Editing and Proofreading Tips
As you work towards your final drafts, editing is an important step. Once you have completed the revision process, it’s time to go back through your paper and make sure you have achieved sentence clarity and precision of language. Here are some solid tips for proofreading and editing:
*Read your paper aloud. Listen for places where things sound wrong and places where you stumble over words. These are usually indicators that something is not quite right with the wording.
*Ask a friend to read it aloud while you read along. A really good friend might even help you proofread.
*Read your paper from the last sentence to the first sentence, looking carefully at the words that you read. Are they spelled right?
*Give yourself at least a day to put the draft aside. If you try to proofread immediately after writing it, you are almost guaranteed to miss errors because your brain automatically fills in what you were thinking instead of what’s on the page.
*Hit Control+F, and then type “their” in the find box. Look at every use of “their,” and make sure you are using the correct version of this homophone. Then, go back and repeat for “there” and “they’re,” as well as “you’re” and “your.” Let’s add “its,” “it’s,” “to,” and “too” while we’re at it.
- Their = ownership “Their ball is in the street.”
- There = location “The ball is over there” or existence “There is a ball.”
- They’re = they are “They’re playing ball.”
- You’re = you are “You’re really tall.”
- Your = ownership “Your height is above average.”
- It’s = it is “It’s a beautiful day”
- Its = ownership “Its kittens were black.”
- To = a directive “Give the ball to the cat.”
- Too = also “I want a kitten too!” or excess “It’s too cute!”
*Make sure that every time you use “I,” you have capitalized it. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen “i” in your projects, posts, freewrites, tweets, and emails.
*Definitely is spelled d-e-f-i-n-i-t-e-l-y NOT d-e-f-i-a-n-t-l-y. Defiantly means disobediently, not certainly.
Some Additional Grammar Tips
These are some common errors that I see in many of your papers. If you have more questions, there are great resources online, such as GrammarGirl and the Purdue OWL, that can help you figure out your specific issues.
*Introductory clauses (actually called ‘dangling modifiers’): Whenever you have an introductory clause or phrase, you need to use a comma.
- When doing homework, my computer caught on fire.
- Once upon a time, there was a frog.
- In 1999, there were a lot of parties.
- Because I was sick, I could not go to school.
*Semi-colons link two COMPLETE sentences that share very similar ideas or a list where it’s necessary to separate commas. They are a stylistic tool, not a necessity. Limit yourself to one semi-coloned sentence per page (if you feel a need to use them at all).
- I love my mom’s chocolate chip cookies; they are made with love.
- I have friends from Atlantic City, New Jersey; Athens, Greece; White Plains, New York; Las Vegas, Nevada; Miami, Florida; and Los Angeles, California.
In the case of very long lists, especially ones that include many commas, a semi-colon may be used as a “super comma.”
- I have many futures jobs in mind: a zoologist, one that works in a zoo laboratory; a marine biologist, especially if I get to work at Sea world; or a cactus farmer, which I think is self-explanatory.
*Which vs. That: There is a difference between “that” and “which.” “Which” refers to something that is simply an attribute or added on. “That” reflects something that cannot be removed from the subject to which it refers. I recommend that you listen to this podcast from GrammarGirl. It will help clarify the difference.
*Common fragment starters: If your sentence begins with “for example,” “because,” or “which,” make sure it’s actually a complete sentence. “For example, Casper the Friendly Ghost” isn’t a sentence; it’s a fragment or a dependent clause. However, “For example, Casper the Friendly Ghost is a cartoon where the supernatural comes into play” would be considered a complete, independent clause. Casper the Friendly Ghost is the agent. In order for this to be a sentence, that agent has to complete an action. In this case, it’s a simple one. The shows exists, signified by the word “is.”
*Dependent clauses that define or describe something: There are many types of dependent clauses, but one common type of dependent clause that I’d like to point out in particular is dependent clauses that are used to describe something. For example, in “My mom, who is a rockstar baker, likes to enter pie contests,” you must use commas to hook in the extra information. You might also write something such as “The candy apple is hard, which is because it was placed in the refrigerator.”
*Active vs. Passive Voice: Try to use the active voice when possible. For example, “The cat had been washed by my mother” is passive; the object is acted upon by something. “My mother washed the cat” is active; the subject/agent performs an action. You should also avoid using too many helping verbs. It is typically better to say “I learned that cats are fluffy” rather than “I had learned that cats are fluffy,” unless you are purposefully trying to create a sense of distance.
A good test for the passive voice is adding “by zombies” after the verb (usually works, not 100% accurate, though). For example: “I chased by zombies” does not make sense. “I had been chased by zombies” does. So, “I chased” is active; “I had been chased” is passive.