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Proofreading Do's and Don'ts

To Help You Avoid a Costly Mistake

By

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Proofreading your own paper is tricky!

Grace Fleming

Everybody makes mistakes.

Even the most experienced writers with many published materials will confess that they are serial offenders. Each writer has a mistake, like a certain misspelled work or misused phrase, that shows up every time.

No matter how good you feel about your final draft, nor how many times you’ve checked for mistakes, you should always proofread a final time before you submit a paper.

Don’t try to read your paper on the computer screen, and don’t try to proof your writing right away.
Always take time to print out your paper, set it aside for at least fifteen minutes, and then proof.

If possible, exchange papers with someone else and proofread each other’s work.
Often, when trying to proof your own paper, you’ll skip right over mistakes like writing “scared” when you meant “sacred.” Your mind remembers what you meant, and misses what you actually did. Someone else is more likely to catch things like that.

If you have to proof your own paper, try reading your work backward.
Take it sentence by sentence or word by word. That way, you’ll be more likely to see things you’d normally miss.

Since it’s easier to proof a stranger’s paper than your own, try changing the look of your paper to make it less familiar.
Enlarge and change the font. It will look strange, but that’s the point! Just remember to change it back once you’re finished.

Use spell checker and grammar checker, but don’t count on them.
As you know, these functions don’t always catch every mistake.

Always proofread out loud, when possible.
Of course, this won’t work if you’re proofing an essay test.

Do a “search and replace” computer function if you tend to mix homonyms.
For instance, use the search function on your word processor if you sometimes use “there” for “their” or “to” for “too.” This can be time consuming, but it’s worth the effort.

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