How To Proofread A Paper: Step-by-Step

Proofreading is the last stage before our paper goes live. It’s the last bolt in the machine before all systems are go. It’s the last line of defence. Once we’re done proofreading, that’s it, the paper is in God’s hands from now on. This is why proofreading is so important. It’s a fundamental stage for all documents which requires complete accuracy, and commitment on part of the proofreader. Without further ado, let’s take a look at how to avoid proofreading mistakes and proofread a paper in a few steps.

Take Another Look At The Brief

As experienced translator and proofreader Francesca Airaghi points out in her excellent article on the Top Secrets of Effective Proofreading it’s important to check again exactly what the brief is for the paper you’re proofreading. This will confirm the tone that is required, the terminology, as well as the formatting. Without adequate knowledge of these things, your proofreading could be in vain.

Create A Checklist

When I proofread my paper, I always create a checklist beforehand that details the important things I need to be looking out for. These could be matters such as grammar, subject-verb agreements, agreements of pronouns and antecedents, spelling, and so on. In this way, you will know what you need to be looking out for as you scan your paper.

Use Spell Check

Spell check is an invaluable tool for making sure that every spelling in our paper is absolutely tip top. A proofread paper these days is able to be much more accurate than a few years ago when there was no spell check.

Read Your Paper Out Loud

This doesn’t mean that you have to bellow it down the hall for everyone to hear in the hope that someone spots a mistake. Rather, by reading your paper out loud, you’ll have a better chance of missing the mistakes that your eyes simply didn’t spot the first (or second) time around. Eyes are good – but are voice is even better!

Take A Break

Proofreading can be a daunting, exhaustive task. Whenever I proofread my paper, I always take a break because it helps me to focus afresh later on. Without a break, you’re in danger of becoming drowsy and missing a whole host of errors. Just like a driver needs a break to avoid an accident, you need to take a break to avoid a double negative (and everything else!).

Check The Format

There will be a correct way to format that you need to adhere to when proofreading. A proofread paper that isn’t formatted the way outlined on brief won’t be any use. Format refers to fonts, sizes, page numbering, headlines, captions, column alignment and so on. It’s tedious stuff but it’s all necessary.

Read Over – Again and Again

Just when you think you’re done, I have to disappoint you and tell you that you’re not. A proofread paper that has only been read through once will NOT be free from errors. Instead, you need to meticulously go through your paper over and over again to make absolutely sure.