The Importance of Proofreading

As red pen underlines yet another simple spelling mistake, followed by the unmistakable groan from my student, ‘oh, why didn’t I see that the first time!’, this is when the importance of proofreading rears its ugly head once again.

Whatever the level, age, or examination, proofreading must be one of the most essential techniques a student can perfect in written English. However, there can be something terribly cringeworthy about reading our own work, especially for the less confident students. Furthermore, it’s difficult to spot your own mistakes since our brain visualises certain words as we expect them to be, therefore lazily ignoring the actual spelling errors.

Therefore, it seemed imperative that a solution for this age old problem was created… The Proofreading Checklist:

1) Have you read the text out loud (whisper if in an exam!)?

A sure-fire way to highlight missing words and confused meanings.

2) Have you proofread for one type of error at a time?

So in one reading focus on punctuation, and in another concentrate on spelling.

3) Have you checked for spelling errors while reading backwards?

Start with the last word on the last page and work your way back to the beginning. Since content, punctuation, and grammar won’t make any sense, your focus will be entirely on the spelling of each word.

4) Have you used a blank piece of paper to uncover one line at a time as you proofread?

This technique simply serves to keep you focussed and eyes trained on the relevant text.

5) Have you made a list of your most common errors?

So this means that you will be hyperaware of your weak spots and be on the look out for them. Such things as: possessive apostrophes; subordinate clauses commas; ei/ie spellings etc.

6) Have you proofread for improvements?

If time, spend one proofreading focussing on how you could improve your writing. Could you add: a ‘wow’ word; a technique; more variety of sentence structure etc?


Now, I dare any little blighter of a mistake to still be there on your writing…