After an author writes up an academic paper for publication, he or she would need to proofread it to ensure it gets the message across to readers, and contains no English errors. Authors of academic work are academics, researchers, and postgraduate students. After the writing process, the author would search for a second pair of eyes to check the manuscript for errors. This proofreader is usually someone skilled in this area, and it would help if he or she has a background that is similar to the topic discussed in the manuscript.
Before we talk about the process of going through the manuscript content and checking for errors, we first discuss the difference between proofreading and editing. Proofreading is generally a surface level check, and involves checking for spelling mistakes/typographical errors, grammatical mistakes, and punctuation misuse. This is done on the final version of the manuscript, right before publication. Editing, however, is a more in-depth check beyond proofreading, and involves correcting issues at the core of the content, like checking sentence structure, language clarity, coherency and flow of ideas, and academic wording and tone. Editing is performed on every draft of the manuscript. It is common for language experts to perform both proofreading and editing on the manuscript before it is sent for publication or print.
The following list highlights the main elements considered in both processes:
Proofreading (surface check): spelling, grammar punctuation
Editing (in depth check): sentence structure, academic wording, coherency, language clarity and conciseness.
Now we discuss some tips on how to effectively proofread your paper. Proofreading is an essential step before you expose your writing to your readers. Since we are discussing academic work here, an academic audience such as peer reviewers would expect a clear, well-written, error-free manuscript from you. Errors would only get your readers distracted or misinterpret the idea you are trying to get across.
This would highly impact your chances of qualifying for acceptance for publication. So it is not a process to ignore if you are aiming to get your work published. Below are some strategic tips and techniques to effectively proofread your writing.
- Read from a hard copy of your manuscript. This way, you would have a chance to spot errors that you have missed when reviewing the on-screen version. This may seem irrelevant or useless, but it works every time.
- Write first, proofread later. This is a good way to quickly write up your thoughts before you forget them. Then once you have them all written, you can start to review for errors. This would help you to first get all of your ideas out, without being distracted by trying to adjust any errors.
- Proofread each section individually. Rather than reading the entire paper at once, which can be overwhelming, it is recommended to proofread each section independently, taking a break in between sections.
- Spend extra time on it. Don’t rush into it, as this would increase your chances of missing out on obvious errors. Instead, take your time to carefully check each sentence in a slow pace, with careful attention to all the details.
- Use an automated spelling checker first. This way, you can at least quickly get rid of spelling errors and typos without any effort.
- Read it out loud. Saying what you read out loud helps you to recognize any errors that you would have missed if you just read it.
- Read it backwards. This way, you are forced to really focus at a word-by-word level. This is a way to force you to slow down and check the content at a slow and careful pace.
- Divide the process into steps. You can first check for typos on the first read, then check for punctuation errors, and finally do a last round to check for grammatical mistakes. This takes more time and effort, but dividing different tasks on each round would help to focus on the specific types of errors during that round. This helps to put your effort into focusing on each type of error individually.
- Take a break. When you have been reading the paper over and over, you tend to memorize some lines, and this causes you to become familiar with the text and makes it hard for you to notice any mistakes. So taking a short break and coming back with a fresh pair of eyes really helps.
- Hire a professional. If English is your second language, it would be highly recommended to hire a professional proofreader, preferably one who is skilled in the same discipline.