Proofreading & Editing

You're not alone. Effective proofreading is something many student writers struggle with. Learning how to find and fix our own errors is difficult. Read below for some strategies and tips on good proofreading practices. To your right you'll find a column of links that will help you with specific error patterns in your own work.

Sentence-level construction has to be correct if we are going to understand your writing. Think about it: Your best ideas are only as good as the worst sentences that you create to convey them. You'll strengthen your sentence control if you work on improving your proofreading skills - and learning how to read your own work for problems is a core part of the larger editing process. 


Composition and literature courses in particular are essay courses, remember. They assume you already know how to create correct sentences and paragraphs so that we can build on those skills in your essay work. So, learning how to effectively scan or “proofread” your work for sentence and paragraph error patterns before it gets submitted for evaluation becomes vitally important to the success of your work.


Below are some strategies designed to help you improve your proofreading effectiveness. They will help you train your editing ear and foster a comfort level with your own writing so that you’re able to choose the correct speech more easily and then put it in the right places in order to convey the meaning you want without falling into muddled and garbled patterns that don't effectively capture your good ideas. Learning how to more effectively identify and eliminate sentence errors is the path to clear and powerful communication.

Proofreading Tips


  • Read more so that you gradually come to recognize awkward-sounding and incorrect verbal patterns in your own speech 

  • Start assignments earlier so that you will have more time to move between drafts on paper and the computer screen as you approach an assignment deadline 

  • Get off the computer screen and onto paper when you reread and proofread – We tend to miss many more errors on the computer screen than on paper with pen in hand, reading slowly and methodically 

  • Read aloud your own writing to yourself, slowly and backwards (last sentence to first sentence) – this is to teach your eye and ear to spot the error patterns and awkward places in your own work that your brain will tend to naturally smooth over and “fix” as you read silently ​

  • Have someone else read to you while you look on with another copy, listening for and marking awkward or unclear patches in your writing as you hear them spoken by someone else (but don’t let that person correct your work – that’s your job) 

  • Read for a single specific error pattern at a time rather than reading for all errors at once – You’ll become less overwhelmed if you focus your search for one kind of error at a time, and you’ll be more likely to catch all the instances of that particular error type in your work 

  • Practice tighter control and clarity in your sentence work by keeping your paragraphs much shorter and narrowly focused: this will prevent you from incorporating additional ideas that may be unrelated to your core topic idea and that may function to dilute the clarity and focus of your writing further

  • Learn how to apply my remarks on work you’ve already received back from me: remember that when I respond to your writing, I am usually only marking single instances of a given error pattern, but that same error pattern almost certainly exists throughout your work in places I have intentionally not marked so that you’ll train yourself to look for and find those same patterns on my own throughout your work, without my intervention. (In this way you gradually become your own best proofreader.) 

  • Work regularly with a trained tutor who can begin helping you learn how to identify and repair the different error patterns in your work 

  • Come visit me in office hours and I’ll be able to help you spot and learn how to fix many of these error patterns as well