Proofreading Your Writing Assignments
Use technology. As you write, you
may have a suspicion that you have used a particular
word too often. Use the find tool on the
Edit menu in Microsoft Word to locate all
instances of a single word or even phrase. Then if you
find that you have overused an expression, right click
the word to get synonyms. If none of the synonyms seems
suitable, check the synonyms for similar words.
Use the grammar check with caution. I often find that
computer cannot think like a human and so I override
many grammar check suggestions. The word count
feature under the Tools menu is a lifesaver,
however. You can even add word count to
your toolbar to save some keystrokes. You can also set
your spelling and grammar options to check for the use
of passive voice. (Go to Tools, then Options, then Spelling
& Grammar and check show readability statistics.)
Then when you run the Spelling & Grammar check,
you will see a box that provides various statisticsone
of which is the percentage of passive sentences.
Avoid distractions. Proofing should
be done at a time of day when you are well-rested and
alert. Each of us has a peak timelearn to take
advantage of it. Turn the ringer off the phone. Dont
check your e-mail while proofing. Go to the library
or someplace where you are not likely to be disturbed.
Mark the mistakes clearly. Whether
you use traditional proofreaders marks or your
own hybrid of symbols and abbreviations, using a colored
pen or highlighter will increase the likelihood that
you will see all the errors when its time to sit
down and make your revisions. Check off the errors on
your paper as you correct them on your computer. Then
if you become distracted, youll know where you
Other tricks of the trade:
1. Increase the font size or enlarge the copy to make
it easier to read and mark.
2. Watch for clusters of mistakes. (This might happen
because you were becoming tired or were distracted at
a point in your writing.)
3. Check numbering systems.
4. Check the familiar.
5. When you find an error, correct it and then re-read
the line. (Especially common error caused by using a
cut & paste feature).
6. Separate lengthy material into smaller amounts so
as not to lose your level of concentration.
Resources on the Web:
Some great Web resources exist with other tips. Your
own college or university may have grammar and proofing
tips online. The University of Arkansas has an online
writing lab (O.W.L.), and a good source of information
for spelling, punctuation and grammar is available from
Cathy Rogers has a B.S. in Business Management and
a teaching certificate in Business Education. After
teaching computer and office skills classes for over
ten years, she now coordinates non-credit courses for
the University of Tennesssee. She also writes a community
news column for a local newspaper and feature articles
and essays for other publications.