Proofreading Tips and Tricks
By the UWC Writing Assistants
It’s easy to get burnt out when working on a paper for hours on end.
It’s likely you’ve found yourself sitting at one of the Hot Spot booths with your laptop. After typing furiously to meet the word count, you decide to take your chances and submit it without a second look-over.
Many people consider proofreading to be unnecessary or a waste of time, but even the best writers can benefit from it.
In fact, revisiting a nearly-finished paper can actually save your grade.
Proofreading for Organization
Organization is an important part of any document — but how do you know if a paper is organized or not? The key to writing a well-organized paper is to make sure the ideas within the paper make sense together. This is done by focusing on the individual sections within an essay: the paragraphs and the thesis statement.
One way to organize a paper’s topics is to read through it with a pencil in hand, jotting the main idea of each paragraph in the margin. Once this is done, you can easily review the main ideas contained in each paragraph and determine whether or not the topics make sense in their current order.
If any of the ideas seem random or out of place, this is a clue that the paper should be reorganized.
A thesis statement is a sentence that explains in a nutshell what the entire paper is about. The thesis statement is usually placed at the end of an essay’s introduction. This single sentence creates a clear road map for your reader. Most of the time, it is difficult to come up with a thesis when you first start writing, and it is common for it to change as the paper develops.
At the end of the writing process, it’s always a good idea to look once more at the thesis, checking that it still lines up with the rest of your paper’s content.
Proofreading Topic Sentences and Transitions
Along with the thesis, topic sentences are an essential part of a cohesive paper, as are the transitions between each paragraph.
Topic Sentences. Placed at the beginning of a paragraph or section, topic sentences are easily the most noticeable lines in an essay.
When proofreading, jump straight to these lines and make sure they are clear, concise, and straightforward. Sentences that are vague or off-topic can mislead the audience, causing the reader to completely miss the point of the paragraph.
After topic sentences, transitions are next in importance to help a paper flow naturally. A paper can also sound choppy and unfinished when transitions are absent. One easy way to make sure yours are effective is to highlight — with a hard copy, if possible — the last line of each paragraph and the first line of the next one. Looking at them like this makes it easy to check if they belong together, or if a smoother transition is necessary.
A wonderful way to proofread your own work is to read it aloud. This strategy is easy to execute and is beneficial in a number of ways.
Reading aloud also helps you evaluate tone and style.
Even though academic writing is more formal than verbal communication, here is a general rule of thumb: if you can’t comfortably speak a sentence you’ve written, it should be rephrased.
Paper copies are much easier on the eyes and simpler to navigate and take notes on. It’s also good practice to read the document aloud several times.
Even if a paper is unfinished, proofreading out loud helps you to really think through your content and generate new ideas — and catch those typos too 👀
Going to the Writing Commons
Proofreading doesn’t have to be something you do alone. In fact — after spending hours of writing something by yourself, it can be refreshing to have a fresh set of eyes take a look at your paper.
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This is as good a reason as any to stop by the University Writing Commons.
At the UWC, you can sit down with a writing assistant for half an hour and get an experienced writer’s perspective on your work.
What else can you get help with?
Writing assistants can work with you wherever you are at in the writing process. Do you have a question about your thesis statement? Are you unsure if your sources cited correctly? Do you want someone to brainstorm ideas with you for your paper? Each writing assistants is trained to collaborate with you during any stage of the writing process.
The UWC has three locations —
- The second floor of Cline Library
- The Green Scene Cafe in the HLC
- The Inclusion and Multicultural Student Services room in the Union.
The Cline Library location is a quiet and convenient place to have someone look over your writing. The Green Scene Cafe location offers a beautiful view of Mt. Humphreys, a casual environment, and the opportunity to grab a bite to eat, all while chatting with a Writing Assistant about your assignments. Last but not least, the Inclusion and Multicultural Student Services room is located in a centralized spot on campus, making it a convenient location to drop by and work with a Writing Assistant.
Make an appointment
You can make an appointment by scheduling an appointment online at https://nau.edu/iwriting/uwc. We also have walk-in appointments based on availability.
Remember that the Writing Commons is a FREE resource to all NAU students. Take advantage of this opportunity to have someone look at your writing and to give you feedback.
You’ll feel better and your grades will too 👌🏼