Follow This 8-Step Process to Proofread Your Work

National Proofreading Day is March 8th, a day to honor the importance of reviewing our written work and submitting error-free (or as close to it as possible) communication.

It’s the day the Grammar Police come out in full force, ready to stop poor word choices and comma uses in their tracks.

But really, the day serves as a reminder to slow down and do some proofreading.

(📸: Giphy)

Whether it be a homework assignment, a cover letter, an email, or even a text message — our writing is often a first impression of our character. It’s important to give it some attention — just as you would your physical appearance — before sending it out the door. Reviewing your writing helps ensure that your message is clear and professional.

You don’t have to be a professional editor to proofread your writing. Here are some simple tips to proofread your work:

1. Start with the Grammarly app 📲

Grammarly is a free tool you can use to catch errors in your writing as you go. You can use Grammarly as a browser extension or as a desktop app to proofread work you do online or offline. Instead of correcting your work, Grammarly underlines the area of concern and gives you suggestions for fixing.

Grammarly checks your work for grammar, spelling, conventions, vocabulary, punctuation, formality, variety, politeness, clarity and confidence!

2. Allow enough time for proofreading 📖

In the case of a homework assignment or even a work presentation, avoid waiting until the night before the deadline to get started. When piecing out your project, ensure that your schedule allows you time to review your work.

Bonus points if you allow enough time to have another person do a quick review as well!

3. Sleep on it 💤

It helps to have some space between when you finished writing and when you proofread. Take a break, preferably overnight, and come back to your writing with fresh eyes.

4. Print your work 📝

NAU students studying at the library on campus

After staring at a screen for so long, looking at an actual piece of paper will be a nice adjustment for your eyes and can help you see your writing differently.

Some writers also like to edit their work in a different room from where they wrote it to differentiate writing mode from editing mode.

Try printing off your work and going to the library, a coffee shop, or quiet outdoor area to proofread.

5. Look for common errors ⚠️

(📸: Giphy)

Think about your writing style: what do you commonly struggle with when it comes to grammar? Keep that in mind as you do your review so you can easily spot those errors.

Here are the most common grammar misusages:

  • run-on sentences and comma splices
  • your/you’re (editors everywhere are cringe at this)
  • confusing similar spellings (to/too/two, hear/here, whether/weather)
  • apostrophes used incorrectly
  • overusing adverbs and adjectives
  • inconsistent use of tense — using both past and present in the same sentence, etc.
  • it’s vs. its

6. Read it out loud 📚

When you hear your writing, you get a better sense of where some sentence structures need to be varied or shortened to improve the flow of the language.

If you have trouble reading the work out loud, you can guarantee it will be difficult for the reader as well.

Commas can save lives.

7. Get a second set of eyes 👀

Two NAU students studying at a desk together with a textbook, notebook, and laptop.

Enlist a trusted friend, roommate, teacher, or mentor to do a quick review of your work. Let them know what areas you struggle with and what you’d like them to focus on. Since you’re tied so closely to your work, another person might be able to see something that you glossed over.

8. When in doubt, Google it 🔎

If you don’t know whether an apostrophe should be used or whether health care is two words or one, run a Google search or consult one of the following online resources:

Celebrate National Proofreading Day by reviewing your writing, reviewing a friend’s writing, or digging for typos in all the emails you receive today! Let this day serve as a reminder to always review your work and put your best self out there in writing.

Louie Lumberjack typing on his computer in his office.

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