English Grammar Blog

Proofreading Tips

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Proofreading is one of the more important elements of writing; even the best writers are not likely to produce well-written, error-free work without proofreading. The proofreading process involves taking an objective look at your writing and make improvements to content, writing style, sentence structure, spelling, and grammar. After proofreading, the goal is to have an error-free, document that effectively conveys your meaning in a way that is appropriate for the target audience.

General Proofreading Tips
For many writers, it can be difficult to proofread their own writing, especially right after they have written it. Give yourself some time after writing before proofreading, ideally a day or two. Reading your writing out loud can help you identify errors that you may not have caught otherwise. Finally, have another person read your writing to help with proofreading.

Spelling and Grammar
One of the biggest mistakes that writers make is relying on the spelling and grammar checking programs that are included with most word processing programs. No automated spelling or grammar check can make up for proofreading performed by a human. The key problem with an automated spell check system is that the system cannot detect when the wrong word is used. For example, if a writer used “on” instead of “one,” spell check would not catch that mistake, since both words are spelled correctly.

Instead of relying entirely on automated programs, you should carefully read your work for mistakes in spelling and grammar. Here are tips on some of the most common spelling and grammatical errors:

  • “Lose” vs. “Loose” – the word “lose” is the opposite of win, while “loose” refers to something that is not tight.
  • “They’re,” “their,” and “there” – “They’re” is an abbreviation for “they are,” ”there” is possessive, as in “their clothes,” and “there” refers to a place. Similarly, “your” is possessive and “you’re” stands for “you are.”
  • “It’s” and “its” – “Its” is possessive, while “it’s” represents “it is.”
  • “Affect” and “effect” – usually, “effect” is a noun, while “affect” is a verb. If you are unsure of which one to use, replace the word with another verb; if the verb works as a replacement, then the word you should use is “affect.”
  • “A lot” is always two words.

Writing Style
While writing style is likely to vary from piece to piece, some key concepts remain the same. A good piece of writing includes an introduction and a conclusion; both the introduction and conclusion should summarize the main points of the piece without being repetitious. The introduction of a piece should include a well-written, clear thesis statement: a single sentence that conveys the key point of the writing. A thesis statement should be easy for anyone to identify. In the same way that the thesis statement introduces a paper, a key sentence should be included in each paragraph. Typically the first sentence, a key sentence introduces or summarizes the main point of the paragraph. If you have a great essay, you should be able to read the thesis sentence and the first sentence of each paragraph and get the piece’s purpose.

Posted in: English Writing

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