Proofreading is often overlooked by ESL students. Proofreading exercises however are a vital part of the writing process and will add to both the clarity and quality of your writing. The best ways to proofread your academic writing are easy and can be done in groups, with a partner or on your own.
The Collins English dictionary defines proofreading as, “The act of reading (copy or printer's proofs) to detect and mark errors to be corrected”. The best way to improve your proofreading skills is with regular practice. Here are four simple strategies you can use to improve your proofreading abilities and in consequence you’re academic writing and grades.
1. Working in Groups
One of the best ways to proofread is to have other students read your essay or dissertation and suggest corrections. Even a native English speaker will often overlook mistakes when reading their own writing. The more people you can get to read over your writing the better it will be for you. This kind of proofreading exercise is also beneficial to the reader as they are developing their own proofreading and writing skills.
2. Working with a Partner
A writing partner helps with proofreading because they give you consistent input on your writing and provide another pair of eyes. It will also help you to develop your own proofreading and writing skills. It is a good idea to change your partner regularly as your partner will get used to your writing style which can affect their ability to proofread your writing effectively.
3. Doing it Yourself
One of the easiest and most effective ways to proofread is to read your work aloud. Doing this helps to identify common grammatical errors. This type of proofreading is much better than just reading over your work silently, as when you do so you have a tendency to read what you think you wrote rather than what you actually did write. This strategy is commonly used by professional proofreaders.
4. Wait Before Proofreading
When you write you get absorbed in the writing. If you have just completed an essay or dissertation it’s not a good idea to read it over for mistakes just after completion. If you do it’s quite likely that you will overlook mistakes. If time permits wait for a day or two and then proofread your writing, as you are doing so with a fresh pair of eyes. When you read over your work after a break of a day or two you are far more likely to identify mistakes and any stylistic problems.
Tip: If you are using a partner or working in a group when proofreading, try to do so with people of a different nationality. People from the same country tend to make the same kinds of mistakes!
Dostoyevsky, 'Crime and Punishment'
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