Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Personalize Your Proofreading - Part 1

Once a rough draft is finished, you should try to set it aside for at least a day and come back to the paper with a fresh mind and thus more easily catch the errors in it. You’ll bring a fresh mind to the process of polishing a paper and be ready to try some of the following strategies.

Read the Paper Aloud

If we read the paper aloud slowly, we have two senses--seeing AND hearing--working for us. Thus, what one sense misses, the other may pick up. Reading a paper aloud encourages you to read every little word.

Check the Thesis Statement and Organization

Write down your thesis on a piece of paper if it is not directly stated in your essay. Does it accurately state your main idea?
Is it in fact supported by the paper?
Does it need to be changed in any way?

On that piece of paper, list the main idea of each paragraph under the thesis statement.
Is each paragraph relevant to the thesis?
Are the paragraphs in a logical sequence or order?

Remember that You are Writing for Others

No matter how familiar others may be with the material, they cannot "get inside" your head and understand your approach to it unless you express yourself clearly. Therefore, it is useful to read the paper through once as you keep in mind whether or not the student or teacher or friend who will be reading it will understand what you are saying.

That is, have you said exactly what you wanted to say?

Check the Paper's Development

Are there sufficient details?
Is the logic valid?

Check the Paper's Coherence and Unity

Are the major points connected?
Are the relationships between them expressed clearly?
Do they all relate to the thesis?

Review your Diction

Remember that others are reading your paper and that even the choice of one word can affect their response to it. Try to anticipate their response, and choose your words accordingly.

Original: The media's exploitation of the Watergate scandal showed how biased it was already.
Revision: The media's coverage of the Watergate scandal suggests that perhaps those in the media had already determined Nixon’s guilt.

In addition to being more specific, the revision does not force the reader to defend the media.

In the first example, though, the statement is so exaggerated that even the reader who is neutral on the issue may feel it necessary to defend the media. Thus, the writer of the original has made his job of persuading the reader that much harder.

For working on sentence and word-level issues

No matter how many times you read through a "finished" paper, you're likely to miss many of your most frequent errors.

General Strategies

Begin by taking a break. Allow yourself some time between writing and proofing. Even a five-minute break is productive because it will help get some distance from what you have written. The goal is to return with a fresh eye and mind.

Try to s-l-o-w d-o-w-n as you read through a paper. That will help you catch mistakes that you might otherwise overlook. As you use these strategies, remember to work slowly. If you read at a normal speed, you won't give your eyes sufficient time to spot errors.

Reading with a "cover." Sliding a blank sheet of paper down the page as you read encourages you to make a detailed, line-by-line review of the paper.

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