Ouch! Follow the rules below and you're sure not to end up in the same position.
Proofreading is a drag—after having come up with a thesis, found evidence to support that thesis, and structured the essay to best support your ideas, you have to find and fix all of the mistakes you made along the way. I also find proofreading stressful; I worry that small mistakes will undermine all my hard work. Luckily, over time I’ve developed a series of techniques, which help me proofread; I’ve collected here five of what I believe to be the most useful proofreading techniques, all of which are great used alone, or in combination.
1. Read Aloud
Reading aloud is, without a doubt, the single most issue revision practice. Doing so you will not only notice small mistakes—missing words, misused words, misplaced (or missing!) punctuation—but you will also notice issues of phrasing and pacing.
2. Change the Font
Another thing that can make it difficult to catch mistakes is being overly familiar with your writing and the way it looks—mistakes and all—on the page. I’ve found that changing the font of what I’m working on can be a good way of making the document unfamiliar once again.
3. Print it out
To catch mistakes in your writing, it is absolutely necessary to read slowly and deliberately. This can often be hard to do while working on a computer (I don’t know about you but I tend to distractedly skim much of what I read on my laptop!). A good way to get yourself to slow down is to print out your essay and sit down to reread it in a distraction free (i.e., laptop, phone, music, friend, and fun free) environment. If I know I’m going to have to do a lot of this sort of proofreading—during finals week for instance—I like to buy myself neon colored pens to make the whole process just a bit more engaging.
Another pro-tip: If you think you’re going to need to make substantial changes—adding whole clauses, entire sentences—it can be helpful to make the right hand margin extra wide (2 ½ to 3 inches) before printing it out so that you have space to write these changes in.
4. Read Backwards
It might make you feel like a crazy person, but reading your essay backwards sentence by sentence is an excellent way of catching run-ons and fragments.
5. Use a Text-to-Speech Service
An issue that I have run into while I proofeead is that even if I am reading aloud I will often simply read over mistakes—using a text to speech program is awesome not only because it is mid-90’s retro but also because it will force you to hear exactly what you’ve typed. I like to use the Read&Write plug in for Google Chrome.
There you have it! Use these techniques to proofread and you'll have yourself a mistake free essay. Happy proofreading!
For more tips and tricks on expository writing, check out these other blog posts written by our writing tutors in New York and Boston: The Vital Importance of Writing Badly, Transitioning From One Paragraph to the Next, and How Do I Write a Good Thesis? Looking to work with an expository writing tutor on your essays? Feel free to get in touch! Cambridge Coaching offers private in-person tutoring in New York City and Boston, and online tutoring around the world.