You’ve reached the point where you have carefully written and re-read your work, so it should be good to submit – but could you do it better? Whether you’ve finished your dissertation, essay or whole thesis, proofreading and editing are both essential yet often underrated skills.
Firstly, proof reading is not the same thing as editing. Editing is when you critique and redraft your text and think about things like logic and structure and the coherence in your arguments. Proofreading is the much narrower science of checking things like spelling, punctuation and details such as page numbers. Proofreading can be especially tricky as it should be done after editing. By then you probably know your text inside out making it difficult to spot mistakes. To help you with your proofreading and editing woes, here are 9 tips to help you:
- Remove filler empty words
Your sentences must be strong for them to be effective. By removing the filler and empty words, you are not only strengthening your writing, you’re helping to maintain a focus on your sentences.
- Use punctuations carefully
A semi colon or a hyphen in the correct place can be very effective. However, overdoing it will could make your writing seem like it is filled with errors. Use these sparingly and your writing will look more effective.
- Draw a plan
By doing so this will help you structure you work and ensure everything is in the relevant section. This plan can be used as a reference, making it easy to go back and forth with your final draft.
- Print out hard copies
Reading on-screen for long periods of time can tire out your eyes and make you breeze through mistakes.
- Change where you read
Some people find it useful to change where they study/work when proofreading. By taking some time away from your desk, it will help you to keep your mind engaged and focused. Just make sure you sit somewhere relatively quiet!
- Spelling and grammar checks are great – but don’t rely on them
While spelling and grammar checking software can be great to help you spot mistakes quickly – they aren’t always ideal. Often such checks can overlook the context of your sentences or even automatically change a word to something incorrect.
- Consistency is key
Are your lists, names, numbers and dates all formatted in the same way throughout?
- Check your references separately
Do a separate check of your references to ensure accuracy, consistency and always double check that you have used the correct style. Remember to check any cross referencing within your text as editing might have shifted text by a page!
- Give yourself time
Proofing and editing are important processes so make sure you build adequate time into your schedule to ensure you can do a good job.