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Proofreading Your Paper

You just slaved over that paper on the Renaissance, and you’re proud of it, but you’re also exhausted and starting to identify too closely with the feudal serfs you wrote about. You print it out, head to class, and hand over the goods to your lord (er, teacher).

Expecting an “A,”  you shudder when your paper’s returned with a “C” on the top and a ton of red marks. Yikes!

After reviewing your work, you can’t believe all the silly mistakes you made. How, after hours of writing, could there possibly be so many careless errors?

Failing to proofread a paper—because you ran out of time, because you were sure it was solid, or for any other reason—can result in losing points that should be rightfully yours. Spare yourself the pain! Here are a few reasons why your paper’s not done until it’s proofread.

You’ll inevitably miss mistakes

Did you know that the worst time to edit your paper is immediately after you write it? Your brain knows what you want to say, and sometimes fills in words that aren’t even there. That’s why rereading what you just wrote isn’t a solid proofreading technique.

A better one is to build in some time for editing before your final draft is due—at least a couple of days—or planning on writing multiple drafts. Reading your almost-final product with a fresh pair of eyes helps you spot mistakes that your brain otherwise would have just “written in.”  

You can also run your paper through an online grammar and spell check, like the one right here on Citation Machine. It’ll act as a red pen before your teacher can pull out theirs—and help you understand your mistakes so you can avoid making them next time.

Another set of eyes makes a paper better

Collaboration is key. If you can have another person read your work before turning it in, do it!

A different set of eyes will not only spot mistakes that you overlooked, but another editor can make useful suggestions about flow, content, and style. This is why peer editing has become such a significant part of the writing process in many schools.

With that said, make sure that you choose a competent proofreader: teachers, parents, librarians, or that friend who busts run-on sentences like it’s her job.

Try not to take the edits personally; instead, use them as an opportunity to improve your writing. The more proofreaders and drafts, the better your paper will be.

You might have missed citations

Proofreading your research paper also ensures that you cited all information that isn’t yours. It’s easy to miss crediting sources when you’re rushing to meet a deadline, but it’s the right thing to do and helps you avoid accidental plagiarism.

In addition to proofreading for grammar and typos, double check that all citations are where they should be and properly formatted in MLA, APA, Chicago Manual of Style, or any other style your teacher asks for

Plus, proofreading to make sure that your paper’s correctly cited can allow you to sleep soundly at night. And students need those quality Zs.

It’s never a final draft without proofreading

You worked hard on that Renaissance research paper, and you have excellent research to back up some impressive claims. Your thoughts are unique, but unfortunately, if your teacher spots numerous errors and your writing doesn’t flow, then your message will have a hard time peering through the haze. If you forget to add proper parenthetical citations or footnotes, the consequence could be even worse than a couple of letter grades.

Think of proofreading like the ending to a marathon: It’s incredibly difficult, you’re tired, and you want to pass out, but if you plug on through, you’re destined to make a proper finish. Your teacher and your GPA will thank you.


Looking for more writing help? Start off by reading these Citation Machine grammar guides and learning what linking verbs are, what is an abstract noun, how to identify a prepositional phrase, and other foundations of grammar.

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