Proofreading involves looking for sentence- and word-level mistakes such as spelling, grammar, punctuation, and formatting.
Helpful tip: 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.
- Put your work aside for several hours before proofreading so the words seem new to you.
- Read your paper out loud.
- Read from a hard copy.
What do I look for?
- Make sure you have employed strong, vibrant verbs.
- Eliminate repetition of words or phrases, especially in consecutive sentences.
- Be concise: if you can eliminate a word and the sentence still makes sense, and is thorough, then eliminate it.
- Ensure that you have used a variety of sentence structures.
- Check that pronoun references are clear. Your reader should easily be able to link pronouns to the nouns that they represent.
Helpful tip: see our pronoun handout for more information on using pronouns clearly and effectively.
- Check that your verb tense is consistent throughout the paper.
- Pay attention to the spell checker (but be careful - it can make mistakes!).
- Look for appropriate capitalization and punctuation.
Look for these grammatical tricky spots:
plurals and possessives
...and these commonly-confused words:
- Make sure all tables, graphs, charts, and images are appropriately titled and cited.
- Check to make sure you're using country-specific spelling (e.g., colour, cheque, etc.)
- Check page numbers.
- Compare titles, subtitles, and works cited list against samples in your discipline's particular style (APA, IEEE, MLA, etc.)
- Check that quotations and in-text citations meet style requirements.
- Check that margins and fonts meet specified requirements.
Helpful tip: If you're unsure about formatting or stylistic conventions in your discipline, ask your instructor and consult field-specific academic journals.
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