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English

Have you ever begun to read an essay but couldn’t finish it because there were so many spelling or grammar mistakes? This is what happens when you don’t proofread.

Proofreading is a step in the writing process that ensures your essay is error-free and is essential to avoid careless mistakes and turn in a high-quality piece of writing.

Proofreading an Essay Meaning

Proofreading involves checking your work for spelling, grammar, or typographical errors. This is usually the last step you take before submitting your essay to your teacher or professor for evaluation. Proofreading involves carefully reading through your completed essay, which may take time, but it is worth it!

Typographical errors refer to capitalization, punctuation, spacing, and formatting errors.

Examples of How to Proofread Your Essay

When proofreading an essay, the three main areas you should check are spelling, grammar, and typography. For now, let’s look at some common spelling and typography mistakes you can search for when proofreading.

Spelling

It can be easy to make simple spelling mistakes when writing an essay, but there are some common words to pay special attention to while proofreading. The following list includes some of the most commonly misspelled and misused words:

  • accommodate not acomodate

  • believe not beleive

  • definitely not definately

  • foreign not foriegn

  • piece not peice

  • principal vs principle

  • affect vs effect

  • their vs they’re vs there

  • it’s vs its

  • you’re vs your

The last five mistakes listed (principal vs principle; affect vs effect; their vs they're vs there; it's vs its, and you're vs your) are examples of homophones. Homophones are words that are pronounced the same but have different spellings and meanings. When you encounter a homophone in your essay, double-check you have the correct meaning and spelling for that word.

Proofreading your writing can help you discover misspelled or misused words. If you know you are prone to misspelling certain words often, keep an eye out for them and make a special effort to make sure they’re written correctly. One helpful way to avoid misspelled words is to use a proofreading service or editing tool to check your spelling. You can use the spell check feature commonly provided by most word processing software or download additional editing software to scan your essay for spelling errors.

Typography

Checking for typographical errors involves making sure words are capitalized correctly, and proper punctuation is used throughout your essay. Some areas you’ll need to pay special attention to include:

  • Ending punctuation

  • Use of a single or double quotation marks

  • Capitalization of proper nouns

  • Proper use of commas

  • Proper use of apostrophes

However, quality essay typography involves more than just these areas. It also ensures that our spacing is correct and that the font used is consistent.

Look at both essay paragraphs below. In the first image, we see that the title's font size is smaller than the text of the essay, and the font face is not consistent with the essay. You can also see that the first two lines are spaced differently than the rest of the article, and if you look closely, you can see many punctuation and capitalization errors.

Now, look at the second image. The font face and size are consistent, the spacing is consistent, and it is free from punctuation and capitalization errors.

Seeing these examples side by side, which one is easier to read?

Proofreading an Essay, essay errors paragraph, StudySmarter

Error filled essay, Katie Birchfield - StudySmarter Original

Proofreading Essay Essay Error Free Paragraph StudySmarter

Error-free essay, Katie Birchfield - StudySmarter Original

Proofreading Your Essay for Grammatical Errors

Grammar mistakes can be hard to find on your own, but being aware of common errors can help avoid confusing your reader. Some common grammatical errors include:

  • Incorrect verb tense

  • Subject-verb disagreement

  • Incorrect use of pronouns

  • Incomplete sentences

  • Misplaced or dangling modifiers

Incorrect Verb Tense

Verbs can be used to express when an action is taking place. The chart below shows some of the different tenses we can use and examples of what they express.

English Verb Tense

Past

Present

Future

Simple

I edited my essay.

I edit my essay.

I will edit my essay.

Continuous

I was editing my essay.

I am editing my essay.

I will be editing my essay.

Perfect

I had edited my essay.

I have edited my essay.

I will have edited my essay.

Perfect Continuous

I had been editing my essay.

I have been editing my essay.

I will have been editing my essay.

You'll want to make sure that you are using the same verb tense consistently throughout your essay. If you shift from one verb tense to another, you can confuse your reader or make a grammatical error that brings down the level of your writing.

In the example below, the first sentence uses the past tense verb went but then later uses the present tense verb eat. These two verbs don’t agree, which makes the sentence confusing. In the second example, the past tense verb went is used along with the past tense verb ate. These two verb tenses agree with each other and clearly express the author’s idea.

Ex. 1: When I woke up I went to wash my face and then I eat breakfast.

Ex. 2: When I woke up I went to wash my face and then I ate breakfast.

Subject-Verb Disagreement

Make sure that the subject aligns with the verb in each sentence. For example, a singular subject is connected to a singular verb form and a plural subject is connected to a plural verb form. In the example below, the subject David is singular, but the verb swim is a plural verb form. So in this case, the subject and the verb don’t agree.

Ex. 1: David swim in the swimming pool.

Ex. 2: David swims in the swimming pool.

Incorrect Use of Pronouns

Pronouns are used to replace a particular noun so that it doesn’t have to be repeated in a sentence. This noun is called the antecedent. However, you must confirm that the pronoun you choose to use matches the original antecedent. One way to do this is to circle the pronouns and antecedents in your writing and make sure the gender and number of both words agree. In the example below, the antecedent each puppy is singular, but the pronoun their is plural. So here, the pronoun and antecedent do not agree, but in the second sentence, they agree with each other.

Ex. 1: Each puppy was recognizable by their markings.

Ex. 2: Each puppy was recognizable by its markings.

Incomplete Sentences

Check that each sentence in your essay is complete and contains a subject, verb, and clause. Sometimes you can combine two incomplete sentences to make one complete sentence. In the first example below, a complete sentence is followed by a sentence fragment. In the second example, you can see that combining the first sentence with the fragment creates a complete thought.

Ex. 1: The house is old. Also made of wood.

Ex. 2: The house is old and made of wood.

Misplaced or Dangling Modifiers

Misplaced or dangling modifiers are words, phrases, or clauses that aren’t connected well to the subject they intend to modify. To fix this, you can change the position of the modifier in the sentence or add a word closer to the modifier to clearly identify the subject being modified. Circle the modifier in your sentence and the subject it is modifying. Make sure the modifier isn’t accidentally modifying another word in your sentence. In the example below, the modifying phrase with my camera is correctly modifying the word we, but also accidentally modifying the word goat. This makes it sound like the goat has my camera, which is not the intent. You can clarify the meaning of this sentence by changing the position of the modifier in the sentence.

A modifier is a word, phrase, or clause that strengthens the meaning of a sentence.

Ex. 1: We took pictures of a cow and a goat with my camera.

Ex. 2: With my camera, we took pictures of a cow and a goat.

Proofreading Checklist for Essays

Now that you have considered some specific mistakes to look for in your completed essay, let’s consider some helpful tips you can use to edit your essay yourself. Use the checklist below to make sure you have covered all of the topics above and more!

Print a Copy of Your Essay

Mistakes are harder to catch when reading on a screen. A hard copy will allow you to find and mark down errors more easily and can give you a fresh perspective. Circle each punctuation mark to make sure it’s the correct mark for your sentence. Highlight your subject and verb to make sure they agree and the proper tense is being used throughout your essay.

Read Your Essay Out Loud Slowly

Hearing your essay out loud can help you identify punctuation or grammatical errors. Pay attention to the rhythm and pacing of your writing. Look for ways to remove repetition, improve clarity, or add variety to your essay.

Ask Someone Else to Proofread Your Essay

After making corrections to the errors you found, ask someone else to proofread your essay and give editing comments. Sometimes you need a fresh pair of eyes to see mistakes you previously overlooked! You can also use online proofreading services or software to analyze your writing and make corrections, but be warned - these tools aren’t perfect and won’t always catch every mistake.

Use a Checklist

This article lays out the most common mistakes and important aspects to remember when proofreading. Use it as a checklist to make sure you are thinking about every type of error that might plague your essay.

Spelling, grammar, and typographic errors can take away from the overall quality of your essay and even confuse your reader. While it can take time, effort, and sometimes outside help to proofread your essay, be assured it is worth it.

Proofreading an Essay - Key Takeaways

  • Proofreading involves checking your work for any spelling, grammar, or typographic errors.

  • Look for commonly misspelled words, such as your vs. you're or it's vs. its.

  • Read through your essay and listen for common grammar mistakes, such as incorrect verb tense or subject-verb disagreement.

  • Proofread your essay by printing it out, reading it out loud slowly, asking someone to proofread it for you, and using a checklist to ensure that you've improved your writing as much as possible.

Proofread Essay

You can proofread an essay by reading it out loud slowly to check for any mistakes or by asking a friend to read it for you.

Proofreading involves checking your work for spelling, grammar, or typographical errors.

Proofreading involves checking that you are using the correct verb tense in your sentences. In this example, the first sentence uses two tenses, while the second sentence consistently uses the past tense.

Ex. 1: When I woke up, I went to wash my face, and then I eat breakfast.   

Ex. 2: When I woke up, I went to wash my face, and then I ate breakfast.   

Some tips for proofreading are: 

- print out your essay so you can make corrections on a hard copy

- read your essay out loud slowly

- ask someone to proofread it for you 

- use a checklist with the different types of mistakes to look out for.

Final Proofread Essay Quiz

Question

What areas should you check while proofreading your essay?

Show answer

Answer

Grammar, spelling, and typography.

Show question

Question

What grammar points should you look for while proofreading?

Show answer

Answer

Make sure your verb tense is correct, subject and verbs are in agreement and you've used the correct pronouns.

Show question

Question

What tips can improve your proofreading?

Show answer

Answer

Print your essay, read it out loud slowly and have a friend check it for errors.

Show question

Question

What common spelling errors should you look for?

Show answer

Answer

Check if you've properly used its vs. it's or you're vs. your. Also be careful about using their, there or they're.

Show question

Question

How can you check your spelling?

Show answer

Answer

Use online proofreading services or editing tools to check your spelling. Read your writing out loud. Have a friend read your essay and look for errors.

Show question

Question

How can you make sure your verb tense is correct?

Show answer

Answer

Print out a copy of your essay. Circle the verbs in each sentence. Make sure they are all in the same tense.

Show question

Question

How can you make sure your subject and verb agree with each other?

Show answer

Answer

Print out your essay. Find the subject and verb in each sentence. Check if they are singular or plural and make sure they are the same.

Show question

Question

What typographical errors should you pay attention to?

Show answer

Answer

Look at the punctuation you use at the end of your sentences and make sure it's correct. Read your paper out loud and add commas where appropriate. Make sure you've capitalized all proper nouns.

Show question

Question

Which sentence had been proofread and corrected?

Show answer

Answer

David wants to swim at the swimming pool.

Show question

Question

Which sentence correctly used a modifier?

Show answer

Answer

With my camera, we took pictures of a cow and a goat.

Show question

Question

How do you know if a sentence is complete?

Show answer

Answer

Make sure your sentence contains a subject, verb, and phrase. Read your sentences out loud and listen for these three parts. If your sentence is incomplete, add information or combine it with another sentence.

Show question

Question

Which sentence is complete?

Show answer

Answer

The boy is running to school.

Show question

Question

How can you check if you've used the correct pronoun?

Show answer

Answer

Circle the pronouns and antecedents in your writing. Make sure the gender and number of both words agree

Show question

Question

Which sentence correctly used a pronoun?

Show answer

Answer

The puppy was recognizable by its markings.

Show question

Question

Which sentence uses the correct verb tense?

Show answer

Answer

When I woke up I went to wash my face and then I ate breakfast

Show question

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