Proofreading How To

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Proofreading is important! It teaches students to identify problem areas in their writing. Once they know what mistakes they are making, they will eventually be able to avoid them.

After students complete an essay, I assign this proofreading assignment.

Proofreading is often overlooked.

It’s one of the last things we teach, as an afterthought, but one of the MOST important steps in the writing process.

Edit, Write, Outline, Organize and Research steps on a pyramid to illustrate a plan for writing a term paper, essay, novel or work of non-fiction

By the way, this can be used for proofreading non-fiction or fiction assignments. For proofreading non-fiction writing, teachers can use this as is (with or without the thesis sentence section) with students. For proofreading fiction, only use the following numbers: 1, 6, 7, 8, and 9. (Fiction writing is slightly different under the other subheadings.)
1) Remove unnecessary words
-using “of” when they should have used “about”
-using “should of” instead of “should have”
-mixing up they’re (they are)/there (location)/their
2) Remove all contractions from their essay
3) Remove extreme (hyperbolic) claims
In most situations, such hyperbole undermines credibility. (Except for Donald Trump it seems. Fascinating! By the way, I am amazed at his effective use of basic rhetorical techniques. And it works! )
-he was just (only applies to God)
4) Eliminate references to your paper:

-(in this paper, I will)

-(this is my conclusion)
-I am going to prove
5) Remove first person pronouns
I believe
My argument
6) Highlight every comma in the paper  and correct comma splices (any color)
– For each sentence with a comma, underline the subject once and the verb twice
– Look for comma splices (using a comma when they should have used a period or a semi colon)
[See example of comma splice on number 7 below.]
7) Use Consistent Verb Tense
Underline every verb in the essay (underline verbs twice).
-Do some verbs end in s and some end in -ed or -d?
-Make sure verbs are in the past tense. (Occasionally, more than one verb tense can be present in one paragraph.
When that happens it should be on purpose, and it should make sense why the verbs are written that way.)
Ex: My sister graduated from high school at the age of five years old. My brother is graduating next month, my brother is ten. (comma
splice. That comma should should have been a period, and the M in my should have been capitalized.)
I wonder if I will graduate early as well; I am three. (if I had used a comma instead of a semi-colon, this would have been a comma splice.)
8) Ensure Proper Subject Verb Agreement
-Go back to each verb which students underlined twice, completed in number 7 above. Now find and underline the subject for that verb. The subject should be underlined once and the verb twice.
-Do the subject and verb agree? (Two people was) should be (Two people were)
Note: Our students typically know this, but they often make mistakes when they write complex sentences that have clauses or prepositional phrases between the subject and the verb.
Ex: The men (of Socrates’ school) was impressionable. Was should be were
-To help them with this part, have them put any prepositional phrases in parentheses. They can ignore these prepositional phrases.
9) Eliminate Pronoun shift
-Circle all pronouns in the essay: he, she, it, its, they, their, them
-Draw an arrow from the pronoun to the pronoun’s antecedent.
An antecedent is the word or phrase or clause to which the pronoun refers.
Ex: Socrates was a man of great influence. He turned the youth of Athens against their government.
Circle: he and their
Draw arrow from : he to man  in the previous sentence.
Draw arrow from their to “the youth of Athens”
Our students often write sentences such as: He was a man of great influence. He turned the of Athens against
others. (Never specifying who he is nor who others represents.)
10) For Non-fiction eliminate First Person Pronouns
Do not use first person pronouns in the essay.
No: I, you, me, we, us, our
Instead: one, man, people, they, humankind, etc.
11) Finally, since this assignment was for a persuasive essay, make sure the thesis is CLEARLY the last sentence of the first paragraph.
Make sure that the topic sentence is CLEARLY the first sentence of the body paragraphs.
(Note: I know the topic sentence does not always have to be the first sentence. But requiring that it be the first sentence mandates that students know and understand what a topic sentence is.
So far I’ve only used with 9th and 10th graders. Next year, I will be doing this with 8th and 9th graders.
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