Producing a final, written document usually involves writing several draft versions and rewriting or restructuring sections. Plan ahead so that you have the time to improve on your first attempt, get feedback from others and proofread the assignment carefully before submission.
- Microsoft word has inbuilt spell checkers and grammar checkers that can be helpful.
- USQ offers a free service called Smarthinking, where you can submit your drafts for proofreading up to 10 times for each assignment.
Whilst these tools can be a fantastic help, they won't detect all errors. You will still need to check again yourself. Common errors not picked up by online tools include the following:
- Homonyms: These are words that sound the same, but are spelt differently and mean different things e.g. to / too / two. This Scholastic blog gives you the 20 most commonly misused homonyms and their meanings.
- Tense: We can often skip between present and past tense, when we should be staying in one. Grammarly gives some great advice on tense.
- Apostrophes: Apostrophes are used to show possession or contractions. We don’t use them for plurals. The Khan Academy will teach you correct usage.
- Additions/Omissions: Writers can often add in unnecessary words or letters or leave out words or letters e.g. Harry, Prince of Whales.
- Academic language: Students will often use first person, when third is most frequently used in academic voice.
- Names: Spellchecker will often identify unusual names, but not know how to spell them. Additionally, it won’t identify if you are inconsistent in your spelling of names.
- Plural/singular agreement: This is the trickiest of them all! If one artist is written about, you must use s/he. If many artists are written about, you can use their. The Khan Academy has a great lesson on this.
When you're proofreading, taking a systematic approach can be very helpful. Some good strategies include:
- once you have read through and are happy with the content, do another read of your assignment looking for one type of error, such as spelling or sentence structure, and then continue to do the same for other types of errors.
- have a friend read your assignment aloud to you. Often we read what we meant to write, instead of what we actually did. Having another voice read it aloud stops this occurring.
- keep a list of the errors markers commonly identify in your assignment. This way, you will know your common errors and can check for them.
- read your paper backwards. This will stop you getting caught up in the content and allow you to focus on referencing, spelling and other basic errors.
- wait. Putting time between when you write something and when you proofread it, will allow for more selective editing.
Try using this Grammar Proofreading Checklist, particularly if English is not your first language.