For many writers, proofreading may not be the most exciting part of the creative process. However, it’s vital to make sure your copy is error-free and that you’ve expressed yourself clearly. With the right approach, you can make sure proofreading is easy and effective.
One of the best ways to proofread is to look over what you’ve written with fresh eyes. Of course, the ideal is to have someone else look at your copy, as the brain tends to skip over its own mistakes when re-reading. With important documents like resumes and job applications, finding a competent friend that can give it a once-over is ideal. You can even agree to be each other’s proofreading buddies so you can both depend on having someone to help out.
Failing that, or if you write professionally and need to get your work out with some regularity, you’ll need to trick your brain. Finding ways to read your writing with fresh eyes is key here, and waiting a while before proofreading is a great method.
Give yourself enough time before deadlines to leave your work for a day or so before checking it, which lets your brain disconnect from your writing.
Another good trick, especially if you’re in a hurry, is to change the format your words are on when proofreading. If practical, transplanting your words from the screen to a physical page by printing it out is a good method. This also gives your eyes and fingers a rest and lets you make edits with a pen.
You can also copy and paste your work into a different word processor or even just Notepad. It may sound silly, but changing the actual environment of your writing helps your brain disassociate it from the original source. This means you’ll catch more errors.
Develop a System
This doesn’t need to be complicated, but finding a process that works for you is key to proper proofreading. You could start by just eliminating or editing mistakes on the first read-through. Then, you can go into the heavier editing. If you’re following a specific brief or essay question, carefully read through it again. Consider if you’ve included everything you need to, so you can add or delete passages as appropriate. If you’re fond of writing essays online, consider using a program like Grammarly, Hemingway Editor or Draft to make sure your essays are up to par.
When spellchecking, take note of any repeated errors (e.g. awkward grammar) and keep an eye out for examples the computer may have missed. Also, always remember to spellcheck again when you’ve finished to catch any new typos you may have made. Many people find that reading out loud helps them spot awkward wording and other mistakes. It’s easier to notice errors when speaking than just reading.
This is particularly important for speeches, but is a good method for any type of writing, particularly if you find it difficult to use punctuation correctly. By reading aloud, you’ll identify where natural breaks should occur.
Proofreading could perhaps be likened to quality checking a computer program. You may have written the finest essay prose in existence, but if you don’t catch mistakes before sending your work, things may not go as you’d hoped. Creating a system for proofreading and implementing techniques to catch mistakes means you can make the very best of your writing every time.
When you’re writing your essays, remember that time spent on proofreading and grammatically checking your content is well worth the extra time it takes. Preparation for your essay is key, but putting the final touches on your work is often what separates average essays from those that go above and beyond in their effectiveness.