Proofreading Strategies

Proofreading involves looking for sentence- and word-level mistakes such as spelling, grammar, punctuation, and formatting.

Proofreading is the final stage in revising and editing your writing, whereas revision looks at more global aspects of your writing such as argument, flow, logic, evidence, and organization. Generally, you should focus on revision first and proofreading second, unless grammatical errors are so cumbersome that they affect the reader’s ability to understand your content.

Note that the Writing Centre will not proofread your paper and make changes for you. We will help you determine your personal problem areas and teach you to proofread your own work.

Proofreading strategies

  1. Put your work aside for several hours before proofreading so the words seem new to you.
  2. Read your paper out loud.
  3. Read from a hard copy.

Review the following areas to guide your proofreading:

Style

  1. Make sure you have employed strong, vibrantverbs.
  2. Eliminate repetitionof words or phrases, especially in consecutive sentences.
  3. Be concise: if you can eliminate a word and the sentence still makes sense, and is thorough, then eliminate it.
  4. Ensure that you have used a variety ofsentence structures.
  5. Check thatpronoun referencesare clear. Your reader should easily be able to link pronouns to the nouns that they represent.

See our pronoun resource for more information on using pronouns clearly and effectively.

Grammar

  1. Check that yourverb tenseis consistent throughout the paper.
  2. Pay attention to thespell checker(but be careful - it can make mistakes!).
  3. Look for appropriatecapitalizationandpunctuation.

Look for these grammatical tricky spots:

  1. sentence fragments

  2. run-on sentences

  3. plurals and possessives

  4. misplaced modifiers

  5. subject-verb agreement

  6. articles

...and these commonly-confused words:

  1. there/their/they're
  2. your/you're
  3. its/it's
  4. effect/affect
  5. weather/whether
  6. then/than
  7. whose/who's

Format

  1. Make sure all tables, graphs, charts, and images are appropriatelytitledandcited.
  2. Check to make sure you're usingcountry-specific spelling(e.g., colour, cheque, etc.)
  3. Checkpage numbers.
  4. Compare titles, subtitles, and works cited list against samples in yourdiscipline's particular style(APA, IEEE, MLA, etc.)
  5. Check thatquotationsandin-text citationsmeet style requirements.
  6. Check thatmarginsandfontsmeet specified requirements.

If you're unsure about formatting or stylistic conventions in your discipline, ask your instructor and consult field-specific academic journals.