Who wants to proofread? Perhaps, one of the most challenging parts of essay writing process is proofreading. Unfortunately, this step is surely something you would never want to skip.
You’re probably wondering why it’s very important.
Here’s why: proofreading can spell the difference between passing and failing your course. It allows you to refine your essay by weeding out grammatical errors and correcting spelling errors to further improve the output.
If your essay is laden with errors and is unable to effectively convey your ideas, chances are you would get a dismal grade. And that’s something you don’t want, right?
Good thing, you can make as many revisions on your first draft. Professional writers spend a lot of time revising their works before they actually publish it. That’s the beauty of writing – you can continuously refine it until it’s perfect.
Consider every essay project the same way. Once you have the first draft, spend time on re-writing, editing, and proofreading.
One critical element in proofreading is time. Rushing through the proofreading step is futile. You have to spend time on this essential step to come up with an A+ worthy paper.
So what steps should you take when proofreading?
Spell-check from end to start
Proofreading can be frustrating. Despite doing several re-checks and revisions, you can still find errors on your essay. When you proofread from top to bottom, the brain assumes context rather than minor details such as spelling. Moreover, since words are still fresh in your mind, it attempts to mentally ‘auto-correct’ errors thus increasing the risk of missing out on glaring spelling errors.
To avoid this problem, proofread your essay starting from the last word going back to the first. By checking each word one-by-one, the brain focuses on spelling rather than the context. This lets you catch spelling errors but not punctuation or grammar. It is a very effective way to refine spelling.
Quick scan your docs
With spelling thoroughly checked, you should do a quick scan of the document. Don’t dwell too much on anything specific with this scan. Just step back and scan through the document. Check through the form of the document any unusual detail will likely stick out, probably an error in spacing, margin, font size or overuse of punctuation marks.
Quick scan greatly helps detect formatting errors.
Proofing and editing are different
Let’s set things straight – proofreading and editing are not the same!
If you are making major changes to your draft, such as rewriting several sentences and paragraphs or reworking on theme of your essay, then you’re likely editing, not proofing. This step must be done before you even think of proofreading.
Always remember this tip: Never edit while you write and never edit while you proof. Each step should be given equal attention and never shortcut.
Don’t confine your style
While you may have been taught about the numerous grammar rules, the consensus is that they should be taken as a guideline rather than stern ‘rules.’ Unlike in the olden times, use of punctuation, formatting and capitalization should be based on your own style and to emphasize points. After all, it is the idea that you convey and how effectively you convey it that is important.
Major publications and most educational institutions will usually have their own recommended ‘style,’ to which you have to conform. Know about them and follow them.
Decide on which formatting style you want to use for your paper and be consistent. If you started with double space after each paragraph, stick to it. Inconsistencies can make your paper look disorderly and proofing will certainly take your time.
Manual spellchecking is irreplaceable
Spellchecking software is a boon to students. But while many programs are sophisticated and advanced, the English language is very much complicated; for example, most spellchecking programs can’t detect minute errors, such as homophones (its vs it’s.)
A helpful tip: Don’t entrust spell-checking with computers. The English vocabulary has tons of words just waiting to be misspelled.
You’ve probably encountered your word processor popping that red squiggle under a word even with correct spelling. Other times the green squiggle pops up supposedly for a grammar error. More often than not, the green squiggle is wrong.
A lot of students rely heavily on their word processor’s built-in spell- and grammar-checker for proofreading. Here’s a warning: don’t be fooled. Manual proofreading is still the best way to avoid errors.
Be aware of your problem words
Many of us encounter words that we consistently misuse or misspell. Be aware of these problems words and be sure to check your document for these usual pitfalls. In case you are unsure about a word, check it with your dictionary or look it up online.
There are a lot of online resources that you can use to learn about a word’s meaning, synonym, usage, spelling, origin, etc.
Students have a lot of things on hand. If you have no time to spare for proofing your work, then you seriously need to consider hiring professional academic proofreading services. Again, proofreading is an important step in essay writing that you should never rush!