Editing begins while you are still working on your first draft. It has to do more with revising the logistics of the paper than grammar and surface-level errors.
Proofreading takes place when editing is finished. Focuses on surface-level errors like misspelling and grammar errors.
- Are all parts of the question answered?
- Is there an argument?
- Do all of the paragraphs support the thesis?
- Is there a clear introduction and conclusion?
- Is the paragraph order logical?
- Are there clear transitions between paragraphs?
Structure within Paragraphs
- Does each paragraph have a clear topic sentence?
- Does the paragraph follow the thesis?
- Are there any extra or missing supporting paragraphs in each paragraph?
- Are all terms easily defined for the reader?
- Is the meaning of the sentence clear?
- Have you chosen the best words to express your ideas?
- Is the tone appropriate for the audience?
- Have you varied sentence length throughout the paper?
- Are there any unnecessary phrases, such as “due to the fact that”?
- Are your citations in the correct format?
- Have you appropriately cited all paraphrasing and quotations?
- Read your paper aloud. Sometimes writing sounds different in your head than it sounds on paper.
- Make a list of errors that you commonly make and keep an eye out for them.
- Read the text backwards. Sometimes the brain automatically corrects written mistakes.
- Proofread for only one type of error at a time.
- Double check everything:
- Proper names
- Page numbers
- Header/footer material
- Read slowly and carefully.
Other Helpful Tips
- Concentrate. Get rid of noise and other distractions. You will catch more errors if you are focused.
- Don’t edit your paper in the same sitting you wrote it. Leave it for a while, even a few days, and then come back to it. This will give you fresh eyes and allow you to catch more errors.
- When you have gone over it as much as you can, get someone else to read it. A second pair of eyes can see twice as much.
- Don’t only rely on spell check or grammar check. Sometimes they miss things too.
- Know if it’s easier for you to edit on the computer or on a printed page.
- Have your resources close to you so you can easily look up anything that you are unsure of. Helpful resources include:
Twenty of the Most Common Surface Errors
- missing comma after introductory phrases
- vague pronoun references
- missing comma in a compound sentences
- wrong words
- missing comma(s) with a nonessential elements
- wrong or missing verb endings
- wrong or missing prepositions
- comma splices
- missing or misplaced possessive apostrophes
- unnecessary shifts in tense
- unnecessary shifts in pronouns
- sentence fragments
- wrong tense or verb forms
- lack of agreement between subject and verb
- missing commas in a series
- lack of agreement between pronouns and antecedents
- unnecessary comma(s) with a restrictive or essential elements
- fused sentences
- dangling or misplaced modifiers
- its/it’s confusion (Its is the possessive case of the pronoun it; it’s is a contraction of it is or it has) It’s a wise dog who knows its limits.
Iten, Michelle. (1997). General strategies for editing and proofreading. Retrieved from http://leo.stcloudstate.edu/acadwrite/genproofed.html
LR Communication Systems Inc. (1999). Proofreading and editing tips. Retrieved from http://www.lrcom.com/tips/proofreading_editing.htm
Lunsford, Andrea as cited Frey, Jill and Alexander, Jerry. (2011). Editing. Retrieved from http://web.presby.edu/writingcenter/resources/editing.html
Wells, Jaclyn. M; Sousa, Morgan; Martina, Mia & Brizee, Allen. (2010, Oct 5). Finding common errors. Retrieved from http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/561/02/
The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (1998-2007). Editing and proofreading. Retrieved from http://www.unc.edu/depts/wcweb/handouts/proofread.html.