One of the most common mistakes made by students is the lack of knowledge on how to proofread their essay, after they have finished. This often leads to essays being submitted with grammatical and spelling errors, or serious faults in their argument.
A lot of marks can be lost on errors that could easily be spotted and changed before handing in, and that can mean the difference between a pass and a fail. Below, I have identified the best ways to proofread your essay, so you can be sure that you’ll achieve the marks you deserve.
1. Take a break between writing the article and proofreading it. Making sure you’ve got a clear head, and having as much time as you need to edit your article will mean you can do a more thorough job, and make the end result much more worthwhile. Choose a time of day that you can concentrate well at, and make sure distractions are kept to a minimum. The more effort you put into it, the better your essay will be.
2. Proofread your article backwards, sentence by sentence. This will make you pay attention to spelling and grammar, rather than just the meaning of your paper. Some people find it helps to put a ruler under each line as you read it, so that you focus just on the line in front of you. Make sure each line makes sense, has good sentence structure, all the punctuation it needs, and every word is spelt correctly.
3. Use your own spell checker. While most computer programmes now have inbuilt spell checkers, they often make errors. They may suggest a word that you don’t mean at all, or make simple errors such as not knowing the difference between through and thorough, for example. It’s worth making sure you’ve spelt important or specialist words right, or double check any words that you usually spell wrong or are unsure about.
4. Ask others for help. If you’re not sure where to put the apostrophe, what’s wrong with a sentence, or how to reference correctly, do your research. Ask friends, or search the internet. Simple mistakes like this only take a few minutes to correct but can be quite costly if you get them wrong.
5. Look back through work you’ve already completed, and spot your common errors. Asking your tutor may also help. Make a list of the errors you make repeatedly, and read through your essay backwards again for each one, correcting them as you go.
6. Read the paper once aloud. This will make sure the sentences sound correct and are punctuated correctly. It will also show you the difference between what you meant to write, and what you did. Check that your essay flows freely.
7. Give your essay to a flatmate or parent to read. Ask them if it makes sense, and to point out any confusing sentences or mistakes that they spot. Other people can usually spot mistakes a lot easier than we can ourselves, and can be more critical of the essay itself.
8. Read through your paper again. After you have done all of the above, read through the paper again, once for spelling, once for punctuation, and once to check each paragraph makes sense, and links to the one before and after.
Once you have made all of these checks and proofread your essay, then it should be perfectly written and ready to hand in. The whole process shouldn’t have taken more than two hours, and will ensure that you won’t be losing out on marks due to silly mistakes. When you become used to making these checks, you will become faster at doing them, and your writing grades will improve rapidly because of the higher quality of written material you will be submitting.
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