II. After you write: Proofreading
No matter how many times you read through a “finished” paper, you’re likely to miss some of your most frequent errors. The following strategies will help you prevent this.
• Read aloud SLOWLY, thinking you’re the reader, this is, slow down as you read through. Writing is not speaking, there is no material context to draw information from. You depend wholly on words and their logical progression.
• Read IN DETAIL, line by line (sentence structure, punctuation, coherence), word by word (phrases, cohesion), letter by letter (spelling, grammar issues too). You may need to read your paper at least twice—the first time, to check the general coherence, and the second to identify particular errors and mistakes.
Personalizing your proofreading
• Identify your errors and mistakes. A mistake refers to a performance error that is either a random guess or a “slip,” the result of some sort of breakdown or imperfection in the process of producing speech. The speaker/writer knows or is able to realize that there is something wrong (que algo va mal). Everybody makes mistakes, in both native and second language situations. An error is the result of a deficiency in competence—errors are in-built mistakes. The speaker/writer doesn’t know that there is something wrong. Errors need to be explained in order to be overcome, and the speaker/writer needs to understand why he or she is making them. This means that when the teacher corrects your work, you need to study those corrections, mistakes and errors and do a follow-up.
• Learn how to fix your errors and mistakes. Errors need some study. Mistakes can be solved if you pay attention when you proofread your text.
• Use specific strategies for proofreading. In order to do so, you could consider the following areas:
Organization and paragraphing. Be relevant, be clear, be concise in the sense of not beating about the bush! Use logical progression. Originality may also be useful—interest, developing insights...
* What’s your paper’s thesis statement, your general point?
* Use a general idea to sustain it as an introduction to the different aspects you will deal with, and go back to this at the end of your paper, as if closing the tracing of a circle, a “trip”. Don’t go back to it by repeating what you said at the beginning, but by showing that the trip you’ve made through the
different aspects of the theme has explained, enrichened, consolidated your thesis.
* Which are the ideas that develop your thesis, the general point you’re making? How will you sustain each of them? When are examples necessary? Illustrating an obvious point may be unnecessary— Remember that what’s necessary for the reader may be not the same as what’s necessary for you.
What type of examples will you select?
* Topic sentences and paragraphs. Usually, the main idea in a paragraph is the first or second sentence in the paragraph. This is called the topic sentence. Is your topic sentence in each paragraph clear? Is its development clear? Is it easy to locate your topic sentences, the central ideas in each paragraph?
(How would you explain that paragraph in a sentence.)
* Logical progression. How will you “move on” from one paragraph to the next? You must consider this using the idea of logical progression. When we deal with APPROACH you will learn more about how to do this.
* Coherence. Do all your paragraphs build the comprehension of how you are dealing with the theme? Or are you repeating yourself? Are there any gaps? Should you add anything or cross out anything?
* Structure. In order to check on the structure of your text, see if you can write a scheme of your piece, like I did at the beginning of these notes.
Usage and sentence structure
* Morphology: agreement
* Subject/Verb Agreement: find the main verb and check it matches its subject in number.
* Pronoun Reference Agreement: check if you are using the right pronoun (number, gender) for the phrase you are replacing with a pronoun.
* Tenses: check the use of tenses, and how they combine.
* Syntax: order
* Adjectives and adverbials: check their place.
* Connectors: What are you connecting? Use connectors to write a cohesive text, this is, don’t abuse, use them to facilitate reading and connections.
Spelling and punctuation
* Examine each word in the paper individually.
* Use your dictionary: check spelling, whenever you are not completely sure.
* To check punctuation you need to read aloud, because your intonation will help you punctuate. In writing, punctuation replaces stress, rhythm and intonation.
* Use full stops. Spanish tends to use subordinate sentences more often than English. Simple brief sentences are alright in English. Of course, it is OK to combine this with clear subordinate and coordinate sentences. What I mean is you can use short sentences.
* Check commas and missing commas, connectors and conjunctions. If there is a complete sentence after a comma it might be necessary to use a full stop instead, or to place a comma before the conjunction. Connectors are often followed by commas, conjunctions are sometimes preceded by commas (in long sentences).
* Use long dashes. They serve to extend an previous idea. In Spanish we use colons or brackets for this, at times. You needn’t close the long dash if you reach the end of the sentence.
* Check apostrophes.
* Check for left-out words and make sure you haven’t doubled any words by using an extra pronoun.
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Checkout the OWL page for Tips on Proofreading
The BBC offers some tips on proofreading too, plus worksheets and quizzes to check how good you are at proofreading.