5 Easy Ways to Detect Mistakes While Proofreading

By Nicholas Klacsanzky

Hi everyone.

As you know, writing an academic paper is only half of the work. If you don’t check what you’ve written, you are likely to submit an essay full of mistakes, typos, and inconsistencies–especially if you were writing it the same day it was due (and this happens quite often, let’s admit). No need to say this greatly lowers your grade. Fortunately, there are several simple techniques that will help you detect and correct your mistakes quickly and with ease.

  1. Read your paper out loud. Just warn your roommate about your intentions before you do this, or he or she might think you are having a nervous breakdown. Reading aloud makes you both read and listen to what you have written, and thus doubles your chances to find a mistake. Besides, when reading aloud, it is easy to detect pieces of text that sound unnatural–not like in live speech.
  2. Use spell-checking software. I have no idea how students manage to commit so many mistakes in their essays given they use MS Word, Libreoffice, Google Docs, or other similar programs. While I was typing this sentence, I made a typo in “Libreoffice,” and Google Docs’ spellchecker immediately underlined it with a red line. Either students are too lazy to correct mistakes, or they hand write their essays–I don’t know.
  3. Read your paper backwards. I mean, not letter by letter, but word by word. The trick is simple: when we read normally, our brain automatically corrects mistakes to maintain the reading flow and comprehension process. If you start reading your essay from its end and backwards, word by word, your mind will cease to perform its “auto-correct” function, and you will see the mistakes you’ve made.
  4. Spelling, punctuation, and consistency should be checked separately. Yep, it means that you will have to proofread three times, but in fact the amount of time spent on proofreading will be the same; this way you can focus on each type of mistake–one at a time–so you will find them faster.
  5. Many people proofread each sentence immediately after they finish writing one. I also make this mistake from time to time–while typing, I make a typo now and then, notice a spellchecker underlining, and rush to correct that typo. Doing so breaks both the writing flow and your focus. So, proofread only when you finish writing. I usually stick to the following sequence: write, edit, proofread.

Hopefully, this advice will help you submit better papers and get higher grades. Good luck!


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