Tips for Proofreading for Yourself and Others

The importance of proofreading cannot be overlooked. Proofreading skills do not develop overnight, but rather improve with practice. You can develop these skills by reviewing your own work, as well as the work of others. Because proofreading can often be a tedious project, below are some tips that can make the process more manageable.

Tips for reviewing your own work

One of the major difficulties with proofreading is that it is very hard to proofread our own work. Often, when we review our own document, we see what we want to see rather than what we have actually written. This can lead to missed errors. Below are some tips for proofreading your own work:

1. Slow down. Proofread line by line and focus on each line. Sometimes I cover the rest of the paragraph with a piece of blank paper so I am only looking at one line at a time.

2. Know your own weaknesses. Make a list of common errors and check every document for those errors, one at a time.

3. Do not proof for every type of mistake at once. Rather, do one proof for spelling, one for typos, one for consistency of word usage, one for formatting, and so on.

4. Read your work aloud. This will often alert you to run-on sentences and other errors that you may not catch by simply reading the document to yourself.

5. Eliminate distractions. Careful editing requires great concentration. Therefore, it is a good idea to turn off distractions such as the radio, the television and your cell phone.

6. Make a hard copy. Always print out your work rather than reading directly from the computer screen.

7. Sleep on it. Before you start editing your document, wait a night, preferably longer. The goal is for your brain to forget what you wrote so that it sees what is really written, not what it expects to see. You will be amazed by how many more errors you will catch!

8. Don’t be afraid to cut. Almost all of us are too wordy. If you cannot justify a point, statement, sentence or word, eliminate it. Conciseness should always be your goal.

9. Don’t overlook headings, bibliographies, tables, page numbers or footnotes. Errors often lurk in these places.

10. Check the numbers. This is also where many mistakes can happen. You don’t want to write that your product costs $10,000, when it really costs $10.00.

11. Watch out for homonyms. Homonyms are words that share the same pronunciation or spelling, but mean entirely different things. Mixing up the words “accept” and “except” can completely alter the meaning of a sentence!

12. Read it backwards. This is good trick to prevent your brain from automatically “correcting” wrong words inside sentences. In order to break this pattern, you can read the text backwards, word by word.

13. Repeat. Unfortunately, one round of editing is usually not enough. After corrections have been made, don’t forget to proof the revised document. First check to see that all of the corrections were made, then read over the document one more time to make sure you didn’t miss something the first time around!

Tips for reviewing the work of others

Most of us have been asked to review someone else’s writing, whether it be a friend, family member or colleague. For many, this is a dubious task; but in fact it is often easier to proofread someone else’s writing than your own. Although there is not one right way to edit, here are some tips to make the process a little easier:

1. Ask for clear instructions. For example, does the writer want you to review the content of the paper or just the mechanics, such as grammar and spelling?

2. Avoid meaningless changes. Maybe you prefer the word “happy” to the word “glad,” but unless the change makes a substantial improvement to the document, you should bite your tongue!

3. Admit your shortcomings. If you are not sure about the proper placement of a comma or are uncertain if a word is used correctly, do not guess. Simply flag the item so that the writer can further research it if he or she chooses.

4. Be nice. Avoid harsh comments such as “I have no idea what you mean!” Rather, phrase your comments diplomatically in the form of suggestions or questions, i.e. “I would suggest clarifying this point so that your reader fully understands it. Perhaps, you can provide examples.”

5. Be specific. Rather than simply stating that a paragraph is confusing, offer specific suggestions for improving it.

6. Be consistent. Although you do not need to learn standard proofreading marks, your editing should be consistent. In other words, use the same symbols/marks for the same mistakes throughout the draft.

7. Use the track changes feature. This is the easiest way to make your changes and comments apparent to the writer. It also allows the writer to easily accept/reject your changes.

8. Don’t proof for every type of mistake at once. This tip applies to all forms of editing. Rather, do one proof for spelling, one for typos, one for consistency of word usage, one for formatting, etc.

9. Don’t hesitate to suggest omissions. Your goal, as an editor, is to help the writer make the document more concise. Therefore, if you do not think that a word, sentence or even paragraph strengthens the writer’s message, do not hesitate to suggest omitting it.

10. Make yourself available to discuss your edits and suggestions. Written comments can be unclear and impersonal. Therefore, it is good practice to sit down with the writer to answer any questions he or she may have after reviewing your comments/edits.

11. Stay positive. Try to point out something positive about the writing, making your praise as long and detailed as your most in-depth criticism.

How Long Should College Application Essays Be?

College application essays don’t typically have a required length; however, there are a few things to keep in mind when determining how long your application essays should be. If you’re in the college application process, read the article below to find out how to determine the proper length for your application essays.

Length of College Application Essays

College admissions officers usually value an essay’s quality over its quantity of words, which gives you some leeway in how much you’ll want to write; however, colleges generally suggest that essays be about one page long. The College Board suggests a length of 500 words, which equals around one page of single-spaced typing. Although there generally aren’t official requirements, you can keep a few points in mind that will help guide the length of your essay. These points include:

  • Stick to the point
  • Fully answer the prompt
  • Be original

Stick to the Point

When writing a college application essay, it’s important to be concise while still providing sufficient detail. Some essay topics will call for longer essays than others; if your prompt asks for large amounts of information, you’ll probably need more essay length to address all points. In general, though, it’s better to be short and to the point than long-winded. The College Board also advises cutting out unnecessary words, leaving only the words that best convey the message or idea.

Fully Answer the Prompt

College application essays require you to follow a prompt or question. Select one idea, develop it throughout the essay, and include only the information that pertains to your topic. You might try to avoid writing abstract ideas or generalized thoughts. Instead, use concrete information and examples, which will prevent your writing from becoming lengthy and unfocused.

For example, if an essay prompt asks you to write about your college goals, instead of discussing general topics like getting good grades, meeting new people and earning a degree, you may be better served to write about the specific area you plan to study, the steps you plan to take to graduate with honors, and how you want to take part in student organizations to network or serve the community. Remember, admissions officers read a large amount of essays, and you want your essay to keep the reader engaged and interested.

Be Original and Personal

Because college admissions officers have a practiced eye, they can usually tell whether you’re being personal and true to yourself or merely rewriting themes and ideas from essays for other schools. While you can certainly read sample essays to get a feel for how they should be written, you’ll want to highlight your own unique style, viewpoints and achievements. Remember to use proper grammar and language appropriate for the purpose of the essay, but maintain a conversational tone. When you stay original and personal, you’re more likely to stand out and impress an admissions officer, whether your essay is on the short or long side.

What is a thesis? For whom is it written? How should it be written? – Part Two


The text must be clear. Good grammar and thoughtful writing will make the thesis easier to read. Scientific writing has to be a little formal—more formal than this text. Native English speakers should remember that scientific English is an international language. Slang and informal writing will be harder for a non-native speaker to understand.

Short, simple phrases and words are often better than long ones. Some politicians use “at this point in time” instead of “now” precisely because it takes longer to convey the same meaning. They do not care about elegance or efficient communication. You should. On the other hand, there will be times when you need a complicated sentence because the idea is complicated. If your primary statement requires several qualifications, each of these may need a subordinate clause: “When [qualification], and where [proviso], and if [condition] then [statement]“. Some lengthy technical words will also be necessary in many theses, particularly in fields like biochemistry. Do not sacrifice accuracy for the sake of brevity. “Black is white” is simple and catchy. An advertising copy writer would love it. “Objects of very different albedo may be illuminated differently so as to produce similar reflected spectra” is longer and uses less common words, but, compared to the former example, it has the advantage of being true. The longer example would be fine in a physics thesis because English speaking physicists will not have trouble with the words. (A physicist who did not know all of those words would probably be glad to remedy the lacuna either from the context or by consulting a dictionary.)

Sometimes it is easier to present information and arguments as a series of numbered points, rather than as one or more long and awkward paragraphs. A list of points is usually easier to write. You should be careful not to use this presentation too much: your thesis must be a connected, convincing argument, not just a list of facts and observations.

One important stylistic choice is between the active voice and passive voice. The active voice (“I measured the frequency…”) is simpler, and it makes clear what you did and what was done by others. The passive voice (“The frequency was measured…”) makes it easier to write ungrammatical or awkward sentences. If you use the passive voice, be especially wary of dangling participles. For example, the sentence “After considering all of these possible materials, plutonium was selected” implicitly attributes consciousness to plutonium. This choice is a question of taste: I prefer the active because it is clearer, more logical and makes attribution simple. The only arguments I have ever heard for avoiding the active voice in a thesis are (i) many theses are written in the passive voice, and (ii) some very polite people find the use of “I” immodest. Use the first person singular, not plural, when reporting work that you did yourself: the editorial ‘we’ may suggest that you had help beyond that listed in your acknowledgments, or it may suggest that you are trying to share any blame. On the other hand, retain plural verbs for “data”: “data” is the plural of “datum”, and lots of scientists like to preserve the distinction. Just say to yourself “one datum is ..”, “these data are..” several times. An excellent and widely used reference for English grammar and style is A Dictionary of Modern English Usage by H.W. Fowler.


There is no need for a thesis to be a masterpiece of desk-top publishing. Your time can be more productively spent improving the content than the appearance.

In many cases, a reasonably neat diagram can be drawn by hand faster than with a graphics package, and you can scan it if you want an electronic version. Either is usually satisfactory. A one bit (i.e. black and white), moderate resolution scan of a hand-drawn sketch will be bigger than a line drawing generated on a graphics package, but not huge. While talking about the size of files, we should mention that photographs look pretty but take up a lot of memory. There’s another important difference, too. The photographer thought about the camera angle and the focus etc. The person who drew the schematic diagram thought about what components ought to be depicted and the way in which the components of the system interacted with each other. So the numerically small information content of the line drawing may be much more useful information than that in a photograph.

Another note about figures and photographs. In the digital version of your thesis, do not save ordinary photographs or other illustrations as bitmaps, because these take up a lot of memory and are therefore very slow to transfer. Nearly all graphics packages allow you to save in compressed format as .jpg (for photos) or .gif (for diagrams) files. Further, you can save space/speed things up by reducing the number of colours. In vector graphics (as used for drawings), compression is usually unnecessary.

In general, students spend too much time on diagrams—time that could have been spent on examining the arguments, making the explanations clearer, thinking more about the significance and checking for errors in the algebra. The reason, of course, is that drawing is easier than thinking.

I do not think that there is a strong correlation (either way) between length and quality. There is no need to leave big gaps to make the thesis thicker. Readers will not appreciate large amounts of vague or unnecessary text.

Approaching the end

A deadline is very useful in some ways. You must hand in the thesis, even if you think that you need one more draft of that chapter, or someone else’s comments on this section, or some other refinement. If you do not have a deadline, or if you are thinking about postponing it, please take note of this: A thesis is a very large work. It cannot be made perfect in a finite time. There will inevitably be things in it that you could have done better. There will be inevitably be some typos. Indeed, by some law related to Murphy’s, you will discover one when you first flip open the bound copy. No matter how much you reflect and how many times you proof read it, there will be some things that could be improved. There is no point hoping that the examiners will not notice: many examiners feel obliged to find some examples of improvements (if not outright errors) just to show how thoroughly they have read it. So set yourself a deadline and stick to it. Make it as good as you can in that time, and then hand it in! (In retrospect, there was an advantage in writing a thesis in the days before word processors, spelling checkers and typing programs. Students often paid a typist to produce the final draft and could only afford to do that once.)

What is a thesis? For whom is it written? How should it be written?

Your thesis is a research report. The report concerns a problem or series of problems in your area of research and it should describe what was known about it previously, what you did towards solving it, what you think your results mean, and where or how further progress in the field can be made. Do not carry over your ideas from undergraduate assessment: a thesis is not an answer to an assignment question. One important difference is this: the reader of an assignment is usually the one who has set it. S/he already knows the answer (or one of the answers), not to mention the background, the literature, the assumptions and theories and the strengths and weaknesses of them. The readers of a thesis do not know what the “answer” is. If the thesis is for a PhD, the university requires that it make an original contribution to human knowledge: your research must discover something hitherto unknown.

Obviously your examiners will read the thesis. They will be experts in the general field of your thesis but, on the exact topic of your thesis, you are the world expert. Keep this in mind: you should write to make the topic clear to a reader who has not spent most of the last three years thinking about it.

Your thesis will also be used as a scientific report and consulted by future workers in your laboratory who will want to know, in detail, what you did. Theses are occasionally consulted by people from other institutions, and the library sends microfilm versions if requested (yes, still). More commonly theses are now stored in an entirely digital form. These may be stored as .pdf files on a server at your university. The advantage is that your thesis can be consulted much more easily by researchers around the world. (See e.g. Australian digital thesis project for the digital availability of research theses.) Write with these possibilities in mind.

It is often helpful to have someone other than your adviser(s) read some sections of the thesis, particularly the introduction and conclusion chapters. It may also be appropriate to ask other members of staff to read some sections of the thesis which they may find relevant or of interest, as they may be able to make valuable contributions. In either case, only give them revised versions, so that they do not waste time correcting your grammar, spelling, poor construction or presentation.

How much detail?

The short answer is: rather more than for a scientific paper. Once your thesis has been assessed and your friends have read the first three pages, the only further readers are likely to be people who are seriously doing research in just that area. For example, a future research student might be pursuing the same research and be interested to find out exactly what you did. (“Why doesn’t the widget that Bloggs built for her project work any more? Where’s the circuit diagram? I’ll look up her thesis.” “Blow’s subroutine doesn’t converge in my parameter space! I’ll have to look up his thesis.” “How did that group in Sydney manage to get that technique to work? I’ll order a microfilm of that thesis they cited in their paper.”) For important parts of apparatus, you should include workshop drawings, circuit diagrams and computer programs, usually as appendices. (By the way, the intelligible annotation of programs is about as frequent as porcine aviation, but it is far more desirable. You wrote that line of code for a reason: at the end of the line explain what the reason is.) You have probably read the theses of previous students in the lab where you are now working, so you probably know the advantages of a clearly explained, explicit thesis and/or the disadvantages of a vague one.

Make it clear what is yours

If you use a result, observation or generalisation that is not your own, you must usually state where in the scientific literature that result is reported. The only exceptions are cases where every researcher in the field already knows it: dynamics equations need not be followed by a citation of Newton, circuit analysis does not need a reference to Kirchoff. The importance of this practice in science is that it allows the reader to verify your starting position. Physics in particular is said to be a vertical science: results are built upon results which in turn are built upon results etc. Good referencing allows us to check the foundations of your additions to the structure of knowledge in the discipline, or at least to trace them back to a level which we judge to be reliable. Good referencing also tells the reader which parts of the thesis are descriptions of previous knowledge and which parts are your additions to that knowledge. In a thesis, written for the general reader who has little familiarity with the literature of the field, this should be especially clear. It may seem tempting to leave out a reference in the hope that a reader will think that a nice idea or an nice bit of analysis is yours. I advise against this gamble. The reader will probably think: “What a nice idea—I wonder if it’s original?”. The reader can probably find out via the net or the library.

If you are writing in the passive voice, you must be more careful about attribution than if you are writing in the active voice. “The sample was prepared by heating yttrium…” does not make it clear whether you did this or whether Acme Yttrium did it. “I prepared the sample…” is clear.

Does My Translation Need Additional Proofreading?

Many translation companies give their customers the opportunity of having their translations proofread. Some customers always include it, others do not, but what does it really mean and how do you know if you need it?

What is Additional Proofreading?

Additional proofreading is carried out after your document has been translated from the source language into the target language. The first translator will always proofread their own work to make sure the translation is accurate and free from errors, but additional proofreading goes that bit further and consolidates the first review.

Importantly, additional proofreading is carried out by a second skilled translator, which brings a different perspective and a fresh pair of eyes. Whilst translators take every care to deliver translations of the highest quality, they are human and errors can happen. Furthermore, a proofreader can help to polish a document to make it more targeted to its intended audience.

Are Proofreaders Also Translators?

In order for a proofreader to accurately review a translation, they need to have a detailed understanding of both source and target languages and have the skills and experience to render the source language into their native tongue. Typically proofreaders are very experienced translators, well-rehearsed at both language translation and proofreading.

Do I Need Additional Proofreading?

The answer to this question is simple: it depends. In some situations it is strongly recommended that additional proofreading is included as part of your translation project. For example marketing documents, brochures, websites, leaflets and press releases are often intended to increase sales and raise awareness. A highly-polished proofread translation will have been reviewed by a second translator thus ensuring it is stylistically appropriate, error-free and with maximum return on investment potential.

Conversely, in other situations it is not necessary for a document to be reviewed by an additional linguist. It is very important to stress that a translation can still be of high quality, even without additional proofreading (unless of course the original translator was bad at what they do). The initial translator will always thoroughly review their work and in many situations this is perfectly adequate. It is also worth remembering that a professional translation agency employs highly-skilled translators with formal linguistic education and many years of experience.


Additional proofreading can add value to a translation but it is not always necessary. If you are unsure whether you need it for your next translation project, speak to your project manager as they will seek to understand your requirements and draw on their experience to ensure you get exactly what you need.

Writing Your Own Academic Essay

Examine the topic for your essay. This is easier if you are assigned a topic with a specific text. If it is an open ended essay, choose a topic you know you can find plenty of legitimate resources for research.

Write your thesis. A thesis in an academic essay is usually written at the end of the introduction. It is the statement you intend to prove with the rest of the essay. For example, you can use a certain action by a literary character as ground that he or she is insane, and expand upon it.

Write an outline. An outline is an organized list of points you wish to make in your essay, in the order they make sense and should be written. Getting your thoughts organized before hand makes writing the actual essay much quicker and easier, since you know what direction you’re going in.

Write the first draft of the essay. This will not be the final product, so you should not treat it as such. Write what first comes to mind following your outline, it is okay if it doesn’t meet the length requirements quite yet.

Divide your thoughts into paragraphs. Each point on your outline should be its own paragraph. A paragraph should contain a minimum of 3 sentences to stand on its own.

Try to follow a pattern of ‘Claim’ followed by ‘Evidence’ and then by ‘Impact’. The claim is a statement, which is then supported by the evidence such as a reference or a quotation in context and then the impact is an intelligent review of how or why that claim is important in the context of the essay. The ‘impact’ then becomes the claim of the following paragraph, and so on.

Write the second draft. Beef up any paragraphs that don’t provide much information or argument. Additional research may help you in this process.

Use transitional phrases. A transitional phrase eases the reader from one paragraph to the next. If your outline was written well, these phrases should link the content in one paragraph to the next.

Write your final draft. Be sure this is in the correct format (see Tips). Use both the computer’s spell-check, and read it over yourself as well. If you are unsure of your spelling or grammar, have a friend, classmate or family member read it before you print the copy you plan on handing in.

Writing Essays: How to Organize your Thoughts

There are those who think that writing is a skill that some people possess, while others just aren’t born with it. That’s not true. Just about anyone can write a good essay if they know what steps to follow. Essay organization makes the difference between a good essay and a poor essay. A student may have some great ideas, but if those ideas are unorganized and poorly worded it becomes difficult to read and despite the great ideas, will not be a good essay.

If your paper is unorganized and your reader has to work hard to figure out what you’re saying, you haven’t achieved your purpose. There are three main components to any well-organized essay. Utilizing these components and following the formula laid out in this article will help you organize your thoughts so that you can produce a well-written essay.

Three Essay Components

There are three main parts to an essay: the thesis, supporting points, and a conclusion. The thesis is the purpose of your paper. If you can answer the question, “What’s your point?” then you have your thesis. You cannot begin writing until you know what you’re writing about. The thesis should typically be stated in the last sentence of your introduction paragraph. This gives the reader a clear idea of what the rest of the paper will be about.

Supporting points are the evidence you have found to support your thesis. If you can’t come up with very many supporting points, you’d better find a new thesis that you can support with facts. Each supporting point will be its own paragraph. The required length of your paper will have an impact on how many supporting points you will need.

Your conclusion is the final component of your essay. In your conclusion, you want to reiterate your thesis, but you don’t want to just repeat words you’ve already written. This paragraph should be new writing tied closely to your previous points. Once you understand the components that make up an essay, you’ll find that organizing your thoughts becomes easier.

Create an Outline

The first step to organizing your essay is to create an outline of the three main essay components: The thesis, supporting points, and the conclusion.

You wouldn’t build a house without a blueprint of the plans, and you can’t build an organized essay without a blueprint either. This step may feel tedious, but it is necessary for organized writing. Do not skip your outline. Disorganized essays are a result of a lack of planning by the writer. Your outline is your planning session. You can go into as much detail, or as little detail as you’d like, but the more details you write into your outline, the faster the writing will go when you compose your essay.


Once your outline is complete, you can begin writing. The outline really is the biggest job. You’re going to find that as you follow the outline you’ve made, the hard work is behind you. With an outline to follow, your mind won’t go off topic and the end result will be a well-written, cohesive, essay.


The final step is to proofread. Proofread, proofread, and proofread because nothing looks worse than an essay with spelling and grammatical errors. Your teacher may provide you with the opportunity to use your peers as proofreaders, or she may allow you to have a parent proofread your work. It does help to have someone else look over your paper because often a writer is so close to her work that she can’t see the errors as easily as someone with a fresh eye.

Writing essays isn’t as abstract as some people believe. An essay can be approached just as you approach a math formula. The ideas you write about will be as varied as the numbers you encounter, but just like a math problem, you solve it by taking the same steps each time: Develop a thesis, support your thesis with proof, and write a conclusion.