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Find Your Writing Mistakes
Before Others Do

Unless you have just finished rewriting your work for the seventh time, you should assume that it contains mistakes. Errors in spelling and grammar will make you appear amateurish. You will lose credibility. It is far better that you find and correct your mistakes before others do. Here are suggestions for this proofreading phase.

  1. Don't bother to begin your proofreading until you are satisfied with the content of your writing. Keep your creative writing process separate from the error-finding phase. These two different processes don't mix well.

  2. It is easier to find your errors on a printed page than on a screen. Therefore, if you can, print a clean copy of your writing to work with.

  3. Check the lengths of your sentences. Try to vary their length when writing. Your readers will appreciate the occasional short sentence. This is also a good time to break up any overly long sentences.

  4. Look for any sentence fragments or orphan words. They are sometimes left behind inadvertently after extensive rewriting. Remember that every sentence needs a verb and, normally, a subject.

  5. Check how frequently you have used the passive voice. Try to minimize its use in your writing. Instead, use the active voice for 80% or more of your verbs. If this isn't your case, reword some of your sentences to express verbs in an active voice.

  6. Look for agreement of subject and verb. If a subject is singular, the verb must be singular. If a subject is plural, the verb must be plural.

  7. Make sure that every sentence begins with a capital letter and that proper nouns are capitalized.

  8. Read the work through for continuity. Mark all spots where there is an interruption of flow. Now add, move, delete, or reword sentences to improve the flow.

  9. Finally, read the entire paper aloud slowly and listen to the language. Problems of style may go unnoticed until you actually hear what you have written. This exercise will help you to spot repetitive word usage and awkward phrasing, as well as complicated passages.

  10. Check for spelling. If you have used a computer, you can check the spelling quickly by the use of a spellchecker. However, a spellchecker will not tell you that you have used the wrong word (e.g., bale instead of bail, straight instead of strait). Therefore, use a dictionary to check the spelling by yourself after the spell-checking has been completed.

  11. Reread for punctuation. Remember that punctuation is intended to aid the reader's understanding. If the writing contains quotation marks, ensure that both opening and closing quotation marks are used. Similarly, wherever parentheses are used, make sure that there is both an opening and a closing parenthesis.

About The Author

George Robinson is the chief editor of , a North American editing service that helps you to improve your scientific paper, technical article, thesis, dissertation, or other technical writing or business document.

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