Proofreading: The Final Step
When proofreading, you examine the surface features of your text, such as spelling, grammar, usage, and punctuation. You also make sure you use the proper format when creating your finished assignment, including in-text citations and the Works Cited (bibliography) page.
Proofreading often takes time. Budgeting time into the writing process allows you to complete additional edits after revising. Editing and proofreading your writing helps you create a finished work that represents your best efforts. Here are a few more tips to remember about your readers:
- Readers do not notice correct spelling, but they do notice misspellings.
- Readers look past your sentences to get to your ideas—unless the sentences are awkward, poorly constructed, and frustrating to read.
- Readers notice when every sentence has the same rhythm as every other sentence, with no variety.
- Readers do not cheer when you use there, their, and they’re correctly, but they notice when you do not.
- Readers will notice the care with which you handled your assignment and your attention to detail in the delivery of an error-free document..
How to Proofread Tutorial: 10 Proofreading Techniques They Didn't Teach You in School. Authored by: David Taylor. License: All Rights Reserved. License Terms: Standard YouTube license.
The Importance of Spelling
Word-processing programs usually have a spell-checker, but you should still carefully check for misspellings in your words. This is because automatic spell-checkers may not always understand the context of a word, so if a word you used is actually another valid word, a spell-check program won't mark the word as a misspelling.
Misspelling a word might seem like a minor mistake, but it can reflect very poorly on a writer. It suggests one of two things: either the writer does not care enough about his work to proofread it, or he does not know his topic well enough to properly spell words related to it. Either way, spelling errors will make a reader less likely to trust a writer’s authority.
The best way to ensure that a paper has no spelling errors is to look for them during the proofreading stage of the writing process. Being familiar with the most common errors will help you find (and fix) them during the writing and proofreading stage.
Sometimes a writer just doesn’t know how to spell the word she wants to use. This may be because the word is technical jargon or comes from a language other than her own. Other times, it may be a proper name that she has not encountered before. Anytime you want to use a word but are unsure of how to spell it, do not guess. Instead, check a dictionary or other reference work to find its proper spelling.
Common Spelling Errors
Phonetics is a field that studies the sounds of a language. However, English phonetics can be tricky: In English, the pronunciation of a word does not always relate to the way it is spelled. This can make spelling a challenge. Here are some common phonetic irregularities:
- A word can sound like it could be spelled multiple ways. For example: “concede” and “conceed” are the same phonetically, but only “concede” is the proper spelling.
- A word has silent letters that the writer may forget to include. T the “a” in “realize" is barely audible, but you need it to spell the word correctly.
- A word has double letters that the writer may forget to include. “Accommodate,” for example, is frequently misspelled as “acommodate” or “accomodate.”
- The writer may use double letters when they are not needed. The word “amend” has only one “m,” but it is commonly misspelled with two.
Sometimes, words just aren’t spelled the way they sound. “Right,” for example, does not resemble its phonetic spelling whatsoever. Try to become familiar with words that have unusual or non-phonetic spellings so you can be on the lookout for them in your writing. But again, the best way to avoid these misspellings is to consult a dictionary whenever you’re unsure of the correct spelling. Another thing to do is to keep a list for yourself of the words you know you have trouble with. Look for those words in particular when you proofread.
“Bread” and “bred” sound the same but are spelled differently, and they mean completely different things. Two words with different meanings but the same pronunciation are called homophones. If you don’t know which homophone is the right one to use, look both up in the dictionary to see which meaning (and spelling) you want. Common homophones include:
- right, rite, wright, and write
- read (most tenses of the verb) and reed
- read (past, past participle) and red
- rose (flower) and rose (past tense of rise)
- carat, caret, and carrot
- to, two, and too
- there, their, and they’re
- its and it’s
Some spelling errors are caused by the writer accidentally typing the wrong thing. Common typos include:
- Omitting letters from a word (typing “brthday” instead of “birthday,” for example)
- Adding extra letters (typing “birthdayy”)
- Transposing two letters in a word (typing “brithday”)
- Spacing words improperly (such as “myb irthday” instead of “my birthday”)
Being aware of these common mistakes when writing will help you avoid spelling errors.The Grammar section of this book offers a useful review of grammar, mechanics, and usage. Use it to help eliminate major errors in your writing and refine your understanding of the conventions of language. Do not hesitate to ask for help, too, from peer tutors in your academic department or in the college’s writing lab. In the meantime, use this checklist to help you edit your writing.
Proofreading Your Writing
- Are some sentences actually sentence fragments?
- Are some sentences run-on sentences? How can I correct them?
- Do some sentences need conjunctions between independent clauses?
- Does every verb agree with its subject?
- Is every verb in the correct tense?
- Are tense forms, especially for irregular verbs, written correctly?
- Have I used subject, object, and possessive personal pronouns correctly?
- Have I used who and whom correctly?
- Is the antecedent of every pronoun clear?
- Do all personal pronouns agree with their antecedents?
- Have I used the correct comparative and superlative forms of adjectives and adverbs?
- Is it clear which word a participial phrase modifies, or is it a dangling modifier?
- Are all my sentences simple sentences, or do I vary my sentence structure?
- Have I chosen the best coordinating or subordinating conjunctions to join clauses?
- Have I created long, overpacked sentences that should be shortened for clarity?
- Do I see any mistakes in parallel structure?
- Does every sentence end with the correct end punctuation?
- Can I justify the use of every exclamation point?
- Have I used apostrophes correctly to write all singular and plural possessive forms?
- Have I used quotation marks correctly?
- Have I used commas correctly when joining sentence parts together?
- Have I used commas where periods should be?
Mechanics and Usage
- Can I find any spelling errors? How can I correct them?
- Have I used capital letters where they are needed and not capitalized where it's not needed?
- Have I written abbreviations, where allowed, correctly?
- Can I find any errors in the use of commonly confused words, such as to/too/two?
- Be careful about relying too much on spelling checkers and grammar checkers. A spelling checker cannot recognize that you meant to write principle but wrote principal instead. A grammar checker often queries constructions that are perfectly correct. The program does not understand your meaning; it makes its check against a general set of formulas that might not apply in each instance. If you use a grammar checker, accept the suggestions that make sense, but consider why the suggestions came up.
- Proofreading requires patience; it is very easy to read past a mistake. Set your paper aside for at least a few hours, if not a day or more, so your mind will rest. Some professional proofreaders read a text backward, sentence by sentence, so they can concentrate on spelling and punctuation. Another helpful technique is to slowly read a paper aloud, paying attention to every word, letter, and punctuation mark.
If you need additional proofreading help, ask a reliable friend, a classmate, or a peer tutor to make a final pass on your paper to look for anything you missed.
How Can Technology Help?
You don’t necessarily need to recruit a friend to read to you. There are a number of text-to-speech software applications and web-based services that will help you get your computer, smartphone, tablet, or e-book reader to read your paper out loud to you. One advantage of this approach is that an automated reader will definitely not cover up any errors for you! You can also control where it starts and stops, speed it up or slow it down, and have it re-read the same paragraph as many times as you want.
If you decide to experiment with this approach, there are many free text readers available. MS Word has a text-to-speech feature built in. Recent Android and iOS phones also have text-to-speech capabilities, which you can find under accessibility settings. You may also find text-to-speech software among your Windows or Mac computer’s accessibility features.
If you decide you want to acquire specialized software, “text to speech,” “TTS,” and “text reader” are search terms that can help you find what is available.
Here are some differences to keep in mind as you choose the best reader for you:
- Voice quality and selection: how many voices can you choose from, and how natural do they sound?
- Controls: can you determine the speed and pitch of the speaker, where the reading starts and stops, etc.? Is there a pause button?
- Applicability: can you convert your text file into an audio file, download it, and listen to it on your phone or music player?
- Text handling: does the software highlight each word as it is read (which may be especially helpful for non-native English speakers and students with with learning differences)? Do you need to copy text and paste it into a new window, or can the program work directly within an application (like Word or Powerpoint), or does it just read the text on your screen?
- Speed: how many pages of text or words can be converted to voice at once? How quickly does the conversion happen?
- Type of program: do you need an active internet connection to use the program, or can you run it without internet access once it has been installed?
While synthetic voices continue to improve, they will likely not sound completely natural to you. But you may find that if you choose a favorite voice, you can get used to its intonation and pacing over time.
The following video features two student tutors from the Writing and Reading Center at Fresno City College. In addition to great guidance about proofreading strategies, they also offer insights about what to expect when working with Writing Center tutors.
Proofreading Tip #5: Read Your Papers Aloud BACKWARDS. Authored by: FCC Tutors. License: All Rights Reserved. License Terms: Standard YouTube license.