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Contributors: Jaclyn M. Wells, Morgan Sousa, Mia Martini, Allen Brizee, Ashley Velázquez, and Maryam Ghafoor.
Summary:

Proofreading is primarily about searching your writing for errors, both grammatical and typographical, before submitting your paper for an audience (a teacher, a publisher, etc.). Use this resource to help you find and fix common errors.

Where Do I Begin?

Proofreading can be a difficult process, especially when you’re not sure where to start or what this process entails. Think of proofreading as a process of looking for any inconsistencies and grammatical errors as well as style and spelling issues. Below are a few general strategies that can help you get started.

  1. Before You Proofread
  2. When You Proofread
  3. After You Are Done

General Strategies Before You Proofread

General Strategies While You Proofread

When You Are Done

Contributors: Jaclyn M. Wells, Morgan Sousa, Mia Martini, Allen Brizee, Ashley Velázquez, and Maryam Ghafoor.
Summary:

Proofreading is primarily about searching your writing for errors, both grammatical and typographical, before submitting your paper for an audience (a teacher, a publisher, etc.). Use this resource to help you find and fix common errors.

Finding Common Errors

Here are some common proofreading issues that come up for many writers. For grammatical or spelling errors, try underlining or highlighting words that often trip you up. On a sentence level, take note of which errors you make frequently. Also make note of common sentence errors you have such as run-on sentences, comma splices, or sentence fragments—this will help you proofread more efficiently in the future.

Spelling

Left-out and doubled words

Read the paper slowly aloud to make sure you haven't missed or repeated any words. Also, try reading your paper one sentence at a time in reverse—this will enable you to focus on the individual sentences.

Sentence Fragments

Sentence fragments are sections of a sentence that are not grammatically whole sentences. For example, “Ate a sandwich” is a sentence fragment because it lacks a subject.

Make sure each sentence has a subject:

Make sure each sentence has a complete verb.

See that each sentence has an independent clause. Remember that a dependent clause cannot stand on its own. In the following examples, green highlighting indicates dependent clauses while yellow indicates independent clauses.

Run-on Sentences

Examples:

Comma Splices

Examples:

Subject/Verb Agreement

Examples:

Mixed Construction

Read through your sentences carefully to make sure that they do not start with one sentence structure and shift to another. A sentence that does this is called a mixed construction.

Examples:

Parallelism

Look through your paper for series of items, usually separated by commas. Also, make sure these items are in parallel form, meaning they all use a similar form.

Pronoun Reference/Agreement

Examples:

Apostrophes

Examples:

 

Contributors: Jaclyn M. Wells, Morgan Sousa, Mia Martini, Allen Brizee, Ashley Velázquez, and Maryam Ghafoor.
Summary:

Proofreading is primarily about searching your writing for errors, both grammatical and typographical, before submitting your paper for an audience (a teacher, a publisher, etc.). Use this resource to help you find and fix common errors.

Suggestions for Proofreading Your Paper

One of the most difficult parts of the writing process is proofreading. It is easy for us to see what we want to see, not necessarily what our readers will see. These suggestions should help you take a step back and view your writing more objectively.

Suggestions for Editing (Proofreading) your Paper

Read your Paper Aloud

Any time your text is awkward or confusing, or any time you have to pause or reread your text, revise this section. If it is at all awkward for you, you can bet it will be awkward for your reader.

Examine your Paragraphs

Examine the overall construction of your paragraphs, looking specifically at length, supporting sentence(s), and topic sentence. Individual paragraphs that are significantly lacking length or sufficient supporting information as well as those missing a topic sentence may be a sign of a premature or under-developed thought.

Track Frequent Errors

Keep track of errors that you make frequently. Ask your teacher or visit the Writing Lab for assistance in eliminating these errors.

Contributors: Jaclyn M. Wells, Morgan Sousa, Mia Martini, Allen Brizee, Ashley Velázquez, and Maryam Ghafoor.
Summary:

Proofreading is primarily about searching your writing for errors, both grammatical and typographical, before submitting your paper for an audience (a teacher, a publisher, etc.). Use this resource to help you find and fix common errors.

Revising for Cohesion

Writing a cohesive paper takes time and revision. This resource will focus primarily on topic sentences that begin each paragraph and on topics, or main points, within a paragraph. This resource will also enable students to look closely at their sentences and see how each sentence relates to another within a paragraph. This material is adapted from Style: Ten Lessons in Clarity and Grace, by Joseph Williams.

Principles

Tip: Create a list of words to draw from that intuitively tells the reader what to focus on. If your words progress from “investigate, remedy, resolve” or “negate, discover, re-invent” the reader should be able to follow the line of action and they will feel like your ideas cohere.

Exercise: Diagnosis, Analysis, Revision

Diagnosis

  1. Underline the first few words of every sentence in a paragraph, ignoring short introductory phrases such as "In the beginning," or "For the most part."
  2. If you can, underline the first few words of every clause. (Remember that a clause has a subject and verb)

Analysis

  1. Read your underlined words. Is there a consistent set of related topics?
  2. Will your reader see these connections among the topics?
  3. Imagine that the passage has a title. The words in the title should identify what should be the topics of most of the sentences.
  4. Decide what you will focus on in each paragraph.

Revision

  1. In most sentences, make your topics subjects that do the action in the sentences.
  2. Move your topics to the beginning of your sentences. Avoid hiding your topic behind long introductory phrases or clauses.

Sample Passage

Topics are crucial for readers because readers depend on topics to focus their attention on particular ideas toward the beginning of sentences. Topics tell readers what a whole passage is "about." If readers feel that a sequence of topics is coherent, then they will feel they are moving through a paragraph from a cumulatively coherent point of view. But if throughout the paragraph readers feel that its topics shift randomly, then they have to begin each sentence out of context, from no coherent point of view. When that happens, readers feel dislocated, disoriented, and out of focus.

Analysis of the Sample Passage:

1. Read your underlined words. Is there a consistent set of related topics?

Here are some significant words from the clauses that are underlined in the above example: topics, readers, topics, readers, they, readers, they, readers. Do these words help guide your reader along?

2. Will your reader see these connections among the topics?

Utilize repetition and patterns of progression. What this sample passage does really well is that it works with repetition. It also has a pattern of progression: in the first sentence, the phrase, “topics are crucial” is used and then the writer explains how topics are crucial in the rest of this sentence and the next. In terms of repetition, the phrase “readers feel that” is used twice. The third time it is used, there’s a variation to the pattern. This variation is direct, concise, and surprising: “Readers feel dislocated,” begins this clause.

3. Imagine that the passage has a title. The words in the title should identify what should be the topics of most of the sentences.

Sample Title: “How Topics Coherently Guide the Reader” Do the themes in the above passage match with this title?

4. Decide what you will focus on in each paragraph.

Think about the importance of your topics and what happens to the paragraph if these topics are not utilized. In the sample passage, the highlighted phrase seems out of place. Consider this revision:

Topics are crucial for readers. Topics tell readers what a whole passage is "about." Readers depend on topics to focus their attention on particular ideas toward the beginning of sentences. If readers feel that a sequence of topics is coherent, then they will feel they are moving through a paragraph from a cumulatively coherent point of view.

In this revision, the phrase “what a passage is ‘about,’” comes before “Readers depend…” This coheres better than the initial draft because the writer sets the reader up for a definition, or in-depth explanation of what the word “about”’ means.

Questions to ask yourself as you revise

On a sentence level:

1. Do your sentences "hang together"? Readers must feel that sentences in a paragraph are not just individually clear, but are unified with each other. Readers should be able to move easily from one sentence to the next, feeling that each sentence "coheres" with the one before and after it.

One way of thinking about this is as if you are giving your readers sign posts or clues they can follow throughout your passage. These will act as signals that guide the reader into your argument.

2. Does the sentence begin with information that’s familiar to the reader? Readers will be familiar with your information if it has already been touched upon in the previous sentence.

It’s important to address how readers feel about unfamiliar information. As a writer, we sometimes forget that readers have different assumptions, values and beliefs than we do. Their bodies of knowledge are not the same as ours. Thus, it’s important to clearly build your progression of thought or argument in a cohesive paper. In the sample passage, the writer clearly defines why readers depend on topics: “Topics tell the reader what a passage is ‘about.’”

3. Does the sentence end with interesting information the reader would not anticipate?

In the case of the sample passage, the last sentence has a sharp and unexpected ending. The last few words, “out of focus” are an unexpected way to end the paragraph because the entire paragraph has been about how topics are cohesive tools. Ending on this note leaves the reader feeling uneasy about leaving topics out of context, which is the aim of the sample passage.  

On a paragraph level:

Will your reader be able to identify quickly the "topic" of each paragraph?

Note: it is easier to see coherence and clarity in other people's writing because by the time we reach a final draft, everything we write seems old or familiar to us. Improving on this takes practice. Try giving yourself a few days between writing and revising to get a fresh look.

Contributors: Jaclyn M. Wells, Morgan Sousa, Mia Martini, Allen Brizee, Ashley Velázquez, and Maryam Ghafoor.
Summary:

Proofreading is primarily about searching your writing for errors, both grammatical and typographical, before submitting your paper for an audience (a teacher, a publisher, etc.). Use this resource to help you find and fix common errors.

Steps for Revising Your Paper

When you have plenty of time to revise, use the time to work on your paper and to take breaks from writing. If you can forget about your draft for a day or two, you may return to it with a fresh outlook. During the revising process, put your writing aside at least twice—once during the first part of the process, when you are reorganizing your work, and once during the second part, when you are polishing and paying attention to details.

Use the following questions to evaluate your drafts. You can use your responses to revise your papers by reorganizing them to make your best points stand out, by adding needed information, by eliminating irrelevant information, and by clarifying sections or sentences.

Find your main point.

What are you trying to say in the paper? In other words, try to summarize your thesis, or main point, and the evidence you are using to support that point. Try to imagine that this paper belongs to someone else. Does the paper have a clear thesis? Do you know what the paper is going to be about?

Identify your readers and your purpose.

What are you trying to do in the paper? In other words, are you trying to argue with the reading, to analyze the reading, to evaluate the reading, to apply the reading to another situation, or to accomplish another goal?

Evaluate your evidence.

Does the body of your paper support your thesis? Do you offer enough evidence to support your claim? If you are using quotations from the text as evidence, did you cite them properly?

Save only the good pieces.

Do all of the ideas relate back to the thesis? Is there anything that doesn't seem to fit? If so, you either need to change your thesis to reflect the idea or cut the idea.

Tighten and clean up your language.

Do all of the ideas in the paper make sense? Are there unclear or confusing ideas or sentences? Read your paper out loud and listen for awkward pauses and unclear ideas. Cut out extra words, vagueness, and misused words.

Eliminate mistakes in grammar and usage.

Do you see any problems with grammar, punctuation, or spelling? If you think something is wrong, you should make a note of it, even if you don't know how to fix it. You can always talk to a Writing Lab tutor about how to correct errors.

Switch from writer-centered to reader-centered.

Try to detach yourself from what you've written; pretend that you are reviewing someone else's work. What would you say is the most successful part of your paper? Why? How could this part be made even better? What would you say is the least successful part of your paper? Why? How could this part be improved?