Proofreading is essential to the writing process, yet is often overlooked. Many students make the mistake of submitting their essays or papers without first proofreading them. To produce high-quality work, it is crucial to take the time to proofread your work carefully. This blog post will help you learn everything you need to know to proofread your university papers effectively.
Proofreading is the process of reading over a piece of writing to find and correct any errors and inconsistencies, including grammar, spelling, punctuation, and stylistic mistakes. It is the final step in the editing process, and it is vital to do it carefully to produce a high-quality piece of writing.1
Proofreading vs. Editing
Proofreading is the final step to clean up any surface-level mistakes before you publish or submit your work. Conversely, editing focuses on improving the overall readability of your text by looking at everything from sentence clarity to the organization of your ideas. It consists of the following four steps:
- Content editing: Checking the content of your paper, including the overall structure, argument, and development of your ideas.
- Line editing: Looking at the individual sentences for clarity, conciseness, and effectiveness.
- Copy editing: Revising the mechanics of your writing, including grammar, spelling, punctuation, and formatting.
- Proofreading: Correcting surface-level mistakes, such as typos and misspellings.
It might look like some of the steps are redundant, but each step serves a different purpose:
|Content editing||Ensuring your paper makes sense as a whole.|
|Line editing||Ensuring that all the sentences in your text deliver their intended message clearly and effectively.|
|Copy editing||Eliminates grammar, spelling, or punctuation errors.|
|Proofreading||Eliminating typos and other surface-level mistakes in your text.|
So, going through each step is essential to produce a well-written and polished final product.2
Tips for proofreading
Now, knowing the difference between proofreading and editing, as well as the steps involved in each process, here are some general tips to keep in mind:
Edit before proofreading
Only start proofreading, once you’ve finished editing your paper or essay. If you try to proofread first, you risk introducing errors during editing.
Take breaks in between
Reading the same text repeatedly can be tedious and tiring and may cause a form of bias, where your brain starts to auto-correct errors. So, take breaks now and then to help you return to your text with a fresh perspective and catch any mistakes you might have missed.
Print out the text
When you read on a screen, your brain is more likely to skim the text, which can cause you to miss errors. Instead, print out the text as it will force you to slow down and read more carefully. Also, consider using a ruler or a piece of paper to cover the lines below the one you’re reading to help you focus.
Read your text aloud
Reading your text aloud helps because you’re using another sense to find mistakes, which may help you detect better mistakes in grammar, punctuation, awkward phrasing, or sentences. You can also read it backwards, which forces you to focus on each word rather than having your brain fill in what it thinks should be there.
Use digital shortcuts
If you’re proofreading a digital copy of your text, you can use some helpful shortcuts, such as:
- The “find” function quickly finds specific words or phrases to check for overuse.
- The “replace” function can fix the same errors, like using “form” instead of “from” repeatedly.
- Use spell check and grammar check to quickly find and fix any obvious errors in your text. However, they can miss mistakes, so they shouldn’t be the only option.
Pay attention to recurring mistakes
As you proofread your work, pay attention to any recurring mistakes and make a note of them, so you can avoid making them again. Some of the more common errors to watch out for include:
|Spelling||Homophones, definite and indefinite articles, plurals, prepositions, and conjunctions|
|Grammar||Subject-verb agreement, pronoun agreement, correct use of adjectives and adverbs, run-on sentences, and sentence fragments|
|Punctuation||Apostrophes, commas, quotation marks, colons, and semicolons|
|Style||Adjective and adverb overuse, choppy sentences, awkward phrasing, inconsistent capitalization, inconsistencies in UK and US spelling, and issues with numbers and abbreviations|
|Formatting||Problems with spacing, indentation, headings and subheadings, quotations and citations, page numbers, headers and footers, and table of contents.3 4|
If you’re struggling to proofread your work, you can seek the services of a professional proofreading service, a freelance proofreader, or a proofreading and editing company:
- A professional service: A team of experienced proofreaders who will correct mistakes in your text.
- A freelance proofreader: An individual rather than a team who can also identify and fix errors in your paper.
- A proofreading and editing company: Usually have a team of editors who can help you with all aspects of the editing process, from proofreading to copy editing to developmental editing.
Proofreading and editing services
Do you need both a proofreader and an editor, or just one of them? You need a proofreader if you want someone to fix spelling, grammar, punctuation, and formatting errors. On the other hand, you need an editor to improve the overall quality of the text. An editor will check for errors but also offer suggestions for improving the clarity, flow, and style of your writing.
Type of proofreaders
When looking for a proofreader, it’s important to know that there are different types of proofreaders, such as:
- Copy editors: Check texts for errors and ensure they adhere to the style guide.
- Content editors: Ensure the text is clear, concise, and easy to read. They might also make suggestions for improving the overall quality of the text.
- Developmental editors: Help you improve the overall structure of your text. They might also make suggestions for improving the clarity and flow of your writing.
- Proofreaders: Give the paper its final polish by checking for any remaining errors.
Prices of proofreading
The cost will vary depending on the service you need and the company or individual you hire. It will also depend on the length of your text and the turnaround time you need.
|Service Provider||Cost/hour||Cost/1,000 words|
|Freelance Proofreader||$9.7 - $43.2/£8.5 - £38||$5.7/£5 or more|
|Professional Proofreading Service||$30.75 - $91/£27 - £80||$13.7 - $68.3/£12 - £605 6 7 8 9|
Duration of proofreading
The amount of time it will take to proofread your text will depend on the length of your text and how much you’re willing to pay. Some companies offer a turnaround as short as eight hours for 1,000 words, but you will pay a premium. The standard turnaround time for 1,000 words ranges from 24 hours to 96 hours or more.
Quality and reliability of proofreading services
When hiring a proofreader, it’s essential to find someone reliable and who will do a good job. You can do a few things to ensure that you find a reliable service:
- Read reviews: Check reviews from past clients to get an idea of what others have thought of the service.
- Ask for recommendations: Ask your friends, family, or colleagues for recommendations.
- Check the company’s website: Evaluate the company’s website to get an idea of the company’s professionalism and quality.
- Check their qualifications: Check the qualifications of the proofreader you’re thinking of hiring to ensure they’re qualified to do the job.
- Test their customer service: Test the company’s customer service to ensure they’re responsive and helpful.
- Look at the complaints policy: Look at the company’s complaints policy to see how they handle customer complaints.
If you follow these tips, you can be sure that you’ll find a reliable proofreading service that will do a great job.
Pros and Cons of proofreading services
As with anything, the different kinds of services available have pros and cons. Here are some factors you should consider:
1. Automated proofreaders
Automated proofreaders refer to the software available to help you proofread your text. There are a number of these types of software on the market, and they vary in accuracy and price.
|Pros ✓||Cons ✘|
|• Decently accurate
• Very fast
• Very affordable
• Can be used anywhere and at any time.
|• Can miss errors
• Can be difficult to use.
2. Freelance proofreaders
Freelance proofreaders are individuals who offer their services to help you proofread your text. They can be found online, and they usually charge by the hour or by word.
|Pros ✓||Cons ✘|
|• More accurate than automated proofreaders
• More affordable than a professional service
• Can be more flexible on turnaround times.
|• Can be slow
• Can be unreliable
• Might require some research to find a good freelancer.
3. Professional proofreading services
Professional proofreading services are companies that offer their services to help you proofread your text. They usually have a team of proofreaders, who will work on your text and charge by the hour or word.
|Pros ✓||Cons ✘|
|• More accurate than automated proofreaders
• More efficient with turnaround times
• Usually offer a project manager you can contact.
|• Can be very expensive
• A contract may be necessary
• A minimum amount of text might be a condition.
Proofreading is meant to clean up any surface mistakes or inconsistencies in the text. Editing involves improving the readability of the text by checking for things such as clarity, structure, organization, and citations.10
Look for grammar, spelling, punctuation, and formatting errors, such as sentence fragments, run-on sentences, missing commas, spelling and hyphenation consistency, and the correct usage of words.11
Check for one type of error at a time, read your text aloud, read it from bottom to top on the page, divide it into smaller sections, and take breaks. You can also ask someone else to proofread it for you to double-check.12
You can use a program like Microsoft Word or Grammarly for grammar and spelling checks. A freelance proofreader or a professional service can help with more in-depth assessments.
1 Purdue OWL. “Where Do I Begin?.” Purdue University. Accessed October 14, 2022. https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/general_writing/the_writing_process/proofreading/index.html.
2 Purdue OWL. “Editing & Proofreading.” Purdue University. Accessed October 14, 2022. https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/graduate_writing/graduate_writing_topics/graduate_writing_topics_editing_proofreading_new.html.
3 Purdue OWL. “Finding Common Errors.” Purdue University. Accessed October 14, 2022. https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/general_writing/the_writing_process/proofreading/proofreading_for_errors.html.
4 Writing Center. “Proofreading.” University of Wisconsin-Madison. Accessed October 12, 2022. https://writing.wisc.edu/handbook/grammarpunct/proofreading/.
5 Scribendi. “Value Proofreading: How Much Does Proofreading Cost?.” Scribendi.com. August, 2022. https://www.scribendi.com/academy/articles/how_much_does_proofreading_cost.en.html.
6 London Proofreaders. “Our proofreading service prices.” Accessed October 13, 2022. https://londonproofreaders.co.uk/prices/.
7 Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading. “Suggested minimum rates.” Acessed October 13, 2022. https://www.ciep.uk/resources/suggested-minimum-rates/.
8 Proofed. “Great Pricing.” Accessed October 13, 2022. https://proofed.co.uk/prices/.
9 Proofers. “Our Proofreading and Editing Fees.” Accessed October 13, 2022. https://www.proofers.co.uk/our-rates/.
10 Illinois Writers Workshop. “Editing and Proofreading.” Accessed October 13, 2022. https://writersworkshop.illinois.edu/resources-2/writer-resources/writing-processes/editing-and-proofreading/.
11 SPCollege. “Basic Grammar and Punctuation: How to Proofread.” February 04, 2021. https://spcollege.libguides.com/c.php?g=254288&p=1695269.
12 Touro University Writing Center. “Seven Effective Ways to Proofread Writing.” Touro University. Accessed October 13, 2022. https://www.touro.edu/departments/writing-center/tutorials/seven-steps-to-effective-proofreading/.