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Three key tips for effective proofreading

After you have laboured hard over your assignment, it’s important not to let down your content with poor presentation. Careless mistakes undermine the authority of your argument.

If you believe your proofreading skills are weak, it may be that your mind is being too efficient. Spelling mistakes and grammatical errors can be hard to spot because our brain ‘corrects’ the visual; we see what we expect to see.

Here are three simple steps to ensure a polished, professional finish.

1 Read your work aloud

You may feel foolish at first, but you’ll soon get into the swing. Hearing your words out loud may come as a revelation because the ear catches what the eye misses. For example, you might run out of breath reading a super-long sentence and realise you need to divide it in two.

Smiling student

2 Recruit a ‘proofreading buddy’

You will find it easier to spot the errors in someone else’s writing because you have no expectation of what it’s supposed to say. Why not pair up with a friend and commit to becoming proofreading buddies?

3 Use an ugly font

If you’re pressed for time, convert your text into an ugly font — whatever ‘ugly’ means to you. If you usually write in a traditional font such as Times, try a jagged, extra-modern typeface. And if you prefer a modern font, replace it with an ornate alternative. The lack of familiarity means that mistakes will stand out. Just remember to convert your work back before you press ‘submit’!

Lucy Flannery
5 November 2020

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