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(Communicating Effectively Continued...)

Proofreading Strategies

     The crucial grammar and mechanical errors discussed here are not writing errors; they're editing errors. All writers make these errors while they are writing. The good writers catch and correct them with thorough proofreading; they recognize that proofreading is an essential step in writing. The following are some suggestions for how to better proofread your papers.

1. Do not think about proofreading until you reach your next-to-the-last draft, just before printing out, typing, or sending the clean hand-in draft. You shouldn't spend time fixing the errors in a sentence you are going to cut.

2. Do a preliminary spell check, especially if you are using a word processing program, but do not rely solely on the machine's help. Most spell checkers cannot identify correctly spelled homonym errors.

3. Do let some time—ideally a day, at least an hour—pass before proofreading. You are much more likely to see your mistakes through fresh eyes.

4. Do read your paper to yourself out loud. You may hear the mistakes you overlook. If something sounds funny, then it might be wrong.

5. Do read your paper backwards. Begin by reading the last sentence, then read the next-to-the-last sentence, and so on. You are much more likely to catch your punctuation and verb tense errors when your eyes and ears can't rely on the previous sentences' words to fill in the paper's meaning.

6. Do re-read your assignment's requirements before proofreading your paper. Make sure you've followed all the instructions or answered all of the pertinent questions.

7. Do give your paper to a friend or family member to proofread. Even if the person isn't a better writer than you are, he or she probably makes different mistakes than you do and will catch yours.

8. Do proofread that next-to-the-last copy very carefully, looking specifically for these listed crucial errors. Have a dictionary and a grammar handbook on hand to check for errors that other readers—even the word processor's checks—might miss.


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