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Proofread Like a Pro – Try These Tricks

You slaved for weeks over your assignment. You poured over every paragraph, double checked every fact, wrote and rewrote until you were sure you had the perfect paper. You wait patiently (but anxiously) until your instructor hands back the graded project. And there, on page one, circled in red, is a big, fat typo. Something you never thought would sneak past you, but there it is. Sure, it may not mean much in the grand scheme of things, but after all that effort, spotting a mistake is just the worst.

As you work through your Unitek College courses, assignments will show up on your to-do list on a regular basis, and each one is an opportunity to turn in that “perfect paper”—if, of course, you know how to proofread efficiently. And it just so happens that we have a few tricks that can help you out.

  1. Concentrate. This is a no brainer. Turn off the TV, log out of Facebook, and focus only on the words in front of you. Every noise or distraction is an opportunity to miss an embarrassing mistake, so get rid of anything that isn’t helping you focus.
  2. Watch out for “correct” misspellings. Not every misspelling gets the funky red underline in your word processor. As brilliant as those programs are, they don’t always catch correctly spelled words used incorrectly. “Bare” or “bear”, “their” or “there”, “then” or “than”, and the list goes on. Spelling is just half the battle.
  3. Read it backwards. Okay, this tip is borderline cliché, but trust us… it works. Your brain can trick you when you skim through your writing. We subconsciously rearrange misspelled words in order to understand them, and our brains can just skip past errors if we let ourselves run on autopilot. Reading your work backwards is tedious, but if there’s a mistake, there’s a really good chance you’ll spot it.
  4. Hit the “print” button. For some reason, we spot things differently on screens than we do on paper. You might catch a mistake on your monitor that you’d miss on a printed piece of paper, and vice versa. The different mediums force your brain to process the words and letters in slightly different ways, and that might be all you need to spot a problem.
  5. Don’t confuse editing with proofreading. Every paper needs editing, every paper needs proofreading, but those aren’t the same things. Editing refers to your work on the paper’s content—making sure your ideas are presented the best way possible, that all the facts are correct, and that you’re using the most efficient structure. You’ll want to take care of all your editing first—that way typos don’t slip into those last minute sentences you added before sending in your paper. Write, then edit, then proofread.
  6. When in doubt, Google it. There are a lot of idiosyncrasies in the English language, and you won’t always automatically know which forms are correct. Is it “cannot” or “can not”? “10 year old” or “10-year-old”? Fortunately, we have the power of Google at our fingertips, and the answers are just a few clicks away. Never be afraid to double check—just make sure you’re using a credible site for your answers.
  7. Delegate. There’s only so much you can do. If you really want to try everything, bring in a friend or family member to give your paper the once over. They’ll be reading it with fresh eyes, and you’ll be surprised how much fresh eyes can catch.

Good luck on those projects! It may mean a little extra effort now, but remember, you’re working hard for that bright new career, and once you’ve locked that down, you’ll be glad you went the extra mile.