Whether you’re about to finish your dissertation, an essay or whole thesis, proofreading is much more than a quick look over your work 10 minutes before you have to print it out – it’s an essential yet often underrated skill.
Firstly, proofreading 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 woes, here are 10 tips to help you:
1) 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.
2) Use punctuation carefully
A semi colon or a hyphen in the correct place can be very effective. However, overdoing it could make your writing seem like it is filled with errors. Use these sparingly and your writing will look more effective.
3) Print out hard copies
Reading on-screen for long periods of time can tire out your eyes and make you breeze through mistakes.
4) 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!
5) 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.
6) Know your nemesis
Get familiar with your frequent mistakes. We all have our nemesis when it comes to spelling or grammar, especially when we’re writing quickly or we’re tired. Know what yours are and make sure you do an extra check for them at the end. A good way to find your common mistakes is to look back at previous work that has been marked.
7) Consistency is key
Check that your lists, names, numbers and dates all formatted in the same way throughout.
8) 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!
9) Read between the lines (and words)
It is worth doing a separate check to look for extra spaces between lines and words. It’s easy to miss these when you’re focussing on the words.
10) Give yourself time
Proofing is important so make sure you build adequate time into your schedule to ensure you can do a good job.