Top tips for proofreading your work

Natalia Wilkowskaon 30 May 2022
Person proofreading their work

With dissertation deadlines approaching, knowing how to thoroughly check your work is vital. Find out how to professionally proofread your work.

It may be boring, but it’s important. Get in the habit of writing, editing, and then proofreading your work. This is never the easiest part of the process, so here are some tips on how to proofread your work:

Know your common mistakes

You can never check too much. There are a variety of helpful spelling and grammar checkers, like Grammarly. These programs will help you avoid repeated words, detect typos, and fix simple mistakes. But remember that they won’t pick up every error. Sometimes they’ll even change a word to one you didn't actually mean. 

Marge Simpson spell checking her work

Another helpful service is Studiosity, which will allow you to send your work to someone who can check it for you. It’s worth checking if your uni offers subscriptions to services like this. Bear in mind that access is usually limited, and you can only use it a few times a year. 

Feedback from your previous assignments can also help you to identify the errors you commonly make. This lets you get ahead of the mistakes before you make them. 

Check everything 

Check everything closely because the most common mistakes are typos, punctuation, and grammar, especially if you’re touch typing without looking at the keyboard. Pay particular attention to homophones, which are words that sound the same but have a totally different meaning. Examples include too/two or right/write. Sometimes it can completely change the meaning of a sentence. 

Make sure you haven't missed any letters in words that could change the meaning of the sentence, e.g. she/he or the/he. Punctuation is also important for getting your meaning across. An incorrectly placed comma can confuse the reader while missing a full stop can lead to run-on sentences. 

Try to read backwards

While proofreading your work, try reading it backwards, one sentence at a time. It’s a proven and effective method for not missing any errors. When reading through your work, your brain knows what you meant and automatically detects and corrects mistakes. Going through the assignment backwards can prevent this. When you finish, you can read the paper the right way and polish the work. 

It can also help if you read your work aloud. If it doesn’t sound right as you’re saying it, something needs correcting. 

Use a hard copy

Print out a hard copy of your work before you start the proofreading process. You’ll be able to spot misspelt words or punctuation errors much easier. Looking at a screen for hours can wear your eyes out and make it more difficult to spot errors.

It's much easier to edit a hard copy to check if all elements are formatted the same way. Don't forget to look at any lists, dates, or numbers to make sure they're correct. Make sure you recycle the paper when you’re done with it. 

Take your time 

Don't rush the proofreading process. Try to leave some time between writing and proofreading. Take a break and come back with fresh eyes. You can go for a walk or try your hand at yoga to refresh your mind. If you're a fan of meditation, it's another great way to relax. Drink some water and start proofreading your work rested and refreshed. Doing it in a different location can be a good idea, too. A new environment can open your mind to fresh ideas and creativity.

Remember, proofreading isn’t just about correcting errors, but also polishing your sentences. You can always ask a friend or family to check it for you. It can be super helpful when other people look at your work. This way you can find out if your work is interesting and whether others understand what you mean. Good luck! 

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Natalia Wilkowskaon 30 May 2022