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5 Steps to Proofreading and Editing Like a Pro by Lesley Vos

When it comes to academic writing, details matter. Even if well-researched and insightful, your paper fails without proper proofreading and editing. Able to change the meaning of your message, spelling is of the same significance with grammar and style; and, unlike fictionists and bloggers, you can't take the liberty of free writing, no sourcing the ideas, and depending on no one but professional editors to tinker at your work.

When a student, you can't submit poorly proofread essays in the hope a professor won't notice or forgive your this unfortunate slip. When an academic writer, you might want to make an editor's life easier because, after all, it's not their job to correct any teeny-tiny typos you've missed. Ideally, you need to master the art of consistent self-editing before sending your works for review. It will improve your chances for approval and high grades, as well as help you establish a reputation of the earnest and productive author.

To proofread and edit like a pro, follow these five simple yet effective steps:

1) Get the right structure. Depending on the genre of your writing, make sure you walk the line of its structuring. Check the introduction for hook and thesis, examine each paragraph for core points and arguments, and verify that you've built the work towards a logical conclusion. Rearrange paragraphs if necessary for more effective argumentation, but ensure that a new order remains logical toward your overall thesis.

2) Proofread. As far as you understand, spellcheckers can’t see every error in your writing. To succeed here, try several tricks: print out your essay, underline mistakes, and then correct them on a computer; or, read your work backward, sentence by sentence. It helps to change a perspective and see a paper on behalf of its readers. Besides spelling, check grammar and punctuation of your academic work. Also, make sure your formatting is consistent: don't use different fonts and line spacing – they make your writing look unprofessional.

3) Check for plagiarism. Despite deep research and proper references, your academic work might fall a victim to unintentional plagiarism. Examine the writing for duplications and wrong paraphrasing: corresponding tools will help to manage citations as well as detect plagiarized fragments in your copy.

4) Watch your writing tempo. With your target audience in mind, consider syntax and punctuation of your work because they set a tempo for its reading. Cut long sentences to a maximum of two or three clauses and avoid long paragraphs; otherwise, readers might find them boring and hard to follow. Too many commas, ellipses, and exclamation marks can do harm to your writing, too.

5) Watch your idea and words. Wateriness and tautologies are what you should edit with no mercy. Also, make sure you don't repeat one and the same argument with different words throughout your article. Don't repeat the same lexical item within one sentence: consider synonyms and paraphrase.

Bonus tip:

Don't start proofreading and editing your academic work once you've finished writing. Leave it for a day or two to gain some time for approaching it with a fresh mind. When revising right after writing, you might find it more challenging to spot all errors.

And the last but not least:

Once you've finished the editing process, re-read the writing piece once again to compare it with the initial thesis. Make sure it's still present in the final version of your work: together with structure, citations, and style, content and clarity do matter for academic writers and learners to follow.



Lesley J. Vos is a private educator of the French language. She practises (practices – AmE) web writing, contributing content to publications on academia, college life, and writing productivity. Get in touch with her on Twitter @LesleyVos.