Proofreading Tips for Senior Students

There is nothing more demoralising than trying your hardest on an assignment, and handing it in only to discover it’s riddled with typos and mistakes. 

Students often wonder how this can happen when they’ve read over an assignment many times. The problem with proofreading your own work is that your eyes will see what you intended to write instead of what’s on the page.

An essay or assignment which hasn’t been properly proofread can make your work look sloppy and careless.

These tips will help you polish your writing till it shines. 

  1. Put your work aside for a while. Once you’ve finished your work, put it aside for as long as possible so you can see it with fresh eyes. The longer you leave it, the better. A few days is ideal but even overnight will help.
  2. Print out your work. Printing out your work to proofread is highly recommended because it’s easier to skim over mistakes on the screen. Sit somewhere quiet with a red pen and get to work. You’ll be surprised how much you pick up.
  3. Get someone else to read it. After you’ve re-read the same words over and over your mistakes become invisible. When you’ve finished an assignment, ask a friend or parent to read it for you and highlight any mistakes. A hard copy is best for this.
  4. Use a ruler to read. Placing a ruler under each line as you read stops your eyes from skipping ahead. This forces you to look more closely at the words. When you concentrate on each sentence, you’re more likely to pick up typos and mistakes.
  5. Look for one error at a time. If you often leave out commas or forget to capitalise words, focusing on one type of mistake at a time will help you pick up things that might otherwise go unnoticed.
  6. Be aware of common mistakes. Some of the most frequent errors are use of apostrophes and misuse of words like ‘their’ and ‘they’re,’ ‘it’ and ‘it’s’, and ‘your’ and ‘you’re.’ Make sure you understand the rules for their use and be on the look-out for these common mistakes.
  7. Read your work out loud. Like reading with a ruler, reading out loud forces you to look more closely at the words on the page. Not only will this help you pick up mistakes, you’ll also notice sentences that don’t flow well or are too long.
  8. Read the assignment backwards. Another way to make sure your words focus on the words on the page is by reading backwards. This is effective because your brain is not preoccupied with the meaning.
  9. Use spell and grammar-check. It’s surprising how many people don’t make use of these free tools. While they are not always correct, make sure you review each highlighted word. Also make sure it’s set for Australian spelling.
  10. If you’re not sure, double check. Grammar is tricky, so if you’re not sure you’re using the correct punctuation or the right word, it’s very easy to check online. It pays to double-check names, dates and figures.

Proofreading is a vital final step before submitting your work.