Proofreading is just as important a part of the writing process as writing itself.
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Any student that neglects it is forgoing an opportunity to significantly improve his/her assignment at little cost in terms of time and effort. In this article, we will cover some of the methods you can use to quickly improve your assignment by going over it after you have seemingly finished with it.
Differentiate between Proofreading and Editing
Editing deals with large-scale changes in the text. In its course, you may rearrange parts of the assignment, add or eliminate certain fragments, change the wording, and so on. Proofreading is concerned with small-scale changes: correction of grammar, spelling, and syntax, possibly removal of a superfluous word or two. You should always complete editing before you start with proofreading and never mix the two up. Doing proofreading before editing is a waste of time – if you change the structure of your paper, you will have to do it all over again.
Crucial Proofreading Tips
How you go about proofreading should in no small degree depend on what kind of paper you work on, but some things remain the same no matter what it is:
- Do not start proofreading right away. Some students start proofreading immediately after they have finished working on the assignment, eager to be done with it once and for all. Do not do it – at this moment the memory of writing the text is still too fresh in your mind, and any proofreading you do is going to be subpar. You will be skipping over phrases because you know them too well. Instead, wait a while – ideally, a few days, but even a few hours will do in a pinch;
- Read the text aloud. Enunciate each word slowly and distinctly. It makes you slow down and pay closer attention to what you read, as well as shows how readable your work is;
- Change your font for a Courier. It serves two purposes. Firstly, you change how your text looks, forcing you to read it anew and, probably perceive it in a new light. Secondly, Courier uses equal spaces between all characters, making error spotting easier;
- Be careful when using Microsoft Word spellchecker and online analogs. While they can help you notice blatant mistakes when it comes to more subtle problems they are far less effective. They often fail to notice errors or see mistakes where there are none;
- Know your mistakes. Everyone has a set of “favorite” mistakes, the ones he/she is the most prone to. If you do not know yours, ask your teacher/professor/supervisor – he/she will probably be able to point them out. Make a list of them and go over the text a few times paying attention to one type of mistakes at a time;
- Study the spelling of proper names, terms, and jargon words you are not familiar with. Even a spellchecker will not help you with some of them, so look up their spelling in a dictionary;
- Proofread backward. Read your essay backward, sentence after sentence. It will help you pay attention to individual units of meaning rather than the text as a whole, and will force you to see the assignment in the new light;
- Go over the text a few times at different times of the day. Every person has his/her own period of peak alertness. If you do not know when yours is, try rereading your essay a few times with an interval of a few hours – it may reveal some new mistakes to you.
Do not rely fully on yourself. Look for other people who can help you with your proofreading efforts. It may be useful to find a regular study buddy with whom you will exchange your essays for mutual proofreading, or simply ask somebody you trust to read your assignment for you. Try different modes of proofreading, as well: you can ask somebody to simply read your paper, to read it aloud, or read it aloud to somebody yourself to check if your writing is clear enough to be understood by ear. Pay special attention to the situations in which the reader gets confused by your sentence structures or your choice of words.
If you are not sure about something (e.g., the right spelling of a word or how a certain grammar structure should be used), do not be shy to ask somebody who knows about it.
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Remember – it is not shameful not to know, it is shameful not to try to find out.
Of course, custom assignment writing is still a very difficult thing to do; we, however, believe that with the help of our tips and suggestions you will be able to deal with the majority of problems you may encounter when proofreading your assignments.