Always leave time to proofread your work. This is the final check for punctuation, spelling and correct referencing - not for content.
It's best to wait at least a day after finishing writing your assignment. Use your spell check on screen, but then proofread a print-out rather than on screen. You'll spot mistakes you hadn't noticed.
It's helpful to read your work aloud too. You may see words spelt correctly but with the wrong meaning, such as ‘were' instead of ‘where'.
Look through to make sure you have used names and terms consistently.
There are links to dictionaries, grammar and punctuation resources here: State of Writing
You can find a proofreading checklist on the ELAS Canvas site.
References and bibliography
You may have guidance on spacing and alignment of text, typeface and margin size, so you should follow this. If not, use Times New Roman font size 12 and double spacing.
Here are some helpful Proofreading tips from the Plain English campaign. The last tip recommends asking someone else to proofread your work.
Please note that if you do ask someone else to proofread your work you must follow the University's guidance set out below.
- Punctuation and grammar mistakes
- Have I followed the conventions in textual references, footnotes, quotations, bibliography, etc.?
- Are the pages numbered?
- Have I double-spaced the text?
- Are the margins wide enough for easy reading and tutor comments?
- Are lengthy quotes indented?
Third Year English Literature student
Have you got any tips for writing essays at university?
Yeah, proofing - I always try and proofread a number of times if possible. There are still always things that you will miss and proofreading is really boring because you know you've read it before but you're just looking for little mistakes but you have to do it slowly otherwise there's no point doing it. That's really important, really important! You've got to proofread. In fact, what I want to do this year as well, is finish my essays with time to spare so as well as proofreading them I can try and forget about them a little bit and get out of the essay mind set or that essay mind set and then come back to it a few days later and read it with a fresh perspective because often you find things in essays that you've written in the past and you think I was too embedded in thinking about everything that I missed an obvious point or I missed that link or that was a silly point or something. But I think it's also good to read your essay with a very critical eye because often the tendency is to read your own essay and think ‘Oh yeah, that kind of makes sense because of that' and you're on your own side but I think it'd be great to read your own essay pretending that it's written by someone you don't like and you're trying to find gaps in their argument and then often you do find things and you think actually that's not really a very strong link and then if you've got time you can fix them.
Second Year Geography student
How do you make time for proofreading?
It's quite good to try and set yourself almost a fake deadline so that you get the work done a week or so before it's meant to be handed in and then leave it a couple of days and go back to it, because if you're trying to proofread an hour after you've written it you've still got the ideas in your head and you don't read it properly, so it's good to leave a bit of time before you proofread it, so you can pick up all the faults.
Do not rely on your computer's spell-check. Use a Dictionary to check usage and spelling (e.g. Oxford English Dictionary).