There are a few “top tips” even professional proofreaders use when checking a piece of written work. Try some (or all) of these pointers to see which combination of techniques helps you produce your best work.
When proofreading your own work, it is easy for the mind to gloss over what is actually written. Your brain knows what you meant to write and you “see” what you expect to see rather than what might really be on the page. Going through your piece from right to left could help boost your concentration and allow you to see the work that you actually created. Instead of looking at entire sentences, you will be looking at individual words.
Make a Checklist
If you consistently make certain errors in your writing, create a checklist of your trouble spots. If necessary, see someone at your college writing lab or speak with an instructor about your writing problems. Understanding your problem areas can help you stop making the same mistakes over and over again. Keep that list handy to be certain you’ve looked for all of your most common mistakes in your work.
As you move through your list and any other parts of your proofreading process, try not to take on too many tasks at once. If you proofread for only one error at a time, you help boost your focus and make your proofing more effective. For instance, grammar errors can be hard to spot if you’re also trying to look for punctuation and spelling problems at the same time, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has explained.
Get a Second Opinion
Proofreading your own work can be challenging. If possible, ask someone you trust to review your writing as well. A new set of eyes might find errors you’ve missed.
Proofread your piece more than once, and allow yourself time to do this properly. Speeding through your writing and proofreading won’t help your accuracy. Unless you slow down, you won’t give your eyes time to spot any mistakes you may have made.
Remember to take breaks while you work. Even five minutes, the Purdue Online Writing Lab has noted, is enough time to give your mind a rest and allow you to return to your task feeling fresh.
Arranging Your Work Space
Proofreading is best done without distraction. Find a place where you can work uninterrupted and where you’ll have an easy time concentrating. If you don’t have a work space of your own (or if it’s been awhile since you’ve seen your work space under all your books and papers), a little preliminary organization may be in order.
Make it Work for You
Everyone studies and works differently, so tips that work for one person might not be suitable for another. However, Scholastic.com has explained that we can all start in the same place: setting the scene. Think first about your personal preferences. Do you work best alone or does a little background noise actually improve your concentration? How you feel about the atmosphere can mean the difference between setting up shop in your bedroom or in a corner of the dining room.
Think about other factors like temperature and comfort. Work where you will feel comfortable physically (not too hot or too cold), and where you’ll be most alert. Scholastic.com notes that while the bed may feel comfy, it’s not great to sit there and try to work if you’ll get sleepy.
That’s not to say you don’t deserve a little comfort, though. Make sure your work surface is at the right height – usually around your waist – and that you have enough room to spread out your materials. Your chair should be at a height allowing you to sit up straight with your body in a neutral position: feet flat on the floor; hands, wrists, and forearms straight and mostly parallel to the floor; and shoulders relaxed with your upper arms hanging normally at your sides. This posture is ideal for keeping yourself comfortable while you work and eliminating unnecessary muscle tension and pains.
You’ll need to take a break to help your mind stay fresh and catch as many errors as possible when you proofread. The same is true for physical needs as well. Even with good posture, you must stretch your fingers, hands, and arms every so often, and walk around or adjust your chair periodically. This will help your body stay comfortable and help you avoid being distracted by body aches.
When your space works for you, you might feel a little better about having to work in the first place. Make the adjustments necessary for improving your ability to work well on proofreading or any of your writing or studying endeavors.
How to Proofread a Resume
Whether you’re ready to graduate high school and are applying to colleges, or you’re about to graduate college and are looking for work, chances are you will need to create a resume detailing your accomplishments. Like any other document you write, your resume will also require an intensive proofreading process. Regardless of how much you’ve achieved, you won’t do yourself any favors by turning in a less-than-perfect resume.
Be very methodical when proofreading your resume. Search for just one type of mistake at a time or you risk losing focus and missing minor errors throughout the process. Continue going over your resume several times, looking each time for many of the same things you’d look for in a traditional essay.
Is everything aligned properly with no odd spacing? Are the fonts correct? Have you formatted dates in the same manner throughout your resume?
Some employers toss resumes into the garbage at the sight of one spelling error. Do yourself a favor: use the spell check function on your computer. Once you have used spell check, look through your resume again for spelling errors. For instance, even the best programs won’t always detect whether words like “for” or “four” are correct in the context of what you’ve written. Turn to a dictionary for additional help in making sure you’ve spelled a word correctly.
Certain words have more than one meaning. Only use the words you are confident you understand or check with the dictionary to verify that you are using the right word.
Check Your Facts
Review any dates and names included on your resume to ensure that they are accurate. Check against a calendar if necessary.
Verb tense is important for helping a prospective employer understand more about your current situation. Keep your work duties for any current employment or activities in the present tense and anything you’ve done in the past in the past tense.
Punctuation also matters on a resume. Check to make sure you have periods at the end of full sentences and that any commas are in the correct place.
Don’t expect to have a presentable resume in just a few minutes. Like any written work, you’ll need to allot time for editing and revisions. Schedule breaks so that you can step away and return to evaluate your resume with a fresh perspective. Remember as well that it never hurts to have someone else review your resume for errors and to suggest any improvements.
How to Improve Your Spelling
The ability to spell words correctly is essential in today’s world. In 2009, NPR reported that a survey of 150 senior business executives found that 40% were willing to dismiss a job applicant entirely if even one word was spelled wrong on a resume. Your spelling is, in a sense, a reflection of you. If spelling isn’t your strong suit, a little practice will be in order so you reduce the number of errors you’ll be watching for during proofreading. Here are some tips that can help.
Keep a Journal
You can improve your spelling by keeping a notebook or journal of words that you struggle to spell. Practice writing these words until they are committed to memory. It also helps to spell the words out loud as you write. You’ll start remembering how a word sounds as you spell it correctly. If a paper journal isn’t your style, consider keeping a file of problem words on your computer instead.
Build Your Literacy
Reading is a great way to enhance your vocabulary and improve your spelling at the same time. The more you see words, the more you’ll be able to commit them to memory. As you read, consider marking your books with a pencil to indicate words you would like to practice later.
“The only way to really learn a word is to use it, and that counts for spelling as much as for learning its meaning,” wrote Dustin Wax for Stepcase Lifehack. As you continue to study and learn new words, incorporate them into the pieces you write whether you’re working on a blog, essay, or other article.
A silly rhyme or catchy phrase might be just the trick for helping you overcome a word that is difficult to spell. One such example is “i before e except after c.” Mnemonics are helpful because they pair something familiar to you with new pieces of information. Develop your own mnemonic devices or use others you’ve heard to learn how to spell new words.
Tools for Proofreading
Let’s face it. When you’re proofreading, chances are you won’t have the answer to every proofreading question stored carefully away in your brain. Fortunately there are tools available to help make your task a little easier.
The Dictionary and Thesaurus
Your word processing software most likely has a spell check function, but this will only be helpful to a point. For instance, “desert” and “dessert” are both spelled correctly, but your spell check won’t know whether you meant to talk about sand or your grandma’s chocolate cake. Use your dictionary to double check any misspellings spell check might not be able to catch.
If you’re not the type who wants to spend time thumbing through an actual dictionary or thesaurus from your book shelf, remember that many versions of these resources are available online. Search “dictionary” or “thesaurus” on your favorite search engine to dig for the sites you find most useful.
Spell Check and Grammar Check
These components of your word processing software will be useful for catching a large share of the typos or other errors you might make in your writing, such as transposed letters and repeated words. Again, they won’t be foolproof. Rely on your own good judgment as you scan your work for problems.
Depending on your instructor’s requirements, you may have to format your papers in the Modern Language Association (MLA) format or American Psychological Association (APA) format. Each of these has particular requirements in terms of citing sources properly throughout your document. MLA Format is frequently used when writing about subjects in the liberal arts and humanities. APA format, meanwhile, is used most often when writing about subjects in the social sciences. Make use of any handouts on correct formatting. There are also Web sites explaining these particular styles that can be used to ensure you have cited correctly in your work.
Proofreading is a skill you will build over time. Consider keeping a file of useful handouts from your instructors or any other resources you come across throughout your studies. This way, you’ll have a personalized help center and information on hand concerning the issues you know you most need to focus on when proofreading.