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Academic Skills

A student studying on the floor

Academic Skills


Revising Surface Errors

What is Proofreading?

Proofreading is not the same as editing. Proofreading is your last chance to check your essay for minor or surface errors, such as typographical errors (e.g., “form” for “from”), 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. Use the documentation style recommended by your instructor and use it consistently throughout the paper. Correct any formatting problems; formatting is linked to the documentation style you are using. Check the Documentation Guide for information on formatting and documentation.

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

Proofread thoroughly off a hard copy by reading your work slowly and systematically. Try one of these strategies:

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, helping you to assess your writing more carefully.

Another strategy to break up the flow of text is to place a ruler or card under each line of text as you 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. Screen-reading programs, like Read&Write, can be very helpful with this strategy.

Proofreading Checklist

  1. Are your words spelled not just correctly but consistently? (e.g., centre or center)
  2. How are numbers expressed in your text?
    1.  In MLA style, numbers that can be expressed in one or two words are spelled out, and other numbers are represented by numerals.
    2.  In APA style, numerals are used to express numbers 10 and above.
  3. Have you indicated which words and phrases in the text of your essay are titles?
    1. Quotation marks should be placed around the titles of chapters of books, articles, short stories and short poems.
    2. The titles of longer works, such as complete books, journals, plays, and films should be in italics.
    3. Follow rules of documentation style for footnotes and in-text citations, which may be different.
  4. Have you quoted properly and introduced your quotations using the correct punctuation?
  5. Do you cite all of your sources using an acceptable style, and do you stick to this style consistently throughout?
  6. Ensure all sources are included in your final list of references.
    1. In MLA or APA style, your list of works cited or references must include all the works you have cited in your essay.
    2. For Chicago style (footnoting) your bibliography should include all materials you have consulted.
  7. Does your title page or first page contain all the information your instructor needs?
  8. Have you included page numbers and, if required, a running head?