Proofreading Your Paper

Before you begin:

  1. Read over graded essays to find most frequent errors.
    (for example: subject – verb agreement problems)
    Hint: Make sure you understand why you made these errors and how to fix them. For assistance, see the LC Writing Center Guide.
  2. Once you have found your errors, list them. Begin with the most frequent and end with the least frequent errors.
  3. Print out your paper. (It will be easier to find mistakes this way.)
  4. Take a break. (You will be able to proofread your paper much better with a clear and open mind.)
    Hint: While proofreading, remember to read slowly and carefully. Look for the errors on your list one at a time.
  5. When finished, use the revision checklist below for further proofreading.

Revision Checklist:

  1. Your paper must contain a thesis sentence, which shows the theme of the essay.
  2. Who is your audience?
    • The person reading your paper is your audience.
    • You must state everything clearly and precisely, so that the audience will understand your topic.
      Whether your audience is a teacher, friend, or someone else, he or she cannot read your mind.
  3. What is the purpose of your essay?
    • The purpose is the point that you want to make in writing your paper.
    • The purpose of your paper should match your assignment.
  4. Is your paper organized?
    • Make sure your paper contains a beginning, middle, and end (a topic paragraph, paragraphs focusing on the main idea, and a closing paragraph).
    • Does your paper make sense?

    Look at the Writing Center’s page online suggestions for more help with organization.

  5. Is your paper clearly developed?
    • Are the paragraphs unclear?
    • Do they contain confusing words or run-on sentences?
    • Should any part be moved, taken out, or added?
  6. Have you used your paragraphs wisely?
    • Paragraphs should be unified, coherent, and developed, containing a beginning, middle, and end.
    • Paragraphs need to connect with one another smoothly and logically.
    • Do any paragraphs seem as if they need more material (examples or details)?
    • Are your sentences clear and concise?
  7. Is each sentence structured correctly?
    • Each sentence needs a subject and verb.
    • Does each sentence begin with a capital letter and end with a punctuation mark?
    • Are your sentences clear and concise?
    • Would your audience understand the sentences?
    • Are the sentences too wordy, or do they not contain enough information?
    • Do you understand the meaning of each word used?
      Do not use words that you do not know. Neither should you use words that you have made up, nor modern slang, unless in a quotation.
  8. Is your punctuation correct?
    • Does each sentence end with a period, question mark, or exclamation point?
    • Have you used commas correctly?
      Make sure you do not confuse the use of commas with that of semi-colons or colons.
    • When using quotation marks, have you placed your punctuation marks inside the ending quotation mark?
      When you are not sure of the correct punctuation to use, check your grammar book.

    For the correct usage of commas, see the Writing Center’s page on commas.

  9. Are there any grammatical or mechanical errors?
    • Use either the spelling checker on your computer or a dictionary for spelling errors.
    • Also, try reading backwards to spot errors.
    • If you find your grammar confusing, or are not sure about the usage, check your grammar book.
    • Make sure your subjects and verbs agree with each other.
    • Make sure the verb tenses used are all correct and consistent.
    • Make sure that each sentence makes sense.

    For further information, check the Writing Center’s Guide on subject-verb agreement.

Hints on Proofreading

  1. Read your paper aloud. In doing so, you will use both hearing and seeing, which are more productive together than they are apart. In other words, both senses might find an error together that only one may miss alone.
  2. When you have completed proofreading your paper, go over it one more time. Check for anything that you may have skipped over during the first proofreading.

Practice your proofreading, editing, and revising skills by following the directions below:

  1. Write a five-minute paragraph describing something in your room in full detail.
  2. Using all of the information above (the hints, checklist, and information on what to do before you begin), proofread your paragraph.
  3. If you have any difficulty with proofreading, you are welcome to come to the Writing Center for further assistance. Call to make an appointment with one of the Writing Center tutors at extension 8279 (544-8279).

Created by Danielle Jane Banker