Proofreading is easily one of the most cumbersome stages of writing. Nobody wants to do it. Nobody likes it. It’s outright boring. Regardless of these feelings, it must be done. People make mistakes, their mind thinks quicker than their hands can type, they pause writing and start later. Whatever the cause of mistakes, there is almost always at least one way a paper can benefit from proofreading.
During proofreading, you can fix grammar mistakes, improve clarity, realize a different organization might work better, and notice logical or citation mistakes. The purpose of proofreading would suggest that this is a process best done at the end of writing but before you turn in the paper. You don’t want to turn in a paper and realize that you made a bunch of mistakes that your professor marked, such as a run-on sentence that comprises an entire paragraph, and then realize that your grade dropped because of your silly mistakes that could have easily been avoided by taking the time to proofread your paper and then you would wish you took the time to fix these mistakes so your paper was the very best that you could do because you are a student who is fully capable of producing excellent pieces of work.
Proofreading is not something to be rushed. I get it – the last thing you want to do after writing a paper all night is to spend more time looking at it to find where you could make improvements. You’re over the paper and don’t even want to look at it again until your professor hands it back to you. You may think it’s as simple as running spell check and printing it. Remember, though, that there is much more to accomplish through thorough proofreading than fixing grammar mistakes. Set aside a good amount of time for proofreading and your patience will be rewarded. This may mean that you need to finish your paper more than an hour before you turn it in, but in doing this you have a reason to reward yourself.
So, a few tips on how to proofread would be helpful. Each person has different strategies, so some might work for you and others might not.
The first tip is to read your paper backwards.
What?! Are you crazy! Well yes, I am, but this is a trick that works. When you read your paper forward, your mind is trained to read right over what you wrote, expecting everything to be in its place. By reading from the end to the beginning, you focus more on your word choice and sentence structure. This is a good strategy to identify grammatical problems, especially the ones that spell check does not recognize.
Another tip is to separate yourself from your work.
What I mean is to write your paper and then walk away from it. Take this time to relax and do something you enjoy. Go play with your dog, Pundit, who is an absolute angel. Watch a movie. Do whatever you want. But whether you step away for an hour or a few days, you will notice that it is easier to read through your paper and identify areas to work on. The more time spent away, the better this works because you let your mind get away from the stresses and ideas that produced the original work. You enter the paper with a fresh mind and new perspective after having more time to process your ideas.
The Learning Hub has a handout on editing and proofreading (see below) that covers these strategies as well as others. It is a great resource if you want to improve your proofreading skills. Also helpful are our other handouts on topics ranging from grammar to citations. If you find yourself looking to reaffirm your knowledge or learn new skills, these handouts are amazing resources. The Hub is also giving a workshop later this semester on editing, revising, and writer’s block that will be taking place April 16th and 17th.
Hopefully you’ve broken your bad writing habits this month! Stay tuned for a post tomorrow kicking off our March theme. Hint: it’s gonna be MADNESS!