Editing and Proofreading Tips


Editing targets the structure, clarity, and focus of the paper, while proofreading focuses on grammar, mechanics, and spelling errors. Both of these processes will impact the overall quality of your paper; however, it is very difficult to do both of these at the same time. It can be helpful to think of editing as tightening larger elements in the paper, whereas proofreading involves a focus on smaller, surface errors. Therefore, it’s easier to handle these two processes separately.

Some General Tips

  1. It is helpful to space out the writing process. Leaving some time (at least 24 hours) after finalizing a completed draft of the assignment for the editing and proofreading processes can make them a lot easier.
  2. Read your work out loud. When we read out loud, we are also forced to look at and listen to each individual word and punctuation mark. This can be especially useful in finding awkward and confusing sentence structures, as well as spotting misspellings and typos.

Editing Tips

  1. Edit before you proofread; often, structural issues within a paper are more significant than the surface errors.
  2. Make sure you have a clearly identifiable thesis statement. The rest of the paper should in some way relate back to the claim(s) you made there.
  3. There should be a logical connection between paragraphs. If you are having trouble making that connection, but both paragraphs are important to supporting your thesis, consider re-ordering them or linking them with a transition word or sentence.
  4. Eliminate confusing language; if something does not make sense to you or sound “natural” to you, it probably will not to your reader either.
  5. Avoid repetitive word choice. A thesaurus (whether online or printed) can be useful here. 
  6. Similarly, avoid repetitive sentence structure. Compound sentences and punctuation (such as semicolons and dashes) can be very useful in diversifying your sentences.

Proofreading Tips

  1. If possible, print a physical copy of the paper so that you can make corrections directly on the page.  They are easier to spot in print form than on a computer screen.
  2. Computer “spell check” and “grammar check” programs do not catch all errors. For example, “their” and “there” are both spelled correctly and thus can appear to a word processor as “correct,” but they have very different meanings.
  3. Be sure you are using punctuation correctly. If you are unsure, or feel yourself placing punctuation because you think you should and not because of a clear rule, look it up. The Writing Center has many resources available – both online and in the Center – devoted to specific types of punctuation.