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One way to check the structure of your paper is to make a reverse outline of the paper after you have written the first draft.(See our handouts on introductions, conclusions, thesis statements, and transitions.) Does each paragraph have a clear topic sentence? Are there any extraneous or missing sentences in any of your paragraphs?Is your use of gendered language (masculine and feminine pronouns like “he” or “she,” words like “fireman” that contain “man,” and words that some people incorrectly assume apply to only one gender—for example, some people assume “nurse” must refer to a woman) appropriate?
Do you repeat a strong word (for example, a vivid main verb) unnecessarily?
(For tips, see our handouts on style and gender-inclusive language.) Have you appropriately cited quotes, paraphrases, and ideas you got from sources? (See the UNC Libraries citation tutorial for more information.) As you edit at all of these levels, you will usually make significant revisions to the content and wording of your paper.
But a quick and cursory reading, especially after you’ve been working long and hard on a paper, usually misses a lot.
It’s better to work with a definite plan that helps you to search systematically for specific kinds of errors.
Sure, this takes a little extra time, but it pays off in the end.
If you know that you have an effective way to catch errors when the paper is almost finished, you can worry less about editing while you are writing your first drafts.We consulted these works while writing this handout.This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find the latest publications on this topic.You should proofread only after you have finished all of your other editing revisions. But like it or not, the way a paper looks affects the way others judge it.When you’ve worked hard to develop and present your ideas, you don’t want careless errors distracting your reader from what you have to say.Keep an eye out for patterns of error; knowing what kinds of problems you tend to have will be helpful, especially if you are editing a large document like a thesis or dissertation.Once you have identified a pattern, you can develop techniques for spotting and correcting future instances of that pattern.Avoid using words you find in the thesaurus that aren’t part of your normal vocabulary; you may misuse them.Have you used an appropriate tone (formal, informal, persuasive, etc.)?The important thing is to make the process systematic and focused so that you catch as many errors as possible in the least amount of time. This handout contains seven errors our proofreader should have caught: three spelling errors, two punctuation errors, and two grammatical errors.Try to find them, and then check a version of this page with the errors marked in red to see if you’re a proofreading star.