Proofreading

You’ve reached the word count, you’ve answered the question and you’ve included all the right references. You’ve finished your essay, right? Wrong. You’ve moved onto the next stage of writing: proofreading.

Proofreading is the difference between a B and an A.  To do it justice, you need to proofread your essay at least five times, in both electronic and printed form, over the course of at least a couple of days. We all have our own weird writing habits, but this checklist should alert you to some of the most common ones.

Spelling
– Have you run your essay through a spell-check, accepting when the computer is right and ignoring when you know better (like when it suggests American spelling)?
– Have you scanned for and fixed typos (like ‘as’ where you meant ‘at’)?
– Have you fixed misplaced homonyms (like ‘there’ where you meant ‘their’)?

Punctuation
– Have you included commas to: indicate where your reader should pause, separate words in lists, and enclose non-essential information (the parts of a sentence, like details, that the sentence would still make sense without)?
– Have you used semi-colons to link short, connected sentences (semi-colons are useful; they show that you know your punctuation)?
– Have you used apostrophes to show ownership (New Zealand’s first Prime Minister), but not in random word’s ending in s (see what I did there)?

Structure
– Does each paragraph has a clear topic sentence that conveys its main point?
– Do you explain each point before heading into relevant examples?
– Do you properly analyse your examples before moving on to the next paragraph?

Style
– Is every sentence complete? Does each sentence make total sense on its own?
– Do you have a mix of longer and shorter sentences, without any really long ones?
– Is your essay fun and easy to read? Think: catchy opening line, clear sentences, links between paragraphs, thought-provoking closing sentence.

Just remember: if you suspect something might be unclear, it is. If something doesn’t look right, it probably isn’t. If you’ve got a nagging feeling about your essay, it’s not finished.

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