Now that your paper is done, you want to make sure it’s as perfect as possible before publishing.  Obviously, the first step toward that goal is to proofread your work. Here is a short and sweet proofreading guide.

“Huh? My word processing program includes a spell checker, and it even checks grammar, too—why should I proofread my document?”

Elementary, my dear Watson: spell/grammar checkers don’t always catch all the typos your work may contain.  To prevent (or maybe just lessen) panic at the notion of proofreading, below are some easy steps to help you through the process.

A Proofreading Guide:

  1. Use your word processing program’s spell/grammar check for basic proofreading. It’s a good place to start and usually catches the most egregious errors.
  2. Don’t blindly accept all the suggestions that spell/grammar check recommends. For instance, in the paragraph above (you know, the one beginning with the Sherlock Holmes cliché), my spell-grammar check recommends a semi-colon rather than a comma between “proofreading” and “below.”  Ummm…nope, sorry. That’s not an appropriate place for a semi-colon, but the comma works just fine, thanks.
  3. Read through your writing slowly and carefully. You’ll be surprised at the number of errors a human proofreader will catch that was entirely missed by a spell/grammar check program.
  4. If you have the time, read your document from end to beginning as part of the proofreading process. Why? Because reading your work backward focuses your attention on the spelling and grammar. When you read from beginning to end, it’s just human nature to unconsciously fill in missing words and see the correct spelling, even when words are missing, or spelling is incorrect.
  5. Have a friend or family member proof your document.  Is it a subject they know little or nothing about? Even better! Then their focus will be on grammar and spelling since they can’t help you with content!

And what about editing for style?  Here again, you can edit your work, with help from such academic sites as owl.english.purdue and MLA, for example. Additionally, docstyles is a site that covers practically every academic style guide you might be likely to use. It’s easy enough to use these resources to find the answer to any style questions you might have, like how to cite that unusual source or how to format a long quote.

If all this still sounds too daunting, why not just save yourself the frustration (and possibly your friendships and family relationships, as well)?

Hire a professional editor from a firm like First Editing to not only proofread but also edit your work and check your citations and references for adherence to your institution’s preferred style guide, be it APA, MLA, Turabian, or what-have-you? A professional edit by an academic editor will help make your life so much easier!

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