Proofreading and Editing So You Shine
Last week a young man was worrying about his writing – particularly his finished product.
“I work so hard on my plan. I do lot of research, and my teacher is always impressed when I show her my rough work. So, why do I get such a low mark when I hand it in?”
Now, there could be a number of reasons, but the most obvious is a lack of proofreading and editing.
Too many people either neglect, forget, or do not leave enough time to proofread their writing.
After all your hard work, you should not cheat yourself by not polishing up the final product! If the final article is poorly written, everything else takes a back seat.
The best advice I can give is to set aside some time and proofread and edit all your work before considering it complete.
What Do I Look For?
Most people know to look at spelling and punctuation – the basic mechanics.
Also, check that your sentences are – in fact- sentences and not sentence fragments or run-ons. These are very important, and any mistakes you find should be corrected.
But look further than this. Check you work for unity and coherence.
Ask yourself the following questions:
Does everything fit together?
Are my sentences and paragraphs understandable?
Does everything make sense?
(You might be surprised what you find!)
A Few More Tips
Read your work aloud. We often “hear” mistakes when we read aloud that we miss when reading silently. Reading aloud generally slows you down and this can eliminate some of the “filling in” that we do automatically.
Read from the bottom up. In other words read your last sentence first, then your second last sentence, etc. This method almost eliminates the “filling in” I mentioned above.
When we read quickly, silently, repetitively, we tend to “fill in” or automatically “correct” any mistakes - but only with our eyes and brain. The changes are not on the page (or the computer screen)!
I have had students read their work aloud to me several times and every time they miss the mistake.
For example, read the following sentence:
“John had go to school every morning before everyone else.”
Did you catch the mistake? You might have because this whole article is about proofreading, and this was the first time you read the sentence. If, however, this was part of your writing assignment, you might miss the mistake every time because your brain automatically inserted the word “to” where it belongs: “John had to go to school every morning before everyone else.”
Don’t worry if you missed the mistake. Good readers tend to provide the corrections without missing a beat. That is why we need to be extra careful when proofreading.
Now, having mentioned reading from the bottom up, don’t forget that you do need to read from top to bottom when proofreading as well in order to check for unity, coherence, and flow.
Oh, and do not expect your computer or word program (or any other writing program) to solve all your issues. They are tools, and they can be useful tools, but that is all they are. Even if they catch some of your mistakes, they will miss others. Also, you will learn very little for the next time when you might need to write without such assistance.
In the meantime, keep writing, keep proofreading, and keep having fun!
Proofread and Score Higher!