How to Do Proofreading to Eliminate Writing Errors
While you are proofreading your assignment, you need to see things through the eyes of a professional proofreader. Editors, and those who regularly proofread essays and other written documents are more detail-oriented than others, they learn to dissect paragraphs upon paragraphs of text, dutifully looking for spelling mistakes, grammatical errors and other inaccuracies.
It is the primary objective of a professional proofreader to uncover all of the mistakes and errors that everyone else – including editors – might have missed or been unaware of.
The difference between a great proofreader and one that is just ‘okay’ is that great proofreaders practice their skill often. With practice, you can also become a great proofreader. Proofreaders are often looking for the same errors and mistakes that an editor might look out for, however, they put forth extra effort to catch the types of mistakes that the average person might overlook.
Proof reading is the very act of reviewing a completed piece of writing, be that an essay, a research paper, a short story or some other collection of writing, with the specific intent of discovering grammatical and typographical errors prior to submitting the work for final review or to be read by its intended audience.
When it comes to writing, particularly in one of the most complex languages in the world – English – there are a number of common mistakes that proofreaders report seeing over and over again. Outlined below are seven of the most common errors in English so that you can be mindful to watch out for them and hopefully improve your own proofreading and even writing skills.
- The ‘Me, myself & I’ conundrum
Proofreaders regularly complain about the frequent misuse of the word ‘myself’. Here is a typical example: “If you need help with your science project, see your peer tutor or myself. We are available during school hours.”
Are you able to find the error? There is a major problem; it is entirely incorrect. If you cannot see it, try omitting the words ‘peer tutor’: “If you need help with your science project, ask myself. I am available during school hours.”
People of all writing levels frequently mistake the word ‘myself´ with the word ‘me’. The two are not interchangeable. In fact, the word ‘myself’ should only ever be used when the word ‘I’ has already been used in the sentence.
- Apostrophe Catastrophe
It isn’t uncommon for novice-to-intermediate writers to struggle with apostrophes, and determining when to use them. Here are some of the most basic guidelines for apostrophe usage.
- Always use apostrophes with contractions, for instance:
- Do not will become don’t
- Is not will become isn’t
- You are will become you’re
- She is will become she’s
- It is will become it’s
- Apostrophes denote possession or ownership
- The boy’s hat
- The doctor’s car
- The cat’s mouse
- Smith’s dog
- Which or That or whatever
It is often to come across papers that incorrectly use the word ‘which’ when what they really mean to say is ‘that’. That is always used whenever essential information follows. Which is used whenever non-essential information follows.
- For who or whom do you mean
It isn’t necessarily a problem to use the word ‘whom’ incorrectly, the real issue comes from the fact that most people don’t use the word at all. All to often, people will write ‘who’ when what they really mean is ‘whom’.
- The common error of Ellipsis
An ellipsis is a punctuation mark that is used to denote or mark text that has been omitted from a sentence, it might also be used to demonstrate a pause. The ellipsis consists of three evenly spaced periods with a space between the ellipsis and the following letters.
- Had been or Would have
Another highly common error, ‘would have’ is grammatically inaccurate and is better of never being used. For instance, where someone might write, “if I would have been there, she would have had a ride home” what they should have wrote was, “if I had been there, she would have had a ride home.”
- Text message lingo
This is more commonly seen in high schools and grade school, students have become acclimated to writing like they would in a text message. In fact, it isn’t uncommon for teachers to see entire reports written using text message abbreviations like ‘lol’, ‘u’, ‘brb’, etc. All handing in a formal report (or anything outside of text message, for that matter) filled with textspeak does is:
- Annoy the person reading it
- Make the writer look lazy and uneducated
Now that you are aware of the seven most common writing errors the proofreaders encounter, you should be able to avoid them in your own writing and will know to watch out for them whenever you are proofreading sentences.
Ideas How To Get Rid of Writing Errors When Proofreading
Whether you are grammar proofreading or looking for incorrect sentence structure or other sentence errors, there are a few common writing errors that you need to be mindful of when it comes to the overall layout and formatting of a paper. We have outlined a number of them below so that you can be cognizant of them the next time you check a paper for errors.
In no order of importance, some of the elements that you, as a proofreader, need to be on the look out for are:
- Alphabetical lists and sequences
- Correct spelling of names
Alignment: As a proofreader, you will need to scan margins, bulleted lists and anything else that should align with another item.
Alphabetical lists and sequences: This is a common error. You would be surprised the number of times people forget that b follows a, not 2.
Caption: Captions are not something that people other than proofreaders typically review, pay close attention to these.
Columns: Always make sure that columns are properly formatted.
Dates: Dates are frequently incorrect. Whenever someone mentions a specific day of the week, you should review that date with an actual calendar.
Headlines: Again, remember to double check headlines.
Numbers: It is pretty easy to incorrectly type a number – always review these. This is especially important if that number follows a dollar sign.
The correct spelling of names: There are so many variations of the way a name might be spelled. Remember to cross reference this with another viable source.
What is the Exact Proofreading Meaning?
According to the Cambridge English dictionary, proofreading is defined as:
noun [U] ‘pru:fri:din
the act of finding and correcting mistakes in copies of printed text before the final copies are printed:
Most of the errors were corrected at the proofreading stage.
(Definition of “proofreading” from the Cambridge Business English Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)
Proofreading is a vital component of the entire writing process, yet so many people overlook it.
What does a proofreader typically look for when they proofread?
- Spelling errors
- Incorrect punctuation
- Poor grammar
- Incorrect word usage
What to look for when proofreading your text
As someone with moderate experience in proofreading, you might be wondering what you should be looking for when proofreading a document. Above, we went over a few of the more common mistakes. Listed below are a few more things that you should be aware of, particularly for improving your own writing going forward.
- Try not to depend entirely on computerized spell checkers, they often miss words.
- Be aware of letter combinations like ei/ie
Forgotten or duplicate words:
- Read the paper out loud to make sure that you haven’t left out any words, of that you’ve repeated any. It might help to read your paper backwards, starting from the last word.
A sentence fragment is a part of a sentence that is not a grammatically correct whole sentence. For instance ‘ate an apple’ is a sentence fragment due to the fact that it has no subject.
Every sentence must have a subject. “George ate an apple” would be considered a complete sentence.
Furthermore, every sentence should have a complete verb. “George eating an apple” is incomplete because “eating” is an incomplete verb. Instead, it should be “George was eating an apple.”
Run on sentences
- Carefully review each sentence to make sure that it contains an independent clause.
- In the event that there is more than one independent clause, ensure that clauses are separated by the correct punctuation.
- It might be more effective to break each sentence into multiple sentences instead of using punctuation to separate each clause.
“I have to write an essay for my English Literature class about Shakespeare all I know about the subject is that his name was William.” This is an example of two independent clauses, void of any conjunctions or punctuation.
It might be better to write it this way. “I have to write an essay for my English Literature class about Shakespeare, and all I know about the subject is that his name was William.” In this version, the two independent clauses are connected by the conjunction ‘and’ and the proper use of a coma.
It would also be correct to write it like this. “I have to write an essay for my English Literature class about Shakespeare. All I know about the subject is that his name was William.”
Verb and Subject Agreement
- Locate the subject of each sentence.
- Locate the corresponding verb.
- The verb and the subject need to match, meaning if the subject is plural, the verb must also be plural.
- Underlining all of the subjects in a sentence and then circling all of the verbs, one at a time, will help you to see if they all line up properly.
While reviewing the document, look for a series of item, these will typically be separated by comas. You need to ensure that each item is in parallel form, meaning that they all follow a similar format.
Example: “Being a good teammate requires practicing, to play fair, and that you know how to cooperate.” In the previous sentence, “practicing” is in present tense, “to play” is in the infinitive form, and “that you know how to cooperate” is a sentence fragment. None of these items are parallel.
This is how it should be written, “Being a good teammate requires practicing, playing fair, and being cooperative” Here, “practicing”, “playing”, and “being” are all present tense (-ing endings). Therefore, they are parallel.
Working with Sentence Fragments
Dictionary.com defines sentence fragment as meaning:
- A phrase or clause written as a sentence but lacking an element, as a subject or verb, that would enable it to function as an independent sentence in normative written English.
A sentence fragment is a grouping of words that mimics a proper sentence in the fact that it starts with proper capitalization, and might have punctuation. However, it lacks an independent clause and a complete concept.
Here are a few examples: