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Essay writing: Proofreading

Proofreading is the final stage, when everything’s in place and you’re just looking for consistency of style and final errors.

Duncan Koerber, 100 Editing and Proofreading Tips for Writers

The final stage of editing is proofreading. The Skills Team cannot proofread your essays for you but we can give you some tips on doing if for yourself:


Eight proofreading tips


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1. NEVER rely on the computer’s spelling and grammar-checker to do the work for you.

This is fatal. It is extremely unreliable. Remember that a computer is a mindless machine and no match for the human brain; the software often underlines words in red where there are no errors and, conversely, fails to spot blatant errors. Don't ignore underlined words but remember that you will still need to check the work yourself too.


2. Print it out

It is best to proofread from a printed copy; often errors can be seen on paper but not noticed on a computer screen.


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3. Use British spelling

As you are studying for a British qualification in a British institution, you must follow British English spelling and punctuation conventions (except, of course, when quoting from an American or other foreign publication). This means that you should make your word processor’s default language setting ‘English UK’.


4. Leave time

Leave time between the end of the writing process and the start of proofreading. This time gap is important to clear the mind so that it can approach the same topic more refreshed and therefore with a better chance of spotting errors. 24-48 hours is recommended.


5. Work backwards

Try proofing backwards! Read your work from the end to the beginning, either sentence by sentence or paragraph by paragraph. What this does is to destroy the flow of argument, sequencing of ideas or chronology, thus forcing the brain to look only for ‘mechanical’ errors in the text.


6. Proofread several times

Look for different things each time: paragraph structure; spelling; punctuation; repetition of words; too many adverbs/adjectives etc.


7. Read aloud

If you read your text out loud you will stumble over areas that are not written well. This is usually the best way to check for errors of sentence structure. You mind often skips over things that your ears will not!


8. Collaborate

Collaborate with another student, perhaps one studying a different discipline, and check each other’s work. Another pair of eyes will often spot errors which your own have not


For more editing and proofreading tips, go to "100 editing and proofreading tips for writers".