When something reads easily, it is probably because the writer carefully worked on
a series of revisions.
Very few of us can just sit and "pound out" easy to
read, well organized writing. That's OK. Remember, writing
is a process. Like all processes and procedures, we hone our
skills and improve performance by practicing.
If possible, set a draft aside for a day or two, re-read it and revise it.
Without such a "cooling-off" period, you are probably too close to the work to effectively revise it.
Have you ever helped a friend proofread a paper? Many find it
easier to proofread the writing of others. Approaching your work with a
"fresh look" will probably make proofreading easier.
Here are some more suggestions to help edit and revise papers:
- Be sure the opening statement or introduction properly frames the work's content.
- Verify the writing is complete and gives the read exactly what they need to know but does not overwhelm them.
- Are the main ideas of the presentation logically organized?
Don't be afraid to move ideas around to increase clarity -- this is easy
to do on a computer.
- Look for inaccuracies in the draft - be sure it accurately reflects your research, notes, and
the your purpose.
- Are the ideas presented properly documented with appropriate
sources? Will the intended audience accept these sources as
- Be sure the sentences and ideas are closely tied together. The logic of the presentation should enhance communication. Provide appropriate transitions where they are missing and strengthen those that are weak.
- Double check that terminology is used consistently.
- Prune unnecessary words, phrases, sentence, and even paragraphs.
- Look for awkward passive voice constructions. Use active voices to make the work more direct.
- Verify that word usage is appropriate - replace or delete vague or pretentious words and unnecessary intensifiers.
Do not try to write "over your head" or use a tone that
sounds overly self-important.
- Ask yourself if you can justify punctuation and sentence
structures. If not confident they are correct, get some help.
- Watch out for biased and sexist language.
- Be sure that ALL readers will understand any jargon used.
- Replace clichés, with fresh figures of speech.
- Check draft for grammatical errors.
- Search for typographical errors with the spellchecker and by careful reading.
Do not simply rely on the spellchecker.
- Here's an old trick from the days of typewriters -- review the
paper BACKWARDS looking for spellings, words and/or punctuation that
- Check that all sources are properly notated in a consistent, appropriate
format. If not sure, look it up.
[ Top ]
A spellchecker is a great tool, but do not let it make you overconfident and sloppy in proofreading. They cannot, for example, find typos that result in a misused word. Proofread both from the computer monitor and from a printed copy. If you proofread in stages, looking for specific types of errors, you will probably end up with a better final product.
Try proofreading in 4 steps.
First Pass: Does it look right?
- Is the page layout aesthetic?
- Is the format acceptable and correct?
- Double-check the spelling of names and places.
- Are any numbers accurate?
- Is the word usage appropriate for the reader?
Second Pass: Following rules?
- Are any typographical errors present?
- Is the capitalization correct?
- Are any abbreviations, acronyms, and initials accurate?
- Is the punctuation right?
- Are there any misspelled words?
- Is the grammar correct?
Third Pass: Is it complete?
- Look for omissions.
- Identify anything that can be deleted to make the work more readable.
- Verify that World Wide Web or email addresses and the like are complete and accurate.
- The final time, read your document again for content
- Double-checking to be sure everything is there, correct, and properly formatted and placed.
[ Top ]
[ Home ] [ Writing: A Process ] [ Editing & Proofreading ] [ Grammar Quick Tips ] [ Punctuation Quick Tips ] [ Capitalization Tips ] [ Tricky Words ] [ Writing Styles ] [ Art of Persuasion ] [ Documenting Sources ] [ Online Resources ]