Updated on August 21, 2018 Virginia Kearney moreVirginia has been a university English instructor for over 20 years. She specializes in helping people write essays faster and easier. Proofreading is checking for grammar and spelling mistakes. You should always proofread carefully as the last step in essay writing. Revision is going back over your paper and making changes that improve the logic, organization of arguments, sentence structure, word choice, and grammar. Revising your essay is the step which makes or breaks your paper and often determines your grade. Steps 1-5 below are proofreading and if you are in a time crunch, just do those. Have more time and want the best grade possible? Use your word processing program to do a grammar and spelling check. Please never turn in a paper without doing this necessary check! I am always dismayed to get a student paper with many mistakes that any word processing program would have found. Better yet, use which often can find even more errors.
You can get a free account. About six months ago, I started using Grammarly and now depend on it to catch my typos and to remind me of more effective ways to write. Moreover, to get the most out of any grammar and spelling check, be sure to notice errors you make over and over. That will help you to learn how to write better. Remember that no computer program can find all your errors, so you need to do a careful reading of your paper too. Read your essay out loud (or have someone read it to you while you look at a copy). Reading aloud slows you down and helps you see things you miss. Print out a hard copy. Research suggests that using a hard copy rather than a computer screen also helps you to see errors more effectively. Watch for sentences that you need to re-read. If you find you stumble over some words, or have to re-read a sentence, you may want to consider re-writing that sentence to make it clearer.
This is my best revision trick and I guarantee your writing will be better if you do it. Go through your paper and circle the first word of every sentence. If there are two sentences in a paragraph that start with the same word, then change one of them by adding one of my transition words, or else reword the sentence. When you don’t use the same words over and over, your writing sounds more professional and less choppy. Better yet, adding transition words actually improves the content of your essay because those words help you link your ideas. I bet you get a better grade! Next, circle the subjects and verbs in each sentence. You are going to do this to check for two things: good use of verbs and commas. 1. Are you using interesting and active verbs when possible? Do you use the same verbs too often? Try to avoid using the passive tense and use interesting verbs. Check in a thesaurus if you can’t think of a better word, or Grammarly premium will help.
2. Is there something in the sentence before the subject? Put a comma between that introductory element and the subject. Example: When leaving the house, I locked the doors. If you’ve done the step above, you have probably caught many of the most common comma errors. For other errors, you can look at my easy guides for commas; quotation marks; colons and semi-colons; and hyphens, parenthesis and dashes. Introductory elements in a sentence (anything word or phrase that comes before the subject). Example: Inevitably, some student in my class will forget to spell check, and the errors will drive me crazy! In between items in a list. Example: She remembered to use spell and grammar check, circle and check her first words, and double-check her punctuation. Before and after quotations. Example: The instructor said, “I know you will get a good grade on your paper,” when I turned it in on Tuesday. Check for logic and clear argument.
Underline your thesis sentence. Did you write a clear, effective Roadmap thesis? Underline your topic sentences. Is there just one in each paragraph. If you read just the thesis and topic sentences can you understand the main point of your paper? Does your argument make sense? Is there something you need to add? You might ask someone else to read these sentences to see if they think there is something missing. Interesting Language. Do your thesis and topic sentences sound vivid, opinionated and interesting? Strong language can make your paper stand out. That means using vivid verbs and adverbs. A good example of using strong language is “Why We Crave Horror Movies” by Stephen King. Movie reviews are better if they are funny, sarcastic and witty. That might not be an appropriate tone if you agree with the main point of your article, but you can be equally impressive if you are passionate, earnest and thoughtful. One way to do that is to use strong language, especially transition words, verbs, and adverbs.