It’s that time of the year. A new semester.
It’s very easy to spot errors in other peoples’ work, but if you’re stuck proofreading your own work (though always try to find someone else to read over your work before handing it in!) as you look toward this fresh start, here’s some tips to catch your errors:
- Measure twice, cut once. The best way to fix your errors is not to make them the first time around.
Find your best work environment for writing papers; I prefer writing with music playing, but I have to write in my bedroom at my house. Some people can work in a library or any kind of public setting, and still others prefer silence. However you work best, use that to your advantage to help you focus most effectively.
Making an outline first always seems like “more work,” but you’ll ultimately save time, energy, and a whole lot of frustration knowing what’s coming next. Your paper will be much better for it. If you have your thesis and points ready, you’ll have stronger transitions too.
- Read your paper backwards.
Over the years, I have always been told to read my paper out loud, which is usually the best way to find mistakes, but I hated doing it, so I never did. Proofreading was hard for me until a professor taught me to read my paper backwards; since we as writers always know what’s next, it’s easy to skip across words and phrases. By reading the paper sentence by sentence backwards, we focus more sharply and catch more errors.
- Write on your paper.
Sure, printing is often inconvenient and costly, but for a few cents you can boost your grades. Whenever I write a paper, I immediately print it out and get up from the computer. If I have the time, I give it a day or two, but if I’m in a crunch I’ll just leave the paper for an hour or two before proofreading. I’ll circle my thesis statement for the introduction, my mini theses for the paragraphs, and outline my main points. If I get lost anywhere, I know I have to change my paper. If I can’t find my points, and I am supposed to know what I’m saying, how can a reader figure it out?
So with this new semester starting, try to get to your papers as early as you can. Having time to proofread can be more important than having the time to write the paper; those errors can be the difference between an A and a C.
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