You wrote the first draft. You analyzed and revised it. Now, you’re finally down to the final step of the process: polishing out the content. What does it mean to polish out your writing? I have two words for you: proofreading, formatting.
It’s interesting that most students don’t bother wondering how to proofread a paper. They think the process is easy. All it takes is reading and fixing the errors. Well, they are not far from the truth. The process is easy, but it’s also very detailed and requires your full attention. Plus, the final stage involves formatting, too.
I used to think it was easy to write my paper, but I kept getting remarks on the structure and style. Finally, I realized: this stage wasn’t as trivial as it seemed. Few tips helped me up my game. As always, I’m willing to share them with you.
The Spell-Checker Is Not the Ultimate Paper Proofreader
Don’t get me wrong: you should run a spell and grammar check. MS Word does a pretty good job, but it’s far from a human editor. It will often flag correct sentence constructions as problematic ones. Plus, it can’t get all articles and prepositions right. The same thing can be said for Ginger, Grammarly, WriteCheck, and other automated proofreaders.
Whether you like it or not, you’ll have to rely on your common sense when proofreading the paper.
Do Run the Spell-Checker. Then, Proofread
Okay, the spell-check software can locate wrong words and mish-mashed sentences. Pay attention to the suggestions, though. The underlined sentences don’t always signify mistakes. Plus, you need to proofread the rest of the paper, too.
- Zoom in the document. When you try to proofread paper, you need to pay attention to each individual word and sentence. You already took care of the logical flow during the revising stage. Now, you need to focus on the details. I find that the zooming-in technique works well because it makes me focused on the words. Thus, it’s easy for me to notice when something is wrong.
- Spell-check software has a problem recognizing wrong homonyms, repeated phrases, and omitted articles. Pay close attention to those points when you’re proofreading papers.
- The Hemingway App is a useful tool to use when you proofread essay. It makes you aware of the words and structures that are too complex. Academic language should not be hard to read. Your professors will appreciate clear interpretation of the most complex ideas. So, follow the hints of this tool and simplify your style.
- This is an important step: hand over the paper to a friend of yours, who will serve as an essay proofreader. You can return the same favor. When you get the paper checked by an actual reader, you’ll get honest feedback. Then, you can make some additional edits.
Check the Headings
When you’re focused on the details of the paper, it’s easy to neglect the big, bolded headings.
It’s important to know how a proper heading for a paper looks like. You already polished out the content of the paper. Now, think: do the headings grasp the essence of the paragraphs they stand for?
Once you’re sure the headings sound well, think about their format. Check the recommendations of the formatting standard you’re following. The MLA Formatting and Style Guide, for example, recommends numbering the proper paper heading with Arabic numbers. If you check a proper sample of an APA-styled paper, you’ll notice that the headlines are not numbered.
The Paper Formatting Part
Be careful with the font. Times New Roman is a good choice for academic writing. Don’t even think about using fonts like Verdana or, God forbid, Comic Sans. The font is not the aspect that expresses your creativity. The content itself should do that. As for the font, it should be clean and easy to read.
Don’t try to make the paper look longer by enlarging the margins and the font size. Keep the margins on a maximum of 1.25 inches, and the font size on 12 or 10.
It’s extremely important to follow the guidelines of the citation standard your professor indicated. The Purdue Online Writing Lab has the information you need. Check if you referenced all sources, and make sure you followed the proper paper format.
Once you’re done with proofreading and formatting papers, you can congratulate yourself. You just wrapped up the process, and you’re ready to submit them!
List of sources:
1. Grammar Checkers Do Not Work. Les Perelman, MIT. Found at: http://lesperelman.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Perelman-Grammar-Checkers-Do-Not-Work.pdf
2. MLA General Format. Purdue OWL. Found at: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/747/24/
3. Sample APA Paper. Purdue OWL. Found at: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/media/pdf/20090212013008_560.pdf
4. Citation Style Chart. Purdue OWL. Found at: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/949/01/