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Editing and Proofreading

After drafting and revising to make sure that we’ve communicated our ideas clearly and effectively, we can take time to make sure that our writing reflects that hard work that we’ve put into it. At the editing and proofreading stages of the writing process, we check our work to make sure that it’s consistent, clear, and error-free. This resource covers a few basic strategies for editing and proofreading our work.

Analyzing Sentence Structure

Writing can sound repetitive, and even unclear, if we do not vary our sentence structure enough. Typically, you should try to avoid series of very short or very long sentences; instead, try to make your sentences vary in length.

Exercise for Revision

Taking your paper, or a peer’s, highlight or underline every other sentence. After doing this for a paragraph, section, or page (whatever you have time for), look at the paper to get a visual sense of sentence length. If many of the sentences appear to be around the same length, try to shorten some or combine others to help vary the length.

Reading Aloud

Reading a piece of writing out loud is an excellent way to check for repetition, find typos, and get a general sense of the flow of your paper. Though reading out loud might feel uncomfortable, it is a strategy that can help you see your paper in a new light, thus helping you to improve it considerably.

Reading Aloud Exercise

Taking your paper, or a peer’s, read out loud a paragraph, section, or page (whatever you have time for). When you find typos, errors, or parts that might need to be revised for other reasons, simply make a mark on the page (do not stop to correct it). After you have finished a segment of the paper, go back and make changes to the paper (or call the author’s attention to the possible errors that you noted).

Another variation of this exercise is to read the paper backwards. You can read it backwards word by word or sentence by sentence to be able to focus on spelling issues and typos.

Keeping a Checklist

If you know that you tend to have specific issues with your writing, keeping an editing or proofreading checklist is a good way to ensure that you’ve addressed all these issues before submitting your work for class or publication. A sample checklist might look like this:

  • Verb tense
  • Comma consistency
  • Capitalization

Checklist Exercise

As you read through your paper, or a peer’s, look specifically for the issues on the checklist. If commas are known to be a problem, look specifically at all the commas in the paper, checking the usage of each. Or, if you are looking for capitalization issues, ask yourself as you go through each word or sentence: “Is everything that is capitalized in this sentence supposed to be capitalized? Are any words missing capitalization?” Continue like this for each issue individually.