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Writing Help

Provides techniques to proofread your own paper, presentation, or other project


Proofreading Strategies

Proofreading is the very last thing you should do before you turn in your paper. If you do these before you've finished revising and editing, you could introduce new mistakes during the course of revising and editing.

Details, Details, Details

Proofreading is all about the details. Details are inherently minor, until there's a mistake and then they can be incredibly distracting. A few details that are often overlooked include:

  • Spelling and grammar check - yes, again. While these are not right 100% of the time, they will at least highlight potential problems so you can check them. It does not get any easier than this.
  • Check your page numbers or running head. The font type and size should be the same as the rest of the paper. Double check the assignment's requirements for when and how should page numbers start. If the assignment sheet doesn't specify, then check with your field's style guide (i.e. the MLA, APA, Chicago, or other style manual). If you don't know how to add page numbers, Google it - there are literally thousands of places that explain it for every possible device and program.
  • Don't worry about single lines or words being left on a page alone - they're called "orphans" and "widows". Most word processing programs have a setting called "Orphan and widow control" - just check the box for it and the program will automatically arrange the text so those details are taken care of for you.
  • Check that all of the in-text citations have entries in the bibliography/references/works cited list - and that all the entries on that list are cited in the body of the paper.

Whole Picture

It might seem counterintuitive, but one of the last steps in proofreading is to zoom out (or use the print preview function) to look at each whole page of your paper all at once. It is a quick an easy way to find anything that shouldn't be there or is missing.

Things to look for when zoomed out:

  • Spots in the paper where you left notes for yourself - bolded, highlighted, or colored text will really stand out!
  • Extra blank lines or pages (Pro Tip: use CTRL + Enter to insert a page break instead of hitting "Enter" repeatedly to start a new page for a bibliography or works cited page!)
  • Page numbers or running headers look right
  • The entire text is the correct font, size, and color (Pro Tip: copying and pasting text from other sources often leaves the text a different color or size, which should be much more clear when zoomed out)
  • Citations look right in the text (Check in-text citations, footnotes/endnotes if you have them, and the bibliography/references/works cited)