10 Steps to Proofreading Success —Tips From a Professional Editor

You’ve finished writing your paper. Now what? This article details 10 steps to proofreading success. The first step should always be to run spell check. The fastest way to do this in MS Word is to use the shortcut on the keyboard, F7; otherwise, you can find the spelling & grammar check function in the Review toolbar of the program. Some people think that this is enough, but you must remember that while spell check will catch words that are not in Word’s dictionary, it will not recognize, for example, the insertion of “clam” instead of “clan” as an error. Such issues can only be caught during editing/proofreading.

Step two, start at the beginning of the document and search for the following:

(1)   typographical errors that spell check might have missed and consistency in terms of spelling and the representation of terms (e.g., you don’t want to submit a paper that contains both “Likert” and “likert” or “organize” and “organise”)

(2)   verb tense consistency

(3)   awkwardly worded sentences and long sentences that can be worded more concisely

(4)   word choice (i.e., ask yourself, “Have I used the most appropriate words to convey my ideas?” “Have I repeated the same word too many times?”)

(5)   continuity of thought (i.e., ask yourself, “Does this reinforce my argument?”)

(6)   repetition of ideas and statements

(7)   consistency in the representation of in-text citations and references

(8)   adherence to formatting guidelines, if applicable

(9)   spacing inconsistencies (i.e., polishing a document also involves ensuring that it looks good, and that one double space between words on page 3, for example, can spoil the appearance of the document that you’ve worked so hard to compose)

With respect to academic writing, when submitting a paper to a journal for publication, there will always be specific formatting guidelines that the author must follow when preparing his or her manuscript. Some will specify their own guidelines on their website, while others will strictly require, for instance, APA or MLA formatting, in which case, an excellent resource is as follows: owl.english.purdue.edu/. For other styles such as Chicago, you can consult chicagomanualofstyle, or for ASA style (sociology papers), owl.english.purdue.edu. These instructions will help you with everything from the width of your page margins to the precise manner in which you should cite an electronic resource.

Some writers find self-editing, proofreading, and formatting daunting. What is the solution? Hire a professional editor! We will ensure not only that your language is flawless but that any inconsistencies in your argument are pointed out to you and that your paper is formatted according to your specified guidelines.

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