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How to Proofread a Paper

Proofreading is the last step of the editing process with any paper you’re assigned to write. When editing is completed and your paper appears perfectly formatted, it’s necessary to go over the document once again to catch any leftover or “hidden” grammar mistakes, punctuation errors, spelling errors, or typos.

The credibility of facts and supporting examples you use in the paper are important, but so is the appearance and precision of the text. If your paper doesn’t look or sound good, you’ll lose points, no matter how solid your research and facts. It’s tragic to lose points on simple errors that you could easily have prevented.

We hope you’ve read our other “How to…” guides, where we talk about the importance of scheduling. You need to dedicate time for rest between the writing, editing and proofreading stages. Proofreading is more effective when you have time to “forget” about the text for a while before you begin. This technique works well even with one or two-page paper. You need to look at any document with fresh eyes when proofreading, so shifting your focus to something else is often very helpful.

Proofreading Tips

There are some great spelling and grammar checkers, but you can’t rely on them. As technologically advanced as they may be, they’re not human. Here are some tips that can make you high school, college or university paper flow.

  • Check your work sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph. This makes it harder to miss anything. Sometimes writers mistype commas and full stops, and that’s a glaring mistake if you miss it.
  • Open a good source with grammar and punctuation rules before you start proofreading and leave it open until you’re done. If you practice following the rules, it will be easier to use them later by memory.
  • Mind the sentence structure, especially if English isn’t your first language. Sentences should sound natural to the language in which they’re written; otherwise, the text will be hard to follow.
  • Try proofreading backwards: sentence by sentence. This technique will help you stay more focused on the text, rather than on the meaning. Or, read the text backward: word by word to check spelling only.
  • Make a checklist of the types of errors you’ll look for and check one type at a time. Checklists are very satisfying to tick off.
  • Make sure there are no super-long sentences. Shorter sentences are easier to read and understand. If you split some sentences, make sure there are no missed words or spare words and be sure of your punctuation.

The more you practice proofreading with every paper you write, the easier it will be later. It’s a routine task, and to be more successful with your studies, you need to make it a habit. That way, you’ll have more time to focus on research and writing.

Other Advice on Proofreading

Proofreading can be a part of editing or a separate process, but never skip this stage. Even if you’re writing for a math or chemistry lab, check every piece of text you encounter, including titles, subtitles, table names and reference lists. Pay extra attention to paraphrased parts, as they often contain the most mistakes.

If you’re proofreading a Master’s thesis, dissertation, or any other prominent work, and you want to be absolutely sure of its correctness, hire some help. You can order a proofreading service and get a second opinion on your paper. It’s like a trial run with your teacher or supervisor, but when you actually hand in your paper, it will be a flawless piece of writing.

Re-read the whole paper after you’ve finished proofreading. What if you changed the flow of the paper with your needed changes? If it’s a graduate work, don’t be lazy with the final touches. And don’t forget to check your paper for plagiarism!

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