Proofreading is one part of the writing process. Typically, proofreading occurs after the writer has written several drafts and made revisions regarding organization, clarity, and coherence. Keep in mind that even professional proofreaders review a paper more than once, focusing on different aspects of the paper each time.
Here are some strategies to help students succeed in proofreading their own papers:
- Switch the point of view from writer to reader.
Students who read the paper as if someone else wrote it may be able to find areas that need further explanation. Setting the paper aside for a couple days and then reading it can help a writer accomplish this.
- Read the paper aloud and listen to it carefully as it’s read.
When reading aloud, students are forced to read what is written rather than what was intended to be written. Students often insert words that are not there. As a result, it is best to do this with a friend. A friend can read the paper aloud, or writerscan read their papers to a friend as he/she reads along.
- Concentrate on one aspect of the paper at a time.
If students often shift the tense, they should look for that and nothing else when they read their own paper the first time. Then they might read the paper again and look for another error that troubles them. If writers are checking subject-verb agreement, they may want to circle the subject and draw an arrow to the verb. In order to check organization, writers may want to try to make an outline from their paper. Good students ask themselves: “What is the purpose of this paragraph?” “Who is my audience?” “What is the main point of my paper?”
- Take the sentences out of context.
If writers read the last sentence of their paper first, the sentence above it, etc., it is easier for them to focus on problems in their own sentences rather than focusing on the overall content of the paper.(Remember: Proofreading comes AFTER reading for content.) This technique is especially useful for students who struggle with comma splices and fragments. A good way to do this is to break the paragraphs into numbered sentences (on the computer) to make it easier.
People at publishing houses say that more errors are found on a printed page than on a computer screen. So print the paper out for proofreading.
- Keep a list of errors.
Turn a weakness into a strength by keeping a list of the mistakes made frequently. Look these up in a Writer’s Reference or visit a tutor in the Writing Center for further explanation.