This page gives you strategies for proofreading your writing. Proofreading is usually the last step of the writing process to ensure that your writing is free of typos and other surface errors that can distract from your message and meaning. 

1. Separate yourself from the writing 

The trick to proofreading is to think less like a writer and more like a reader. The more mental space you have from the writing of the essay, the easier it will be to proofread. Avoid proofreading right after writing. Give yourself a day or a few hours between writing and proofreading. Take a run. Wash some dishes. Knock out some physics homework. Give your eyes and mind the break they need to see your essay as a new piece of writing. 

2. Change the medium and text 

You can make your writing seem less familiar by changing the way you read and how your writing looks. If you’ve been staring at your essay on a screen, print it out to proofread. Even better, change the font and size of the text (just remember to change it back!). Switching from Times New Roman, 12pt to Courier 14pt can help you see your writing with fresh eyes. 

 3. Be aware of patterns of errors

Make a list of your most common errors, whether they are run-on sentences, commas, or spelling. These are the errors you’d want to pay special attention to after you’re finished with the first draft. 

4. Proofread for only one kind of error at a time

It’s nearly impossible to catch every issue at the same time. Using the list of your most common errors, read your essay looking only for the first error on the list. Focusing just on one type of issue helps find those issues. Next, read for the second-most common issue, and then the third. 

5. Read aloud 

Find a quiet place and read your essay out loud slowly, as if you were reading it to a small child. Listen to the way words and sentences sound and work. If something sounds weird or awkward, it probably still needs work. Your ears will catch errors that your eyes will breeze over. If a sentence sounds incomplete or overly long, chances are that it’s a fragment or run-on. If you feel awkward about listening to yourself online, try a Read Aloud App either on your phone or on your computer, like

6. Read Backwards

It’s easy to miss mistakes when you see your essay as a single piece of writing. Focusing on individual sentences help you notice errors you’d normally miss. Beginning with the last sentence and reading the essay from the end to the beginning will force you to focus on individual sentences.

Works Consulted

  • The Writing Center. The Writing Center at George Mason University, 2017. Accessed 30 Jan. 2017.
  • UNC Writing Center. The Writing Center at UNC-Chapel Hill, 2014. Accessed 30 Jan. 2017.