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...either write things worth reading, or do things worth writing.
Benjamin Franklin, 1706 - 90
American statesman/inventor

Writing series

Proofreading writing assginments

Proofreading writing assignments

Seven stages of writing assignments:

Intentionally separate "proofreading" from the "writing" and "revising" processes.
Writing and revising focus on content, message and style; proofreading focuses on "mechanics."

Work with another:

  • It is twice as hard to detect mistakes in your own work
    as in someone else's!
  • Get a second opinion!
    A fresh set of eyes may not only find errors, but also have suggestions for improvement
  • Professional editors proofread as many as ten times.
    Publishing houses hire teams of readers to work in pairs, reading out loud.
    And still errors occur.

Cultivate a sense of doubt

Take nothing for granted
If you know you repeat certain errors, double check for them.
Most errors in written work are made unconsciously.

These are sources of unconscious, repetitive error:

  • Misspellings:
    a word like "accommodate" can be checked through a spellchecker in word processing
  • Keyboarding: "form" for "from"
    A keyboarding error that is common and unthinkingly repeated
  • Usage error "which" for "that"
    Word processors may locate the problem but it is left to you to decide and choose
  • Inattention
    The mind works far faster than the pen or keyboarding

Read out loud, word for word:

  • Take advantage of two senses: hearing and seeing
    It is often possible to hear a mistake, such as an omitted or repeated word that you have not seen
  • Slow down
    Read what is actually on the page, not what you think is there
    This is difficult, particularly if you wrote what you are reading

Why slow down?
When you read normally, you often see only the shells of words -- the first and last few letters, perhaps. You "fix your eyes" on the print only three or four times per line, or less. You take in the words between these points, and get less accurate the the more you stray from the point. The average reader can only take in six letters accurately with one fixation. This means you have to fix your eyes on almost every word you have written and do it twice in longer words, in order to proofread accurately. You have to look at the word, not slide over it.

Turn in the paper

Celebrate a job well done,
with the confidence that you have done your best.

This last is very important.


Seven stages of writing assignments:

Index | Develop your topic (1) | Identify your audience (2) |
Research (3) | Research with notecards | Summarizing research |
Prewrite (4) | Draft/write (5) | Revise (6) | Proofread (7)


Adapted with permission from SSL, University of Maryland