Proofreading: Revising Surface Errors

Proofreading is not the same as editing. Proofreading implies taking a last look at a draft very close to its final version. Proofreading is your last chance to check your essay for minor or surface errors, such as typographical errors ( "teh" for "the"), and omitted words and word endings, before you print or send your final version.

This is also the time to make sure you have documented thoroughly and correctly, using a recognized documentation style consistently throughout the essay. For more on documentation see our Documentation Guide.

As well, this is the step at which you should correct any formatting problems; formatting is linked to the documentation style you are using. The ASC provides samples essay pages as formatting and documentation models for each of the major documentation styles: Footnoting/Chicago, MLA, APA, and CSE.

Proofread thoroughly off a hard copy. If you are lucky, this could be the same hard copy you revised and edited, but you may first need to make the changes your revising of the whole and your editing have shown you need to make, and then print a proofreading copy.

Or, if you have chosen to revise and edit on your screen, at the very least, print a hard copy for proofreading. You will detect more errors on the page than you will on the screen.

Resist the temptation to skip the proofreading step as doing so is usually obvious to your reader; many small errors are distracting and send the message that you, the writer, don't really care about the essay. An essay that has been carefully proofread shows your reader that you have put effort into producing the essay and sends the message that you respect your reader and yourself.

How to Proofread

Read over our Proofreading Checklist first.

Some writers find it helps to read the essay one sentence at a time, starting with the last sentence and working towards the beginning of the essay. This breaks up the flow of the text, during which the eye often sees what should be there, not what is. Make the time to do this. Do a page at a time and take a break. It really helps you find those small, distracting errors.

Another strategy is to keep your eyes from jumping ahead, place a ruler or card under each line as your read.

Reading out loud is also helpful, as it is with editing. Or, you could have someone else read it out loud as you follow along on the page or screen.

As well, many computer programs, such as Kurzweill products, NaturalReader and Text Aloud,will read your document aloud for you.

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Exercise Four: Proofreading

Back to Revising, Editing and Proofreading