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Proofreading your work

After carefully editing your draft, the final step before submitting your work is to proofread it. Where editing addresses structural and organisational issues, proofreading is about achieving consistency and correctness.

Again, it is a good idea to leave some time between editing your final draft and proofreading it. Too much familiarity with the text means you may overlook obvious mistakes. Equally, too much reliance on computer spelling and grammar checkers may not always produce the desired result.

Read your draft aloud or have someone else read it for you. These are both handy strategies for identifying mistakes that would otherwise be missed.

The following checklist may be useful for identifying key features to look out for when proofreading.

Checklist and tips for proofreading your work
Spelling Tips
  • Have you used -ise or -ize? Colour or color?
  • Keep a list of words with variant spellings, noting which you use to ensure consistency.
  • note: 'ise' is more usual in Australian written English.
  • note: prefer British spelling (e.g. colour) to American spelling (e.g. color).
  • Have you spelt all names and titles correctly?
  • Take special care to check the spelling of any foreign words or specialist vocabulary.
Capital letters Tips
  • Have you used capital letters consistently?
  • Keep a list of words which require capital letters, paying particular attention to titles and art or design movements.
Tenses Tips
  • Have you changed tense without a good reason?
  • Remember it is common to use the present tense when discussing designs or artworks.
Grammar Tips
  • Do your subjects agree with their verbs in number?
  • Learn to identify the subject and verb in your sentences and check that they match in number.
  • Are your sentences complete and correct?
Punctuation Tips
  • Have you used commas appropriately to clarify any ambiguous sentences?
  • Have you used apostrophes correctly?
  • Remember that contractions such as it's, meaning it is, are not usually used in academic writing. If you are not sure about the correct use of apostrophes, have a look at this punctuation site opens in a new window.
Presentation Tips
  • Have you included page numbers?
  • Most word processing programs have a function which inserts page numbers automatically.
  • Are all the headings you are required to use, consistent in format?
  • Keep a list showing the format of various levels of headings used in your assignment.
  • Does your work conform to the required format?
  • Always check your assignment sheet or with your tutor to ensure your work meets all formatting requirements.

Most students find it easier to work off a printed copy when proofreading, however, you should experiment with different methods to determine what works best for you.

Other strategies you might try include:

  • working on only one paragraph at a time to maintain your concentration
  • changing the size of the font or appearance of the document to make it look unfamiliar
  • circling punctuation marks to check whether or not they are correct
  • checking through your marked assignments to note any errors you consistently make
  • keeping a list of these errors and being aware of them as you proofread.

Proofreading is your last opportunity to improve your written assignments before you submit them. It is worthwhile taking the time to ensure you have done the best you can.

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