As the time draws near for submitting your work, the final thing to do is to proofread what you have written. Before having your document proofread by one of our professional proofreaders, it’s a good idea to try and check the document yourself first, as proofreading is a vital life skill you can develop with practice. But many writers are not sure how to proofread effectively, and so in this post, we will consider why proofreading is necessary, and then explore a few practical strategies to help you to proofread your own work.
First, why is proofreading necessary? Basically, proofreading – carefully checking for grammar, spelling and punctuation errors – is necessary because we all make mistakes to one degree or another. Whilst less important than the content and ideas, such errors could cause problems by distracting the reader or making the writing less comprehensible, potentially affecting one’s grades. Proofreading helps because it involves temporarily ignoring (to a certain extent) the content, and focusing on the form – on correcting the grammar, spelling and punctuation. This enables the writer to notice and correct language mistakes that s/he would not notice normally during the writing process.
Eight proofreading tips
So, how can you effectively proofread your work? Below are eight tips to apply during the proofreading stage.
1. The first proofreading tip has already been mentioned: consciously focus on the accuracy of the language (and not on the meaning). Proofreading does not mean simply reading your work an extra time. It is important how you read it i.e. that you focus on the language used. Actively ask yourself, for example, whether the grammar in your sentences is correct (e.g. the word order and word class (significant vs. significantly)). Ask yourself, are there any spelling errors in the paragraph? You may need to read a portion of text (or the whole text) several times, focusing on different issues each time. For example, you may read your essay once to check for consistency of spelling for certain words, and then again to check whether the and a/an have been used correctly. Don’t let the meaning/ideas distract you during the proofreading stage, because you might miss some errors of form.
2. Pay attention to your intuitions. This means any sense or feeling you may have while reading the sentences – do you have a feeling that a sentence may not be grammatically accurate? If so, then you should check it, because your subconscious may have detected an issue even if you can’t consciously explain what the issue is.
3. Proofread your work after taking a break. If possible, leave some time (e.g. 2-3 days) between reading your last draft and starting to proofread it. This will give you a fresh perspective on your work and help you notice different things.
4. Use the spell check function in Microsoft Word (Tools > Spelling and Grammar).
5. Use Google, or a corpus, to check whether a particular grammatical structure in your writing is correct. If you think an expression in your writing may be incorrect, you could do a Google search for the particular structure and notice how many results appear, and notice whether or not the structure is used by native English speakers.
Alternatively, you could use the British national corpus (https://corpus.byu.edu/bnc/) to help you check how to use a word. For example, the British national corpus shows that similar to is much more common than similar with, so you would know that choosing the former expression is more likely to be acceptable to your reader.
If your expression is rare in the corpus, this might indicate that it is incorrect. Just remember that Google and the British national corpus contain a variety of genres (not just academic writing), and so an expression may be grammatical but still be inappropriate for academic writing. For this reason, you may wish to directly search Google Scholar (scholar.google.com), which would allow you to determine whether a particular expression is common in academic writing or not.
6. Read your work aloud. Hearing your work read out loud could help you hear mistakes that your eyes didn’t see.
7. Read your work in a different format. For example, print your work and read it on paper. When you see your work on paper, it looks and feels different from on a screen, and seeing it in a different format might help you see things you didn’t notice last time. Even reading it on a different device (e.g. an iPad, if you wrote it on a computer) might help.
8. Finally, be aware of the types of mistakes that you have made in the past, and check specifically for those. If you know that teachers have highlighted certain errors in your writing before (e.g. omitting the (in US and UK) or omitting -s (He walk to school)), then these are things to focus on.
These eight tips apply mostly to the very last stage of the writing process before submission; at earlier stages, and especially in the initial stages of writing a first draft, you should focus predominantly on developing the content and ideas (focusing too much on linguistic errors before the content has come together could be a distraction, and you might delete parts later anyway).
After checking your work by yourself, get professional proofreading
Especially if you are not a native English speaker, then after you have proofread your work for yourself, it is advisable to allow a professional native English speaker to proofread it too. This will ensure it is truly error free. You can send your document to us for proofreading by clicking here or email it to the following address:
As soon as we receive it, an expert proofreader will proofread and edit the document to the highest standard.