The question of how to proofread an essay properly is one that many students ask and indeed, before submitting any essay, it is essential to proofread it. Yet, revision and proofreading are frequently overlooked and even undervalued. This can lead to a poor grade or missing out on the grade a student was aiming for.
Every writer and student should always proofread their written work before they can consider it complete. Very few initial drafts are absolutely perfect regardless of how good a writer one is.
The real aim of proofreading a paper is to make sure that there are no spelling or grammar errors remaining. In an ideal situation, proofreading is done after a paper has been edited.
A big problem for many is that they do not know where to begin or how to go about the task. The following tips are designed to guide, teach, and help you master this art.
How to Go about Proofreading a Paper
If you listen to any professional college essay proofreader, you will hear them say proofreading is the key to improving an essay. So, when you are preparing papers for submission, do not overlook this very important step. Here are 18 great proofreading tips:
- Decide which media you want to use to proofread your essay
Essentially, you can choose between proofreading directly from your computer or from a printed draft. The rules about this are not rigid so it comes down to what is easiest and feels comfortable for you.
Another question that students ask is, “Where can I proofread my college essay?” Some people like quiet areas while others prefer areas where there is a crowd. Like the method, this is discretionary and depends on your preference.
- Remove yourself from the paper you have written
When the writing element is complete, it is a good idea for a writer to detach themselves for a little while from their written work – before they start to edit and proofread it. This is because a period of detachment will allow you to spot errors that you may well miss if you proofread a paper immediately upon completion. Allow at least a few hours and preferably an overnight gap before beginning.
- You could choose a professional proofreading and editing service
If you are not sure how to proofread a paper, you can save time and energy by employing a professional proofreading service to do the task, particularly if you are approaching finals. This option offers numerous benefits, not least that it provides that “fresh pair of eyes” needed for effective proofreading. It is easier for “outsiders” to pick out mistakes because they are detached from your work. In the event you cannot afford such services, it is possible to get your essays proofread for free online.
- Editing should be done before proofreading
A common error that a lot of students make is to proofread their work before editing it. This is not always very productive since you will still have to proofread any sentences and/or paragraphs you revise or edit.
- Proofread in part first and then the whole text
The process of trying to proofread and grammar check paper assignments can become overwhelming, particularly when checking long documents. To avoid panic, it is advisable to proofread your texts sentence-by-sentence. It is best not to hurry the task so the trick is to plan ahead to avoid last-minute rushing.
- Check your paper category by category
The point of proofreading is to check a text for punctuation, spelling, and grammar errors. If doing everything at the same time feels confusing, you could just check one element at each reading. When you have really mastered the art, doing everything at once will be easier, but like every other task, it is necessary to find a manageable starting point until your skills develop.
- Ask friends and/or family to help proofread your work
If you are not sure how to check or how to grade a paper, you should not feel ashamed to ask friends or members of your family to read your written work. They will also be approaching the work with “fresh” eyes. Indeed, they may suggest ways of improving your text so that it is as good as it possibly can be.
- Use online sources to check the rules
These days, even if you have to proofread an essay, the Internet offers everything you could want. If you have any doubts about anything related to spelling or grammar, you can check the rules on the Internet so that you do not make the same error(s) again. Just make sure that the sites you use are reliable and correct i.e. select sites you are familiar with and ones you know to be reputable.
- Choose only a few people to proofread a document
Although it is recommended you ask friends, family, and even a professional proofreading service to help, this is not to say that you should involve all of these parties. Choose only a few select people you trust because each person will have their own take on the rules, so things might get confusing.
- Make sure your college essays are stored securely
As well as it being important to proofread a paper, it is also essential to save them safely. In fact, you should save multiple copies, and/or print off file copies. Students have missed deadlines due to technical issues. As you type, exercise caution by saving documents frequently in case your computer crashes, dies, etc.
- Use your spell checker
While they may not know how to grade an essay or even be able to capture every mistake, the grammar and spell-checking feature in your word processing program is the first place to begin proofreading. Usually, these tools capture most grammar and spelling mistakes.
- Leave your written work to one side for 24 hours
Here is an important essay revision tip. Once the writing is complete, leave your essay to one side for a whole day if you can before proofreading it. The break should empty your mind and leave you better positioned to spot any mistakes when you return (Note: Even if you did not start writing your essay in sufficient time, this tip can still be useful. Instead of 24 hours, take a break of one or two hours before proofreading).
- Read your essay out loud
This trick really does work. It is even one that the most experienced and renowned writers set great stock by. Reading written work out loud helps to identify errors, to find out if any sentences sound awkward, to see if any sentences run on, etc. Or ask a friend, tutor, or member of your family to “rate my paper,” and to read your words out loud so that you can hear them.
- Read your text backwards
If you are looking for a good “review my college essay” strategy, you might have been taught this in English classes. Begin reading your essay from the end and work your way back to the start. This technique makes you attend more closely to each word and therefore means you will not skip over mistakes as readily as you would by reading from beginning to end.
- Read a printed copy
When it comes to tips on how to proofread effectively, you may find it easier to spot mistakes on a printed version rather than trying to follow text on a screen. Print out a copy, mark any changes on the printed copy, and then update your computer version.
- Find a quiet place for proofreading
The University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill) has a Writing Center and the tutors there recommend that students find a noise-free spot for proofreading. So, make sure your television is switched off, your phone is on silent (even turned off or placed in an entirely different room), and make sure there are no distracting elements around you.
- Cover all lines except those you are reading
As far as knowing how to proofread better is concerned, Writing Centers in general often recommend covering up all lines – except those you are reading – with a blank piece of paper. This method prevents you getting ahead of yourself and missing potential mistakes.
- Make sure you get college or university names right
If your essay includes a reference to any colleges or universities, double check that you get these names right. It often happens that students apply to several institutions, and it does not help for an admissions board to see you mixing up the name of their university with another!