Proofreading your student essays after you’ve done them is a vital and often-forgotten part of the essay-writing process, and can often be the deciding factor for borderline essays close to the grade lines. Of course, if it’s an important dissertation or something for publication, it’s important to consult a professional proofreader, but when you’re proofreading your own essays, here are some tips to get you started:
- Don’t read your own work
If you can help it, make a deal with a friend to swap essays and read theirs while they read yours. It’s always hard to spot your own errors because your brain reads what you think you wrote rather than what’s actually on the page. If you swap, then this problem will be solved for both of you!
- Read your essay out loud
Not recommended in the university library! Reading aloud helps you to ensure that your sentences are clearly structured and make proper sense. If you struggle to place the emphasis on the sentence when you’re reading it out loud, then chances are you need to simplify it. If you read it out loud over the phone or via Skype to a parent or fellow student then you have the added bonus of being able to ask them if they got the gist of your argument.
- Read it backwards
Start from the last sentence, and then read your essay backwards sentence by sentence. This allows you to focus on the spellings and the grammar without being caught up by what you’re assuming you wrote the first time.
- Leave lots of time between writing and proofreading
If you can, leave at least forty-eight hours between writing and proofreading. The more unfamiliar the words are, the more likely to you are to see what’s actually on the page rather than what you think you wrote.
Just remember, the aim is to make your writing as clear as possible, so that your content shines through and isn’t muddled by poor expression or confused by mis-spelling or misuse of words. Best of luck, and happy proofreading!