your essay you’re more likely to spot basic errors.
- Next, read the work out loud. You don’t need an audience- all you’re doing is listening out for any particularly jarring or awkward-sounding phrases. You’ll be amazed at what you will pick up when you are _listening _to your words as well as reading them.
- Get somebody else to read it for you. Not out loud this time- you just want them to scan it for errors. Some people are better attuned to certain _types _of errors, so the second pair of eyes can be doubly useful.
- Take a look at some of the written comments you have received about your previous work. Are there any repeated errors the marker has picked up on? This could be a handy checklist to use when you are proofreading.