One of the first things you should know about proofreading is that it’s different from editing, even though they share some similarities. Editing has more reliable benefits that exceed everything that traditional proofreading offers because proofreading doesn’t require any creativity. It’s simply about checking spellings, punctuation, and other missing details.
However, this doesn’t make it less important than editing or unnecessary for your essays. Proofreading is a step in essay writing that you cannot do without. Hence, you must understand this concept and know how to execute it. Another option is to outsource it to professionals like essay writing service, but you can’t do without it for your essay.
What proofreading does is point out superficial errors that you’re likely to overlook. While editing involves substituting synonyms, antonyms, homonyms, vocabulary, whole texts, paraphrasing, recasting sentences, or even rewriting a new text without changing the writer’s original idea. Editing can be creative; proofreading is not. Proofreading is the last stage of creating your essay after you’ve edited it. This process focuses on surface errors like grammar and punctuation mistakes and misspellings.
How to Edit an Essay?
Why is proofreading important?
The content of your essay is important, but other things may affect how others judge the quality of your work. After doing the hard work of developing and presenting your ideas in an essay, too many little errors can distract your readers from the main point. They may no longer see your point but your errors at some point. Paying attention to details is important for making a good impression.
People often take a few minutes to proofread, hoping they’ll catch the glaring errors. However, this type of cursory reading often misses out on many details, especially when you’ve spent the last hours working on the same essay. The ideal thing is to have a definite plan for searching for specific types of errors.
Tips for proper proofreading
There are many tactics and tips that you can use to proofread your essay properly. You may already use some of them, but it’s good that you experiment with these tactics until you’re sure of the ones that work for you. Ensure a focused and systematic process so you can see all possible errors in the shortest possible time. Here are some good tips to follow:
- Read every word slowly: Read every word of your essay out loud and do it slowly. This allows you to hear how they sound together and identify possible errors. You’ll likely read the corrections unconsciously or skip some errors when you’re silent or too fast.
- Never rely solely on spelling checkers: Although it’s advisable to use these tools when you can, you must not solely rely on them because they’re not foolproof. The dictionary for this tool is sometimes limited, so it may highlight some correct words as misspelled because they don’t exist in its dictionary. Also, note that some misspellings from other valid words. This tool will not highlight such spellings. For instance, you can type “your” in place of “you’re” or “there” in place of “their,” and spelling checkers will fail to pick this error.
- Don’t trust grammar checkers too much: These tools also work with a couple of rules. This makes it limited and impossible to identify all the errors in your essay. Also, they often fail to explain why a sentence needs to be revised thoroughly. However, you can use this tool to identify passive voice when you use them too frequently or run-on sentences, but ensure you can evaluate its feedback.
- Break down the text into sentences: This technique allows you to read each sentence more carefully since you’re reading them as individual units. You can make each sentence into a new paragraph and read them separately. Look for spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors in each sentence. If you’re proofreading hard copy material, get an opaque material, like a ruler, to isolate each sentence or line you’re working on.
- Proofread for one error at a time: You might lose focus if you try to revise and identify many kinds of errors simultaneously. This will make your proofreading more effective. You’ll easily catch the grammar error in your essay if you’re solely focused on finding the grammar error, unlike if you’re proofreading for spelling, grammar and punctuation errors simultaneously. Taking it one at a time allows your brain to focus on what you’re working on, improving your efficiency. Also, some techniques are more effective for spotting a type of error than others.
- Read your essay backward: This is an effective technique when proofreading, specifically for spelling errors. Read from the last word of your paper to the first word. The lack of coherence in their sound makes it impossible to skip any word. This way, you’ll be able to focus more on the spelling of the words individually. To use this technique to check for grammar errors, read the sentence backward individually. This helps you avoid the distraction of flowing content and allows you to focus on the grammatical correctness of each sentence.
- Follow a systematic proofreading strategy: A systematic strategy makes you a more efficient proofreader. It allows you to identify areas of your writing that you must consider carefully. Knowing there’s an accurate system to find errors lets you focus on crafting your ideas as you write your draft.
- Concentration is key: It’s not bad to make mistakes, even when proofreading. But you don’t want to submit your essay full of errors, even though you spent so much time proofreading it. So, you need to concentrate on avoiding making mistakes. Keep away distracters like TV, gadgets, the internet, and so on from you.
- Be careful with homonyms: According to Collins dictionary, homonyms are part of a group of words with the same spelling or pronunciation but different meanings. The homonym mistake is common among students when writing their essays. So you need to be careful and pay attention to this when proofreading. Be careful about switching vocabularies, so it doesn’t bring catastrophic results.
- Circle all punctuation marks: Highlighting each punctuation with a circle causes you to assess them individually and ask questions to determine if they have the right placement and usage. Punctuations are important for academic writing. So you must watch the commas, apostrophes, quotation marks, colons and semicolons, etc., to be sure they’re used correctly.
- Follow the capitalization rules: Capitalization is very important in academic writing or professional proofreading. In this case, it goes beyond starting surnames and names with capital letters. You must know the capitalization rules and apply them when proofreading your essay. Ensure to learn these rules and use them appropriately.
- Verify the spellings for titles and names: You may have done this while checking each word, but remember that it’s best to take one error at a time. This time, verify the spellings strictly for names and titles. You may need to use Google to confirm the correct spellings of things like product names, company names, and titles. Verify them with a search. Don’t forget to verify the dates, days, and locations of events ( if applicable to your essay).
- Print the hard copy and read it out: This is one of the final steps in your proofreading process. Once you’re done with the steps and tactics already discussed in this article, endeavor to print the essay on paper. This may help you spot some errors you missed on the screen. Printing on paper also allows you to look at the essay through a different medium. It’s also easy to correct errors; all you need is to have your pen with you as you read. Moreover, ensure to read aloud as this allows you to find errors. If you read a sentence that doesn’t sound correct, you can always paraphrase it again.
- Read it again: You can never get tired of reading the same text if you’re proofreading. When you proofread on computers, you’re unlikely to see your mistake because your brain fixes the incorrect words mechanically in your mind. This is why you should print it on paper and read it again. Read it at least twice and be attentive to spot errors.
- Get someone else to proofread: When you’re done with your proofreading, you should get someone else to proofread the essay. Nothing like a fresh eye reading a paper for the first time. It’s easier to spot mistakes and errors in an essay you didn’t write. This will likely improve the result of your proofreading process and make your essay more brilliant. You can have your friend, colleague, family members, or fellow student read your essay and be your fresh pair of eyes. The number of mistakes that they may find will surprise you.
Proofreading is one of the most important steps in completing an essay. Although it has some similarities with editing, both are different. Proofreading plays a crucial role in the correctness and integrity of your essay.
Another thing you should know about proofreading is that it’s also a learning process for you. When proofreading, you’re not only looking for recognizable errors. You’re also looking for new errors that you can learn from. You may need to use dictionaries and handbooks for your proofreading. Keep those things you find helpful as they add to your knowledge base.
You’ll find some things that may not appear correct to you, but you can’t point out the problem as well. These are some obstacles you’ll encounter when you’re self-proofreading, but they shouldn’t stop you either. Whenever you come across something, you don’t know or aren’t sure about, ensure to look it up. It’s a new learning opportunity for you.