If you are pursuing your degree, prepare to write college term papers in many of your classes. These papers are often due at semester’s end and used to help the instructor assess your knowledge and understanding of the course’s subject.
Usually, college term papers are a large portion of your grade, making it important to ensure that these writings are as complete and error-free as possible. But the skill of proofreading is also beneficial in almost any career, whether you’re double-checking emails to your boss, writing reports for your colleagues, or drawing up your business plan.
So, what is the best way to review your college term paper before turning it in? Here are a few proofreading tips to consider.
PROOFREADING TIP #1: Write your college term paper early.
Scrambling at the last minute to write your term paper may ensure that you meet your deadline, but rushing to get your thoughts down on paper also opens you to making more mistakes. You don’t have the time to do a thorough proofread, which often equates to subpar work.
Another benefit of writing your paper with a few days to spare is that it allows you to let it sit for a couple of days and go back to it to proofread with fresh eyes. You’re able to catch more mistakes because your brain has had some time away.
Aim to write a rough draft of your college term paper a week before it’s due. Set it aside for at least 24 hours before doing your first proofread. Then let it sit before looking it over again. You’ll be surprised at how many issues you catch by taking this proofreading tip to heart.
PROOFREADING TIP #2: Create a proofreading checklist.
This proofreading tip is used by professional writers because it reduces the likelihood that you’ll miss something when giving your paper a good look-over. Items to include on your proofreading checklist are:
- Spelling and typographical errors
- Proper punctuation
- Missing words or words that don’t belong
- Correct subject-verb agreement (“they were” vs. “they was”)
- Correct word usage (their vs. they’re vs. there)
- Sentences that are too long or not a true sentence
Some online sites offer downloadable proofreading checklists. This gives you a sort of cheat sheet without having to create one of your own.
PROOFREADING TIP #3: Proofread a paper version of your college term paper.
Although typewriters are a thing of the past, instantly providing you a physical copy of your college term paper, there is a benefit to taking the time to print your digital paper and review it by hand.
One advantage of this proofreading tip is that you can go over your paper without being distracted by all of the other open windows and notifications on your computer or tablet screen. Another is that reading a hard copy of your college term paper often allows you to catch more of your mistakes. Research even indicates that proofreading on a screen tends to be harder on your eyes. If you notice this yourself, going over a paper copy is one way to reduce this effect.
If you don’t have access to a printer or want to save paper, an alternative is to use your cursor to go through your digital document like you would your finger with a paper version. This allows you to easily follow along and keep your space so you don’t inadvertently skip a section.
PROOFREADING TIP #4: Read your paper aloud.
One reason this proofreading tip works is because it forces you to slow down. You aren’t able to accidentally skip over words that shouldn’t be there but are, and you also have an easier time picking up words that are missing.
Close your door, turn off the distractions, and read your college term paper aloud as if you’re presenting it to the rest of the class. Does what you’re saying make sense? Does the paper have a good flow, transitioning seamlessly from one topic to the next?
PROOFREADING TIP #5: Plan to proofread your term paper at least twice.
Let’s face it. By the time you write your college term paper and go through it once, you’re ready to turn it in and be done with it. However, you will often find that if you would just look it over one more time, it ends up a better finished product.
Again, this is where drafting it early comes into play. You need to have the time to give your paper two thorough reviews, so writing it well before it’s due gives you this opportunity.
PROOFREADING TIP #6: Have someone else look over your college term paper.
If you have someone in your life who is detail-oriented, you could also ask them to look over your college term paper and see if they notice any errors. The benefit of this proofreading tip is that they’ve never seen the paper before and have no idea what you wanted to say. This enables them to be a neutral reader and pick up any issues in your writing, from grammatical errors to confusing explanations to poor flow.
The key is to pick someone who will take the time to go through your paper and provide honest feedback. You want them to take their role of editor seriously, which means taking the time to sit down and really consider what you wrote.
PROOFREADING TIP #7: Use a spelling and grammar checker.
The reason this proofreading tip is last is because no matter how good your software program is, digital spelling and grammar checkers are not 100% accurate. They may miss misspellings of words based on usage (such as “meet” vs. “meat”), they often suggest improper changes, and they don’t necessarily highlight when something you’ve written doesn’t make sense. They can struggle with many proper nouns and specific names as well.
They are effective, however, for picking up some of the most basic errors. So, making this step the final one in your proofreading process is a good way to give your college term paper one more final go-through before turning it in.
Summing Up Proofreading Tips for College Students
Implementing these proofreading tips into your paper review process helps increase the likelihood that your college term paper will shine, and it sets you up to be more accurate and effective in your career. Proper and thorough proofreading is one skill that can benefit you for years to come in any profession you choose to pursue.