Take a step back. Phew. You finished your paper before it’s due! Take that spare time (even if it’s only 20 minutes) to proofread. Words and phrases that make sense in your head while you’re writing don’t always make sense a couple hours later when your mind is fresh again. Keep in mind these editing tips:

  • Format first. It’s super easy to double-check, but also easy to overlook. Know if your professor requires MLA, APA, or CMS because the formats vary on things like headings vs. title pages, how to number pages, and methods of citing. See any of our “Citation” resources for in-depth specifics on each format.
  • Read your paper out loud. This way you won’t miss little mistakes because you’re less likely to accidentally skim over them. It’s also easier to catch sentences that sound awkward or funky when you hear them out loud.
  • Underline your thesis statement. Ask yourself:
    • Do all your paragraphs support or relate to your argument? If not, cut them out! They may help you hit the page count, but ultimately your argument is less clear and direct. If page count is an issue, stop by the Writing Studio. Tutors are available to assist with every stage of the writing process (hint: this includes outlining and brainstorming).
  • Know your common writing errors. Based on professors’ comments on past papers, most students know where their writing falls short (maybe a lack of transitions, disorganization, or repetitive word choice). Be sure to check for your commonly repeated errors.
  • When in doubt, double-check. If you aren’t sure how a word should be used, look it up. If you think a comma should be inserted but you’re not confident, look it up. If you worry about correct citation, look it up. Google is your friend.
  • All paraphrasing should be cited, too. It’s better to cite more than necessary than not give credit where it’s due. Don’t get knocked for plagiarism.
  • Watch the flow. Ask yourself:
    • Does your paragraph order make sense? You should be developing or adding to your main argument as your paper progresses. Ideally, ideas from paragraph to paragraph build on each other. If they don’t, you may need to reorganize.
    • Do you transition between paragraphs, or do you leap from idea to idea? There should be a bridge between paragraphs, not a canyon. It should be clear to your reader why you put one paragraph before or after another. Since your paragraphs build on one another, make a transitional statement that clearly connects them.
  • Have someone else check it out. It helps to get feedback on your writing from an outsider. Ask your professor for advice, meet with a writing tutor, ask a peer from class, or even enlist the help of your roommate. See the “About Us: The Writing Studio” resource for more information.

Tips on this post are a compilation of the Writing Studio tutors’ personal proofreading practices.