From writing to submission: Tips for Proofreading and Editing your paper
Proofreading and editing your work is an essential final step to completing your written piece. We all make mistakes, and it is impossible to get it perfect on your first go, so it is key that you make sure you proofread and edit your work once you have finished writing it. Here are some tips for you to keep in mind next time you conduct final checks on your work.
Check structure and flow
The most effective way to proofread your work is to start with making sure that the overall structure and logic of the piece is consistent. Check that everything you have written is linked with the rest of the article/chapter in a sensible manner and that the piece flows naturally. Only when that has been done should you move onto the details.
Proofread for spelling and grammar
Proofreading is your last chance to pick up on small mistakes, be they missing punctuation or trivial misspellings. Modern spellcheck software has become very sophisticated, so will likely have picked most of these up, but they are still not always entirely accurate, so make sure you also go through your work with a fine eye, picking up on the smallest mistakes.
Some people find that it helps to mark up a hard copy, which helps to remove distractions and reduces your screen time. Working on printed drafts also makes it easier to jot down notes and thoughts, which can feel more natural to do by hand.
Use track changes and save separate documents
When you edit, the most important thing is to be organised about it so as not to lose work. Do this by enabling the track changes option in your word processor if it has one, and saving every version separately, marking them with version numbers, dates or whatever works for you. Tracking your changes is particularly useful if you are collaborating on a document or need to have it approved by somebody else, enabling them to see the changes you made or make their own changes and suggestions without overwriting the piece itself.
Remember you are editing, not rewriting
Once you have proofread your work and identified areas of improvement, it’s time to edit. It’s tempting to get trigger-happy here, deleting entire sentences or even paragraphs because on reflection, they seem misplaced or superfluous. As with anything, one can easily fall into the trap of over-editing work or be tempted to rewrite substantial chunks of the paper or chapter. You may get too hung up on a particular wording, feel that you haven’t used language that’s interesting enough or add too many explanations into your text, making it clunky to read.
The point here is to take the ‘less is more’ approach to editing by prioritising fixing mistakes that you have spotted to ensure readability. You are effectively done writing, so put a line under it and simply get it to a state where you’re happy to publish it.
Proofreading and editing your work is the final pass, giving you the opportunity to correct any mistakes and make sure that your piece is as readable as it can be. Just remember to take a careful last look, remain organised and not overthink it – then your final result will shine.
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