If you have visited us here in the WRC before (and I hope you have!), you’ll know that we send out these helpful little emails called client report forms at the end of a session. In said client report form is a section that describes what was addressed in the session. In that description section (is there an echo in here?), one of the options is “instruction in proofreading/editing,” and in fact, one of the many things that we can do here in the WRC is teach you how to proofread and edit your paper.
Now, exclusive for all of you WRC Blog followers, we present some super fancy, fresh out of the box tips and tricks for self-editing!!! Just kidding! They’re actually simple and well-tried tips and tricks that we use every day here in the writing center:
- Read aloud. Not only will this allow you to hear how your paper is flowing and to catch word-choice errors, but this can also be a useful trick for finding where a comma should go. While not fool-proof, when you pause naturally while reading a sentence, chances are a comma is needed. You can either read to yourself, read to someone else, or have someone read your paper to you.
- Keep a list of your problem areas. For example, if you have trouble with articles (the, a), then write it down so that you have a checklist when reading through your paper. This way, you’ll be hyperaware of the type or types of errors that you’re looking for and will have a better chance of catching them. Once you feel you’ve mastered your problem area, simply cross it off the list and then go treat yourself. Go you!
- Watch out for repetition. When a word is used multiple times in a sentence or two, it can become distracting and lead to a disruption in the flow of your work, making it harder for the reader to follow you. This can usually be fixed by finding a synonym to replace one of the repetitions. An exclusion to this would be terms. Many terms don’t have acceptable synonyms (other than acronyms), so there’s no avoiding repetition, especially if you want to be clear about the term instead of bogging it down in pronouns.
- Play with your sentences. If you’re having a hard time with a sentence, it isn’t fitting well into your paragraph, but you don’t want to junk it, then try rearranging it. Either grab a pad of paper or open a new word processing page and write down a few different ways in which the sentence could be phrased. Then, if you still aren’t sure what sounds best, simply plug in the alternative sentences until it fits. And if it still doesn’t work…
- If it’s not working, delete it. If there’s a word or piece of punctuation (we’re looking at you, semicolon…) that you just can’t get to work correctly, delete it. If there’s a sentence that you can’t make fit into your paragraph, delete it. It’s that simple. There’s always the undo button in Microsoft Word and, as an alternative, you can have another word doc up and cut and paste tricky sentences if you currently don’t want to part with them forever.
Self-editing really isn’t as scary as it may seem, and these tips and tricks are simple to do and extremely helpful. And remember, if you ever need help with revising or want to learn more about self-editing, some down to the Writing Resources Center or one of our satellites and we’ll be happy to work with you!
The UNCC WRC