MSU Denver

Online Resources and Tried & True Tips

While editing and proofreading may feel like overwhelming tasks at times, doing so can provide huge benefits to your writing. 

When we write, it’s with the intention to communicate an idea to someone else. By re-reading and revising your work, you’re increasing the chances that someone will fully and truly understand your ideas. When you give yourself the time to proofread and edit, you’re likely to catch things you missed when writing. 

And, if you practice editing and proofreading over time, you’ll be giving yourself the opportunity to notice patterns in your writing as you write. That will make you a more efficient writer!


Consultant-Tested Proofreading Methods:

  1. Give yourself a day. Literally. Rather than finishing your assignment on a buzzer-beater, five minutes before class, try to finish your assignment one or more days early. Why? Because when you’re too close to the content, you won’t be able to see the opportunities to make the writing stronger. Step away for at least a couple of hours. This will help you come back to your writing with fresh eyes. 
  2. Read your assignment backwards. We mean this a bit less literally. Start with the very last sentence of your assignment. Then the second to last, and so on. Reading your assignment in this new and unexpected way can help you see each sentence differently. You’ll notice funny-sounding sentences, clunky transitions, and sentences that are out of place. 
  3. Grab some scissors. Perfectionists beware, this might feel a little risqué. Print out your assignment, and then cut up each sentence of your assignment. Mix the sentences up, so you can’t remember what went where. Then, on a clean surface, rearrange the sentences in the order that makes sense without looking at your original assignment. You can also bucket out concepts and ideas before you arrange sentences line by line. This can help you find sentences that aren’t needed in the structure of your writing, and give you a new perspective on what sequence makes the most sense. 
  4. Make a dumpster document. At the Writing Center, we like to encourage a sh*tty first draft. That’s because sometimes writer’s block comes from wanting all the writing to be perfect on the first draft. Well, that rarely happens. So instead of putting that pressure on yourself, give yourself permission to make a dumpster document instead. Write out everything you want, and then move anything you’d normally delete to the dumpster document. You might be surprised what you come back for later on during the editing process!
  5. Use the (regularly hilarious) text-to-speech reader. You know how you can program Siri and Alexa to have different accents? Yeah, same goes with text-to-talk tools. Find a text-to-talk tool and then copy your assignment into it and listen to the reader. You’ll catch a surprising number of things you may want to change.  And, you’ll likely get a good laugh out of it!


Helpful Online Resources

University of North Carolina’s Editing and Proofreading Handout: If you’re confused about the differences between editing and proofreading, start here. This handout shares the specifics of proofreading and editing and provides pointers. There’s also a book recommendation at the bottom to support English Language Learners. 

The Purdue Owl: On Purdue Owl’s mechanics tab, you can find helpful editing and proofreading information. Some of the subjects include higher and lower-order concerns, sentence clarity, sentence fragments, parallel structure, dangling modifiers and more. A great place to learn more about how to edit and proofread your own work!  

Copyblogger, Five Easy Steps to Editing Your Own Work: This is a more fun and light-hearted read. This blog post provides five easy steps to editing your own work… just as the title suggests. 

Scheduling an Appointment at the Writing Center: While we don’t edit or proofread assignments, we can help you become a better editor and proofreader! You can make an appointment online or in person and a consultant will help you find opportunities to make your writing stronger. You can also schedule aDoc Drop appointment if that’s a better fit for your schedule.