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How to Proofread an Essay Paper Professionally

how to revise an essay in college: : 18 great proofreading tips

September 7, 2018

Undoubtedly, apart from having excellent writing skills, you need to know how to proofread your own essay. If you are one of those, who do not know how to proofread an essay paper professionally, keep reading our handout and you will learn many effective secrets that will significantly facilitate getting the exemplary grades. First and foremost, you need to understand that essay editing and proofreading are the important stages of the writing process that should not be underestimated. Both these stages help the writer to notice and fix the misspelled words, typos, grammatical and punctuation errors, as well as check if the paper is unique and free from plagiarism. Undoubtedly, by understanding how to proofread a paper, you will be able to get the highest grades for your writing.

Is Editing and Proofreading the Same?

  • Actually, no. Although many students often confuse these processes, editing and proofreading are two different stages. Noteworthy, both of them require close reading, but they focus on completely different issues.
    The Secrets that Apply to Both Proofreading and Editing

    When the paper is written, have some rest. We assure you that it is difficult to find the mistakes right after the writing process. If you want to be maximally focused and concentrated, you need to wait for at least a day, of course, if you have such an opportunity. Go somewhere, meet with your friends, watch an interesting movie, etc. In other words, do something that will help you relax and forget about the paper.

  • Change the visual representation of your document. Paradoxically, but changing its form, you will be able to look at the paper with fresh eyes. By changing the color, font, or style, you will see the unfamiliar document that will be easy to proofread.
  • Find a calm place for work. If you can write with the music on, go ahead. However, we assure you that being under the influence of some distractors, you won`t be able to find all your mistakes.


The editing stage implies making the changes in the rough draft. You need to read the paper and check whether it is well-organized. Also, you need to check whether there are transition words that make the writing smoother. Editing usually covers several levels: overall structure, content, style, clarity, citations, etc. As such, when editing your paper, you need to check whether it follows the prompt, whether each argument is supported with sound evidence, and whether all information used in the paper is accurate and relevant. Also, in the editing stage, the writer should check if the paper follows the classic structure with the introduction, main body paragraphs, and a conclusion. If you need to edit your paper, you have to make sure you use the appropriate tone (informative, persuasive, argumentative). When checking the wording, pay attention if all the words used are clear and understandable to your reader. If there are some terms that may be unknown, you have to explain them. Keep in mind that each quote should be cited properly in accordance with the referencing style required. All in all, if you want to get a positive grade, you have to take care of every detail.


Proofreading is the very last stage of the writing process. It mainly focuses on misspelled words, grammatical mistakes, and incorrect punctuation. As such, proofreading can be done only after proper editing. Many students commit the same mistake dedicating only a few minutes to proofreading. However, in order to get a satisfactory mark, you need to understand how to proofread effectively. Having a quick look at the paper, you will miss many important points. Sure, proper proofreading takes much time, but we assure you that it is worth all the efforts. One important point that should be taken into serious consideration: although there are many online checkers, do not rely on them too much. Of course, they may point to some obvious mistakes but only thorough manual proofreading will bring you a satisfactory result. When proofreading your paper, you need to read it very slow paying attention to every word and every comma. Also, we recommend you to separate the text into several parts and proofread them separately. Reading out loud, you will be more focused. If you want to learn how to proofread professionally, there are many manuals available online. Read them carefully and improve your skills!

How to Proofread an Essay: Where to Start

  • Wait a bit. You might be tempted to start your paper proofreading the instant you finish your work, but you should refrain for a while since you want to tackle this task with a fresh set of eyes. The best way to proofread an essay is to first wait a day or two. But if you are short on time, a couple of hours will suffice.
  • Make good use of your printer. Trying to proofread your paper from a computer screen is not the best technique. Use a pen and jot down the changes on a paper copy.
  • Know what to look for. As students proofread their essays, it is often difficult to know exactly what they need to be correcting. Ask your professor for a list of common mistakes that students make in their papers.

Good Proofreading Techniques

  • Slow down. This is not a “how to quickly proofread an essay” contest. You will overlook important mistakes if you rush it. Take your time and carefully read the paper.
  • Read your essay out loud. What looks perfectly fine on paper can suddenly sound weird when the words are spoken. You might come across awkward transitions, sentences that come across as cluttered, and structural problems. There are three ways you can achieve this:
    1. Read it out loud to yourself. This is a good way to catch the little mistakes you might otherwise not notice.
    2. Read out loud to a friend and ask them for feedback.
    3. Ask your friend to read it out loud while you listen.
  • MS Word’s search in the document function allows you to find mistakes.
  • Read the paper in reverse. If you read it from start to finish, you might only concentrate on the message of the paper as a whole rather than the individual mistakes found in the sentences.
  • Put yourself in the mind of the audience. This allows you to see the essay in the same way as they might.

Final Step

  • Now that you know how to proofread an essay paper, the last thing to do is to ask a friend to read it after you have corrected whatever mistakes you have caught. A second reader might be able to find even more.

What to look out for when proofreading:

Here are some of the most common mistakes that students make when writing an essay:

  • Sentence issues (fragments, run-ons, comma splices)
  • Punctuation (used incorrectly, missing, misplaced)
  • Using its vs it’s; there instead of their
  • Spelling errors
  • Typos
  • Transposing letters (from vs. form)
  • Confusing similar-sounding words (affect vs. effect, then vs. than)
  • Using capital letters when you should not (and vice versa)

Although you might be inclined to just finish writing your paper and be done with it, knowing how to edit an essay is an extremely useful skill that can help you become a great writer.

We do hope that our handout was useful for you in terms of understanding how to proofread an essay. We assure you that dedicating enough time to both editing and proofreading stages, you will be able to get the best grades. No doubt, knowing how to proofread papers, you will impress your professor by the professional attitude to work.