Writers Proofreading Essays Would Look For

While revision occurs throughout the writing process and involves such tasks as rethinking, overall structure, focus, thesis and support, editing and proofreading assume that the writer is working on the final draft and is in the process of making the paper “correct.“Correct” punctuation, grammar, spelling, sentence structure, style, and word choice are important to the reader because they drastically affect perceptions of the writer’s authority and credibility.

In general, effective editing and proofreading require that you reread your writing carefully, that you play the role of reader rather than writer, and that you use strategies to help you slow down and examine your writing.This handout presents strategies for both editing and proofreading.


Editing is the process writers use to catch errors typical to their own writing.Because editing focuses on problems that are particular to an individual writer – and that occur again and again – effective editing requires that you know the types of errors you typically make and that you have specific strategies for finding those errors.

  1. Read the paper aloud as if you are reading a story.Listen for errors.If you listen carefully, you will be able to correct any errors that you hear.Listen for incomplete phrases, sentences and ideas, as well as things that “sound funny.”
    • Stop and change anything you wish as soon as you see it – punctuation, spelling, and sentence structure.Move through the paper at a reasonable rate.
    • Read the entire paper.Listen for spots that aren’t readable, that feel or sound awkward, or that don’t seem clear.Mark these spots.Then, when you’re done reading the whole paper, go back to fix them.
    • Allow yourself some time between writing your paper and editing.Ideally, wait a day; this allows the writing to “get cold,” giving you an opportunity to "see" the errors.If you can’t wait a day, go away and do something else for a while – work for another class, cleaning, eating – so that you can return to your work with a fresh mind and fresh eyes.
  1. Read one sentence at a time.
    • Using a sheet of clean paper, cover all the text except the first sentence.Read this sentence carefully.Does it sound and look correct?Does it say what you want it to say?Continue down the page in the same way.
  1. Look for patterns of error.
    • Personal patterns:All writers make mistakes that are typical of their writing.If you always forget commas, check for commas.If you always have trouble with transitions, look for transitions.If you work on wordiness, look for this.Bring your essays to the writing center!A tutor can help you to locate the patterns of error.
    • List:Keep a list of your “trouble spots.”Use this as a checklist and refer to it as you edit.

4.Know your grammar and punctuation rules – or know where to look them up.

·        Study the rules of grammar and punctuation.Review the ones you don’t know.If you have a writing handbook or handouts, keep them out when you write.Refer to them when you have questions as you write and edit.


Proofreading, the final stage, focuses on “random goofs.”The final draft has been corrected, but sometimes, because of computer error, fatigue, carelessness, or oversight, mistakes are still present.It is important to go through the paper one last time to catch these random goofs.

  1. Read the paper as a reader.
    • Read and enjoy your work.Sit back, and read the paper as if you were the teacher.What do you notice?
  1. Read one sentence/paragraph at a time.

·        Take a clean sheet of paper, and place it under the first sentence of your paper.Read this sentence carefully.Do you see any mistakes, typos, or careless omissions?

  1. Read backwards.

·        Start at the bottom of the page on the right side.Look at the words from right to left, check for spelling/typographical errors.

There are many different ways to proofread writing, and what works for one person may constitute a painful process for another. Regardless of the method you choose, proofreading is a critical part of the writing process and should never be overlooked. Here are 10 top methods for proofreading your written documents.

Don’t rely on spelling and grammar checkers.

Spell checkers are great as the first port of call and will be useful in assisting you to identify high-level errors. However, automated spelling and grammar checkers are severely limited and they cannot identify many common grammatical errors. Furthermore, they often make serious mistakes that can mislead even the most diligent writer. If you’re looking for evidence of this, you will benefit from checking out the following posts:


Proofread for one error at a time

Proofreading really is a meticulous and time-consuming process, but the more you put into it, the more you get out. If you attempt to identify and correct all errors within one sitting, you risk losing focus and you many find that you miss major mistakes. Sometimes it’s useful to check for spelling mistakes and punctuation errors separately. This will make it easier to spot issues and you can vary the proofreading technique you use on each pass to suit the type of mistakes you are searching for.

Read each word slowly

One technique that the majority of professional proofreaders use is to read the writing they are proofreading out loud. This forces you to voice every single word and involves your auditory senses in the process, meaning that you can hear how the text actually sounds when it is read. Trying to read something quickly forces your brain to skip some words and make unconscious corrections. If you don’t believe us, check out this post:

Proofreading mistakes

Break the text into manageable chunks

Breaking the text into separate sections provides you with more manageable tasks. Read each section carefully and then take a break before you progress to the next. This will prevent you from feeling overwhelmed by the task ahead and will allow you to concentrate more effectively on the section of writing that you are proofreading. This technique is especially useful if you are proofreading a very large document, such as a thesis or dissertation.

Circle punctuation marks

This method may seem over the top but it is one of the most effective methods out there for spotting punctuation mistakes. By circling every single punctuation mark, you force yourself to look at each one in turn and question if it really has been used correctly.

Read the writing backwards

This proofreading method is useful for identifying spelling mistakes because it forces you to concentrate on each word in isolation. Start with the last word in your text and follow each one separately until you reach the beginning of the document. While you are doing this, you are not really interested in punctuation and grammar; you are focusing entirely on how the words have been spelled. Many proofreaders also recommend reading papers backwards, sentence by sentence. This encourages you to consider each sentence in isolation out of the context of the rest of the writing and is great for helping you to identify grammatical errors.

Note the errors you make on a frequent basis

Proofreading writing on a regular basis can help you to identify your own strengths and weaknesses and understand where you make mistakes. If you are aware of the common errors you make, you can learn to look for them during the writing process itself and, over a period of time, will learn to avoid them altogether. Keep style guides and grammar rules to hand as you proofread, and look up any areas that you are uncertain about. Over time you will develop your knowledge and your writing skills will improve.

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