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301 Proofreading

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Oli Johnson

on 22 April 2016

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Transcript of 301 Proofreading

why and how should it be done
do it yourself!
On the 9th April 2014 The Guardian reported on the pitfalls of using a proofreading agency:

general advice
what to look for when editing
proofreading techniques
resources and support
Writing is the art.
Proofreading is the science.

what to look for when proofreading
general advice
What to look for when editing...
What to look for when proofreading
Proofreading techniques
"Students are paying for their work to be proofread, edited and, in some cases, written entirely, by professional writers and agencies, raising concerns around issues of support and plagiarism."
"I define cheating as students seeking an unfair learning advantage. If a student is saying, 'give me credit because I can write grammatically- correct and error-free text', then the student is misleading the assessor and seeking an unfair learning benefit as it isn't their skills and their learning that are being judged."
All this comes at a price. Students can pay anything from £5.45 to £19.35 per 100 words.
Use a spellchecker

Look at the following poem which has been proofread using the spell check facility in Word.

How many mistakes can you see?
Dangers of relying on spell checker...

It can't help you with some proper names, such as Heston or Jolie.
It will not detect improper use of homonyms, such as their and there.
It may flag words as errors which are indeed correct.
It does not always offer spelling suggestions for severely misspelled words.
You need to be able to fully concentrate so
remove all distractions:

Music, social media, mobile devices, etc...

Aim to be
. If it looks od, it probably is. Check it out and don't gloss over it!

Review past essays and
look at past feedback
. Make a checklist of your frequent errors; check for these first when editing and proofreading.

Use the University of Sheffield Feedback Record to log your feedback and refer back to it in the future.
Read your work several times, each time focusing
on one job at a time.

For example:
font and typing errors, then spelling, then grammar, etc.
Correct use of a spell checker:

Use it to highlight spelling mistakes before double-checking for yourself
Ensure you have UK English as your default language
Use it as the first stage of proof reading but NEVER as the only stage!
Print off a paper copy
to edit and proofread. you will spot more errors than when reading off the screen.

When checking text only (rather than format), try printing in a new font or spacing. This makes it easier to read with fresh eyes.
Use colour
when marking your own work:

One colour for corrections to be made

A different colour to cross off once corrected on the computer
NB - attend 301 feedback session for more information on how to get the most out of essay and exam feedback!
Have you answered the question?

Look breifly at the essay you have brought with you and answer the questions on the worksheet provided, if you rank yourself 3 or lower then you need to revisit this aspect of your essay.

This is a quick-fire way of checking the basic substance of your work.
Check all factual information is correct:

company names
Be careful with dazzling sentences!

Even if you think they sound impressive, if they are not appropriate or directly relevant cut them!
"It is important that proponents and opponents of this bill dialogue about its contents before voting on it."

"People should debate the pros and cons of this bill before voting"


Check the over-arching structure of your essay's argument. Does it build towards your conclusion?

One way to check this is to plot your paragraph topics as a time line to ensure that each paragraph flows into the next one.
Looking at the same essay you used earlier, plot each paragraph topic on the timeline provided. Does each topic flow into the next one or could you alter the order to make a more coherent argument?

NB: For the time being, have a look at the first few paragraphs of your essay to try out the technique.
Topic sentences:

Does each paragraph start with a topic sentence?
Does every sentence in the paragraph relate to that topic?

Remember: ONE topic = ONE paragraph!
Le Mot Juste

'The right word', Gustave Flaubert

Meaning that each word is concrete and clear, rather than generalised, ensuring clarity of meaning.
Repetition of ideas

Watch out for repetition of ideas or themes. Remove the least effective (it's not always the second version).
Don't Labor the point:

Once you've made a point and provided brief evidence it may be right to move on. When editing your essay be honest with your self if you think you are spending too long on one point/topic.
Check your department/module requirements:

For Example -

font size
page numbers
Check for consistency:

For example:

Abbreviations (e.g. then later 'for example')
Dates (12th April 2015 then later 12.04.15)

"Ode to my spell checker"

Eye halve a spelling checker
It came with my pea sea.
It plainly marks four my revue miss steaks eye kin knot sea.
Eye strike a quay and type a word and weight for it to say
Weather eye yam wrong oar write.
It shows me strait a weigh as soon as a mist ache is maid.
It nose bee fore two long and eye can put the error rite.
Its rare lea ever wrong.
Eye have run this poem threw it,
I am shore your pleased to no.
Its letter perfect awl the way.
My checker told me sew.
In pairs look at the card you have been given and try to:

Read the error type and advice you have been given.
Edit the examples you have been given (the text in italics is a hint) and check against the answer card.
When everyone is ready you will be asked to feedback to the group on the error type you have been given.
" " & ( )

Quotation marks and brackets are often omitted, especially the closing ones.

Check you are using the right form of quotation marks for a direct quote or a paraphrase.

You may need to refer to your department guidelines.

Watch out for your use of commas.

Too many can make for an odd sentence, which is far too long and hard to follow.

Too few and your meaning can be very confusing, or totally different to the meaning you intended
Have a go at punctuating the following sentence:

A woman without her man is nothing
!!!!!!!!!!! & ...

Get rid of all exclamation marks!
Ellipses should only be used when truncating a quote
This is only an overview: there are website links on the handout at the end for you to visit if you need further grammar help!
Watch out for homonyms

A homonym is a word that is said or spelled the same way as another word but has a different meaning.

Common issues:
...But don't overuse a thesaurus

Be careful when replacing words as this can add to imprecision, or make your writing sound odd or inconsistant.
Avoid informal language or colloquialisms

Things to watch out for:

Phrasal verbs:
get up, get on, etc
Informal connecting words:
and, but, so...
Active constructions:
'they say that...'
Simple sentences:
'The student was late.'

BUT: don't try to make it sound difficult or complex for the sake of it. Simplicity can be be positive!
Prune over-long sentences and paragraphs

A useful rule of thumb is:
2/3 clauses per sentence
4/5 sentences per paragraph.

Try to avoid using the same word more than once in a sentence or paragraph.
Remove tautologies

A tautology is the repetition of meaning within a phrase. For example:

I personally believe...
The main priority...
In my opinion, I think...
Never over-exaggerate!

Be careful with the word 'very'. Does it add anything substantial to your meaning?

Remove 'weasel words'

These are words or phrases used to hide weak or objectionable arguments.

There are three types:
numerical vagueness 'many people say' - what people?
passive voice 'it is often said' - who said?
adverbs to soften the point 'probably' or
'it is likely'
Spell small numbers out:

Ten and below is the general rule...

Use a comma to separate thousands

For example:
Never begin a sentence with a numeral:

For example:

Instead of:
'400,000 copies were sold on the first day.'
'Fans bought 400,000 copies on the first day.'
Centuries and decades should be spelled out

For example:
twentieth century; third decade

Also: use a hyphen when writing out centuries such as
twenty-first century

Twentieth-century technology
Percentages should be written out

For example:
'seven percent' not 7%
When writing two numbers together, right one and use a numeral for the other

For example:
Instead of '21 13-year-olds', write '21 thirteen-year-olds.'

The general rule is to write our the smallest number of the two
Ordinal numbers should be written out

For example:
'first place', not 1st place
Ensure you are using English not American spellings

There may be more of these differences than you think! Is your autocorrect set to the right type of English?
Consistency in spellings

Some words can be spelled correctly in two ways. Ensure you use the same version throughout your essay.

For example:
Set your own deadlines

Leave time between finishing your essay and editing, and then again before proofreading. Ideally, you need to plan to complete your work three days before the deadline (at least!)
Read out loud!

This is especially helpful when checking for correct use of and/or missing commas.

As a general rule of thumb; if you pause, you use a comma. If you pause for longer, you use a semi colon.
Use a pacing technique

Try using a ruler or a pen to follow your reading as you proofread.

It helps you to focus and not to miss anything
Read backwards!

For grammar and punctuation, try reading your essay
sentence by sentence

For spellings read the whole essay word-for-word backwards.

Why? You can distance yourself from your own writing and see the detail without the context. It is very difficult to spot your own mistakes; this can make it easier.
Trust your dictionary...

If you are unsure about how to spell a word, check your dictionary.

If using a spell checker, you can double-check a suggestion by using your dictionary.
Looking to the future...
According to the Recruitment and Employment Commision:

'Around half of all CVs received by recruitment consultants contain spelling or grammatical errors, and these are most likely to be made by those aged 21-25. In this age group, graduates are twice as likely to make mistakes as those who did not go on to university.'
Check for agreement

Make sure that all the elements of your sentences agree:

Claire Shaw, 'Students are turning to proofreading agencies to get support',
, 9 April 2014
Claire Shaw, 'Students are turning to proofreading agencies to get support',
, 9 April 2014
General principle: In all cases work submitted by a student must be their own work and any use of a third party proof-reader or proof-reading or editing service must not compromise the authorship of the work submitted.
Some suggestions:

A woman: without her, man is nothing.

A woman, without her man, is nothing.

Little used car for sale

The criminal said the judge should be hanged

No contractions!

Watch out for contractions such as;


Always rephrase or use the full word.
Be careful with apostrophes

Is it plural?
Don't use an apostrophe!
E.g. Students live here.

Is it indicating possession?
Do use an apostrophe
E.g. A student's flat...

Is it plural
indicating posession?
Apostrophe goes after the 's'
E.g. The students' flats.

The writer and producer is arriving soon = one person
The writer and producer are arriving soon = two people
Estimated numbers should be written out:

For example:
'approximately four hundred million'
One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20
Spelling is the very last thing for you to check
, ; . :
Use symbols as you proofread

Have a look at the short article provided and the symbol suggestion sheet...
...or use a paragraph or two from your own writing.
Annotate in red pen for changes which are necessary.
Look at the answer sheet, did you spot every mistake?

, 21 April, 2009
You can't beat a 2nd pair of eyes!

Even after all that, still ask someone else to read through your work if possible. They may well spot things you didn't.
Swap drafts with a student on your course. Be careful not to alter or correct content - only comment on matters of grammar, punctuation and spelling!
For more support...
Watch out for (deliberate) errors...one error = one sweet!
'Kill your darlings.' William Faulkner
Please take home the further information handout. This contains a check list for proofreading, a detailed list of common errors, and suggestions for website's to help with more details on correct English grammar.
Sign up for one of 301's Academic Writing workshops to help you get it right at the writing stage.
Visit the English Language Teaching Centre for more advice on editing and proofreading your work.
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