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Tips on Editing and Proofreading

Use Effective Time Management & Beware of the Grammar Check Trap

Before you turn in any paper for a class, you must take time to carefully proofread and edit the document. Merely using Spelling and Grammar Check through Microsoft Word will not get the job done. Instead of rushing to proofread ten minutes before the paper is due, you need to take proofreading seriously and allot a substantial amount of time for the activity.

Once you've finished writing a paper, it's a good idea to "let the paper rest" a while and come back to proofread it later. It's easier to see grammatical and stylistic glitches if the paper isn't fresh in your mind. Focus on the style, grammar, and spelling in every single sentence.

If you only rely on Spelling and Grammar Check, it's highly probable that you still have many errors in a paper. Spellcheckers miss all kinds of usage errors (they're vs. there vs. their, for example) and grammatical problems. These simple errors hurt the readability of the document by distracting your reader, which in turn damages the paper's credibility.

Read the Paper Out Loud

Reading a document aloud is a common technique used by both beginning and professional writers. Reading a paper out loud slowly will help you catch phrases that just don't "sound right" and lets you focus on what's there on the paper, not what you meant to say.

Read the Paper Backwards

Another helpful technique used by professional writers is reading a paper backwards. What this means is that a writer starts by proofreading the last sentence. She reads that sentence, making sure there are no misspellings and mechanical errors. Then she moves on to the next to last sentence, and so on. Writers do this because reading a document backwards puts the paper out of context. You're able to isolate the sentences and their grammatical issues by reading it backwards.

Read the Paper Out Loud and Backwards

Use this hybrid method by incorporating both techniques provided above.

Use the Pencil or Ruler Method

Some writers use a pencil or ruler as a guide to focus on each individual sentence as they proofread. This technique stops a person from getting ahead and helps one concentrate on the sentence at hand.


Use the Each Sentence As Its Own Paragraph Method

One helpful method for focusing on both sentence variety in your writing and grammatical/mechanical errors within paragraphs is to reformat your document by making each sentence its own paragraph. Instead of using double spacing with sizeable paragraphs, convert your document to single spacing to examine each sentence in a line-by-line fashion. You format the paper by taking every sentence and placing it on one line by itself in order to look for grammatical errors, unnecessary repetition, and places where you can vary the lengths and types of sentences used in your prose. Since sentence variety ~ using different types and varied lengths of sentences ~ creates strong cohesion (a.k.a. "flow"), writers use this method to look for ways to make the document stylistically stronger.

For example, if I were to present the paragraph above, here is what it would look like using the "each sentence as its own paragraph" method:
One helpful method for focusing on both sentence vareity in your writing and grammatical/mechanical errors within paragraphs is to reformat your document by making each sentence its own paragraph.
Instead of using double spacing with sizeable paragraphs, convert your document to single spacing to examine each sentence in a line-by-line fashion.
You format the paper by taking every sentence and placing it on one line by itself in order to look for grammatical errors, unnecessary repetition, and places where you can vary the lengths and types of sentences used in your prose.
Since sentence variety ~ using different types and varied lengths of sentences ~ creates strong cohesion (a.k.a. "flow"), writers use this method to look for ways to make the document stylistically stronger.