Proofreading and Editing Process

This handout will tell you what it is all about proofreading and editing process.

The handout contains some strategies and tips for improving your writing. We have included seven mistakes in this document to give you an opportunity to proofread. These include three spelling errors, 2 punctuation and grammatical issues. Try to spot the errors!

Editing and proofreading are the same?

It’s not exactly. While the two terms are often used interchangeably, they represent different phases of the revision. They both require close reading and are done in different ways.

These tips are applicable to both proofreading and editing

  • Take some time away from your text. You’ll find it difficult to proofread or edit a document that you just wrote. It is still too familiar and you will tend to miss many errors. Leave the paper for several hours, even days or weeks. Run. Visit the beach. You can then look at your paper with a new perspective. Give the paper away to a close friend. You can’t achieve more distance. The first-time reader will see the newspaper with a fresh perspective.
  • Choose the medium that allows you to proofread with care. While some people prefer to use a computer to do their work, others enjoy reading a printout and marking it up.
  • Change the appearance of your document. By changing font, size, style, color or spacing you can trick your mind into believing that you are looking at a new document. This will give you a fresh perspective.
  • Avoid working in front of a TV, or on the treadmill. Avoid distractions by finding a quiet place to work.
  • Try to edit and proofread in short bursts of time. Your concentration will start to fade if you proofread an entire document at once.
  • Prioritise your editing and proofreading.

Editing

As soon as your first draft is complete, you should begin editing. Reread the draft and check for things like whether it is organized, if the paragraph transitions are fluid, and if your evidence supports your arguments. Editing can be done on different levels.

You can also find out more about the content on this page.

Are you sure that all the requirements of your assignment have been met? Do you believe what you say? Does your essay make an argument if it’s required? The argument is complete. All of your statements must be consistent. Do you have enough evidence to support each of your claims? Does all the information you have included in your essay relate to your writing objective and/or the task? For more tips, please see our worksheets for understanding the assignment or developing a argument.

Structure of the overall structure

Is your introduction and conclusion appropriate? Does your thesis statement appear clearly in the introduction of your paper? Does it seem clear that each paragraph of the paper is connected to your thesis statement? The paragraphs are they arranged in an orderly manner? You should have made transitions clearly between each paragraph. After you’ve written your first draft, make a reversed outline to see if the structure is correct.

Paragraphs and their structure

Each paragraph should have a topic sentence. Each paragraph should have a main point. There may be extraneous sentences or gaps in your paragraphs.

Clarity

You should define any terms you think your readers might not understand. Does each sentence make sense? You can answer this by reading your essay one sentence at time. Start at the beginning and work backwards. This will prevent you from unconsciously adding content to previous sentences. Does it make sense what each pronoun means (e.g., he, she or it)? Are you sure that each pronoun (he, she, it or they) refers to the right person? Are you using the right words to convey your thoughts? You may misunderstand words that you use from a thesaurus.

You can also check out our Style

What is the appropriate tone you have used (formal or informal, persuasive etc. )? Are you using gendered words (such as masculine and feminine pronouns such as “he” and “she,” or words that include “man,” like “fireman,” in addition to words like “fireman,” that are spelled with “man,” or words that people mistakenly believe only apply to one gender, like “nurse,” for example)? Do you vary the structure and length of your sentences, or do they all look alike? You tend to overuse the passive voice? Do you use a lot unnecessary words and phrases in your writing, such as “there’s,” “there are,” or “because of the fact that”? Repeating a powerful word, such as a main verb that is vivid and strong, unnecessarily can be a sign of poor writing.

Citations

Are you citing quotes correctly? Your citations should be in the proper format.

You will make major revisions in the wording and content of your document as you go through each level of editing. You should be on the lookout for common patterns. This will help you when editing large documents like dissertations or theses. You can then develop ways to spot and fix the pattern in future. If you find that your paragraphs often cover several different topics, underline those words and then divide the paragraphs so each one is focused on one idea.

Proofreading

The final step in the editing process is proofreading. This stage focuses on minor errors, such as typos or mistakes with grammar and punctuation. Proofreading should be done only when you are finished with all other revisions.

Why do you proofread? What’s important is the content, right?

The content is key. Like it or not the appearance of a document can affect how others view it. You don’t need careless mistakes to distract your readers from your message when you worked so hard to present and develop your ideas. Pay attention to details to help make an impression.

Many people only spend a few moments proofreading in order to find any obvious errors. A quick, cursory read, particularly after having worked long and hard to create a document, can miss a great deal. You should have a plan to help you search for errors in a systematic way.

This may take a bit more time but will pay off at the end. You can spend less time editing your drafts if you already know how to detect errors as soon as the paper is nearly finished. It makes your writing process more efficient.

Separate the proofreading and editing processes. You don’t need to worry about grammar and punctuation when you edit an early draft. You’re not focused on developing ideas if you are worried about punctuation, grammar or spelling.

Proofreading is a process

Probably, you already employ some of these strategies. Try out different strategies until you discover one that suits you. It is important to keep the process focused and systematic so you can catch the most errors in the shortest amount of time.

  • Spelling checkers are not foolproof. They can be helpful, but far from being 100% accurate. The dictionary of spell checkers is limited, and some words may not have been remembered. Spell checkers also won’t catch misspellings which form another word. Spell checkers will not catch errors such as typing “your” in place of “you are,” “too” for “too” or “there” to replace “their.”
  • Grammar Checkers are even worse. Because they only have a few rules to work from, these programs can make errors and not identify all mistakes. The programs also don’t provide detailed explanations of why sentences should be revised. It is possible to use grammar checks to identify run-on phrases or excessive use of passive voice. However, you must be able evaluate feedback provided by the tool.
  • Do not proofread more than one type of mistake at a given time. You will lose focus and the effectiveness of your proofreading. If you don’t check punctuation or spelling, it’s much easier to spot grammar mistakes. Some techniques are only effective for one type of error.
  • Slowly read each word. Then, try to hear the word sounds together by reading it out loud. You may miss errors or correct them unconsciously if you read too fast or silently.
  • Use the return key after each period to start a new sentence. Press the return key every time a period is used to start a new line. You can then read through each sentence, checking for any grammar or punctuation errors. When working with printed copies, use an opaque item like a ruler to separate the lines you are working on.
  • Make sure you circle each punctuation mark. It forces you to pay attention. Ask yourself, as you are circling the punctuation marks, if they are correct.
  • Check your spelling by reading the page backwards. You can start with the word at the end of the page, and then work backwards to the first word. You will only be able to focus on spelling each word because the content, punctuation and grammar are all illegible. If you want to avoid getting distracted by the content, read sentences backwards.
  • The process of proofreading involves learning. You are not only looking for mistakes that you already know, but you also learn to identify and correct any new ones. Here’s where handbooks, dictionaries and other reference materials come into play. As you proofread, keep the ones that you think are helpful nearby.
  • While ignorance may seem blissful, it will not make you an expert proofreader. You may find that you are not sure of the problem, or you might be unsure what is wrong. Spell checker missed a word that looks to be incorrect. If you think a comma is needed between two words but aren’t sure why, you can use a period. You’re not sure whether you should use “that”, or “which”. Look it up if you aren’t sure.
  • As you practice and develop a system, you will become more proficient at proofreading. You’ll be able to pinpoint the areas in your writing that require special attention.

Proofreading

The final step in the editing process is proofreading. This stage focuses on minor errors, such as typos or mistakes with grammar and punctuation. Proofreading should be done only when you are finished with all other revisions.

Why do you proofread? What’s important is the content, right?

The content is key. You may not like the look of a document, but it will affect how others view it. You don’t need careless mistakes to distract your readers from your message when you worked so hard to present and develop your ideas. Pay attention to details to help make an impression.

Many people only spend a few moments proofreading in order to find any obvious errors. A quick, cursory read, particularly after you have worked long and hard to create a document, can miss a great deal. You should have a plan to help you search for errors in a systematic way.

This may take a bit more time but will pay off at the end. You can spend less time editing your drafts if you already know how to detect errors as soon as the paper is nearly finished. It makes your writing process more efficient.

Separate the proofreading and editing processes. You don’t need to worry about grammar and punctuation when you edit an early draft. You’ll be distracted from the important work of connecting and developing ideas if you are worried about punctuation, grammar or spelling.

Proofreading is a process

Probability is, you already employ some of these strategies. Try out different strategies until you discover one that suits you. It is important to keep the process focused and systematic so you can catch the most errors in the least time.

  • Spelling checkers are not foolproof. They can be helpful, but far from being 100% accurate. The dictionary of spell checkers is limited, and some words may not have been remembered. Spell checkers also won’t catch misspellings which form a valid word. Spell checkers will not catch errors such as typing “too” or “too” in place of “to”, “there” for “their” and “your” to replace “you are”.
  • Grammar Checkers are even worse. Because they only have a few rules to work from, these programs can make errors and not identify all mistakes. The programs also don’t provide detailed explanations of why sentences should be revised. It is possible to use grammar checks to identify run-on phrases or excessive use of passive voice. However, you must be able evaluate feedback provided by the tool.
  • Do not proofread more than one type of mistake at a given time. You will lose focus and the effectiveness of your proofreading. If you don’t check punctuation or spelling, it’s much easier to spot grammar mistakes. Some techniques are only effective for one type of error.
  • Slowly read each word. Then, try to hear the word sounds together by reading it out loud. You may miss errors or correct them unconsciously if you read too fast or silently.
  • Use the return key after each period to start a new sentence. Press the return key every time a period is used to start a new line. You can then read through each sentence, checking for any grammar or punctuation errors. When working with printed copies, use an opaque item like a ruler to separate the lines you are working on.
  • Make sure you circle each punctuation mark. You will have to pay attention. Ask yourself, as you are circling the punctuation marks, if they are correct.
  • Check your spelling by reading the page backwards. You can start with the word at the end of the page, and then work backwards to the first word. You will only be able to focus on spelling each word because the content, punctuation and grammar are all illegible. If you want to avoid getting distracted by the content, read sentences backwards.
  • The process of proofreading involves learning. You are not only looking for mistakes that you already know, but you also learn to identify and correct any new ones. Here’s where handbooks, dictionaries and other reference materials come into play. As you proofread, keep the ones that you think are helpful nearby.
  • While ignorance may seem blissful, it will not make you an expert proofreader. You may find that you aren’t sure of what is wrong, or you might be unsure exactly how to fix the problem. Spell checker missed a word that looks to be incorrect. If you think you should use a comma to separate two words but aren’t sure why, you can ask your teacher. You’re not sure whether you should use “that”, or “which”. Look it up if you aren’t sure.
  • As you practice and develop a system, you will become more proficient at proofreading. You’ll be able to pinpoint the areas in your writing that require special attention.

Do you think you know it all?

If you haven’t tried it yet, then give it a go! The handout has seven mistakes that our proofreader would have picked up: two grammatical, two punctuation, and three spelling.

Works consulted

These works were consulted when writing this document. We encourage you to conduct your own research in order to locate additional resources. This list may not be the best model to use for your reference list. It might not reflect the style of citation you’re using.

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