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What Are the Best Tips for Proofreading an Essay?

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  • Written By: Dan Cavallari
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 02 November 2016
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Once an essay draft is written, the writer will need to do some proofreading to identify spelling errors, grammar mistakes, and so on. Many people make the mistake of simply using the spelling and grammar checker on word processing software; while this is a good first step when proofreading an essay, the process should not stop there. It may help the writer to take a break after finishing the essay to relax and let his or her mind recover. Once that break has been taken, the writer can begin proofreading an essay by reading through several times looking for certain types of mistakes each time.

The first time a writer reads through the document when proofreading an essay, he or she should look for spelling errors exclusively. This process should include looking for misspelled words, but it should also include looking for words that are properly spelled but not necessarily used correctly. Spelling and grammar checkers on word processing programs can, for example, make corrections that are not in keeping with the writer's original intent. The writer may accidentally change the word, "made" into "mad," even though the writer intended the word to be "made." Proofreading an essay should include looking for such errors.

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The next time the writer reads through the essay, he or she should look for any punctuation and formatting errors. This may include misplaced commas or periods, or it may include extra spaces between words or paragraphs. The writer should make sure the title is correctly formatted and page numbers are added, if applicable. Margins should be set to any specifications outlined by an instructor or publisher, and line spacing should be consistent throughout the document.

The last read-through when proofreading an essay should focus on the content of the essay. The writer will need to read carefully to make sure all sentences are complete — they should feature both a subject and a predicate — and the paragraphs flow correctly. The arguments the writer has outlined should all be present in the essay, and the paragraphs should be easy to read. All arguments should be clearly stated so the reader can understand them easily. It may help to analyze whether the essay has a distinct introduction with thesis statement, supporting paragraphs, and conclusion as well.

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