How to Proofread an Academic Essay

Writing as a combination of skills

One may think that writing is a very easy type of work in studying process. It is just writing down your thoughts, ideas and newly gained knowledge, therefore, if you know the topic well, you won’t have any problems with the paper.

This opinion is wrong. In fact, writing process is a very complicated one and is a complex combination of skills. These include thinking or brain-storming, evaluating the information, writing skills, operating with vocabulary and many, many others processes. It is very important that the paper is understandable by different categories of people, yet it is written in a given academic level.

Five steps in writing process

There are five important steps in writing process. They are pre-writing, drafting, revising, editing and proofreading.

Pre-writing is also known as researching. Most of the work done at this step is brainstorming, gathering needed information which equals to spending a lot of time in libraries or online reading ebooks. The purpose of this phase is to define the topic and the structure of the paper, to evaluate the information you have, highlight the information you will be using in your paper, writing down some main ideas.

Drafting is mostly a writing process. At drifting step the writer tries to compose all the notes previously taken and structure the paper. When drafting is ready it is good to show it to someone for evaluation. If you have a tutor it is good to ask for some feedback. This stage is important as you already have the main points in your paper and it is easy to evaluate if you have new ideas in your paper, strong thesis or other information, depending the purpose of your paper.

Revising follows the draft stage and is important too. While revising, you add or remove the information. Sometimes students make mistake and put the same text in different words to make the paper longer. This is not a good idea and repeated information needs to be removed. Once evaluated, the notes from the tutor need to be addressed to make the paper richer.

Editing process is about the final step and at this point it is good to make some tone to the paper, check for appropriate and colorful words and style the paper.

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Proofreading as the most important step

Proofreading is believed to be the most important step. A lot of people underestimate proofreading and sometimes skip this step. They may also see no difference between editing and proofreading. This is a big mistake though. Proofreading makes the paper look perfect. All the typos, all the grammar mistakes, all the mechanics are to be corrected at this stage. Even if the paper has good ideas, and strong points, if the paper is full of grammar errors, the good mark won’t be reached.

What is proofreading?

So what exactly is proofreading? Proofreading is the process of carefully reviewing a text for spelling, punctuation and grammar errors. Though there is no big difference between editing and proofreading, they are two completely different steps. Editing means working with the text, its meaning, its wording. Proofreading means working with each word separately, no changes to the text should be made at this point. Proofreading can also be called final editing.

Ways of proofreading

It is good to have someone proofread the paper. The reason is because you’ve been working with the text for so long that you think it is perfect. In fact, you may miss some errors simply because you know the test so good that you do not read, but just go through. It is easier to proofread unknown text because mistakes are more visible in this case. However, if you don’t have anyone to help you, here is a little tip. After the paper is done, have a little rest. Do something that is not related to this paper, watch a movie, listen to some music or read the book you are reading at present. Within several hours, read your paper all over again and it will be easier to see the mistakes.

Another good idea of proofreading is reading the paper aloud. If you hear yourself, it is better to point out the mistakes and see if the sentences are well connected. It also makes sense to read the paper to a friend or a family member. That way you can work on the paper together and highlight some errors. If they say your paper needs a revision, you will then have to come back to revision step and then proofreading again.

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What to look for at proofreading

When proofreading it is advisable to pay attention to the following:

–          Format; most of the paper instructions has a rubric which includes the format to follow. When proofreading the paper, make sure you have the correct spacing, correct font, usually it is Times New Roman, 12pt; proper citing should be proofread as well, make sure you have correct in-text citations as well as correctly structured Works Cited page.

–          Spelling: though in most cases Microsoft Word does spell check automatically, in some cases it is better to work with a dictionary to make sure you will be using correct word.  As an example of words confused are dessert and desert. Their meaning are different, thus Microsoft Word can make a mistake.

–          Punctuation. Make sure you properly use commas, dots and other punctuation marks and sometimes the sentence will have no meaning if it is not correctly punctuated. In oral speeches punctuation is usually highlighted with short stops.

–          Subject/verb agreement; it is very important that your paper is written grammatically correct. If you are going to read the paper in front of the audience, people will not be able to check your spelling and format, but they will hear your grammar mistakes. If you are in doubt in some situations, grammar rules will be of great help.


Even though each writing stage is very important in the writing process, proofreading makes the paper perfect, which in term, makes you a perfect writer. Do not underestimate this step if you want to succeed in writing.

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