Revision and Proofreading Techniques
After you’re done composing your paper, you want to work on general revision and final proofreading before you’re completely done with it. With general revision, once you’ve completed your draft, you want to set it aside. You may not always be able to do this, but if you can, you should, because you’re going to be the best reviser if you can be detached and objective.
If you’re in the heat of the moment from writing that composition, you’re not going to be as willing to set aside some of your ideas or rearrange the paper as if you could come back with a clear mindset and you’re more detached. Once you’re able to come back to your paper as an objective party, look at the document as a whole. Look at the whole essay, the whole composition, and ask yourself these questions: Does it address the intended audience?
You were supposed to know who you were writing to. You should have been aiming at a specific audience. Was it for children? Was it for adults? Was it for peers? Was it for your teacher? Was it for a supervisor? You want it to address the intended audience. Is it written to that level of style? Is the tone correct? Is the language you used appropriate? You want to make sure it addresses the intended audience. Does it have proper organization?
This just means: Are the body paragraphs in the best order they can be? Your thesis and your introductory paragraph are gonna stay at the beginning. Your conclusion is going to stay at the end. Your body paragraphs may be better suited in a different order. You may say, “Oh, I want to move this middle one to the beginning, because I think it makes a strong, first, supporting point for me.
Oh, I want to move this last one up to the middle and move the first one to the bottom, because it’s really strong, too, and I want it to close out my paper as the last supporting detail.” You may see all that whenever you’re going over your general revision phase and move through and move some of the body paragraphs around in your paper. That’s fine. That’s what this step of the writing process is for.
With research papers, another thing you want to do during general revision is to check your citations and references. You cited some of your references in your paper. Go back to where you’ve cited them. Make sure you’ve done it correctly. Go back to your references. Make sure you have them in the correct format. You don’t want to get that far into your paper, and then realize you don’t have the correct reference, or you cited something incorrectly.
Make sure you check that during the general revision phase. This phase was about looking at the draft as a whole, making sure it was addressing the topics and audience it was supposed to, and then it’s in an organizational pattern that makes sense. Final proofreading is different. It’s a slow, careful check for typographical and grammatical errors. This is going to be a little bit different.
Now you’re fine-tooth combing this thing and you’re looking for more targeted, small errors that will distract the reader. You’re not looking to reorganize the paper. You should have that done already. This is about fixing little *little* nitpicky errors that would distract the reader from your message, because they find this little misspelled word, or this word that isn’t the correct word to be used.
On that note, I want you to beware the spell check feature. Most likely you will be typing your final draft, and you should not write solely on the spell check feature of most word programs to correct your paper completely. Using words like “their” (possessive) vs “there” (place in space). The spell check feature won’t find these as incorrect words. These are spelled correctly. If you use the wrong one, people are going to notice that, and it’s going to bug them.
They’re going to say, “Oh, they used the wrong there/their/they’re.” Spell Check isn’t going to catch that. You have to catch that whenever you’re doing your grammatical error check during final proofreading. Just another example: Whether vs. weather. These are both words that are spelled correctly, but if said, “OH! What’s the weather like today,” or if I was talking about whether or not I thought it would snow today.
It might not be the correct use of the word even though it’s spelled correctly, so make sure you are reading through your paper looking for grammatical errors. Don’t just assume it’s all okay because of the spell check feature. Whenever you go to revise your final draft, you’ve completed it, you’ve got everything written down, you’ve got it narrowed down to these sentences you want to use in your composition, do a general revision where you’re looking at the paper as a whole and make sure it addresses the audience and topics that it was supposed to, and make sure it’s organized to where it makes the most sense and it will be the most effective at getting your message out.
If it’s a research paper, check your citations of references. Then, do your final proofreading and look for small errors that will distract your reader. You don’t want something small to distract the reader from the overall message of your paper.