Proofreading Your Writing Study Guide
Proofreading Your Writing
Sometimes I think my writing sounds like I walked out of the room and left the typewriter running. - GENE FOWLER (1890–1960) AMERICAN JOURNALIST AND SCREENWRITER
You're in the home stretch now, and the final step is fun. In this lesson, you'll learn how to be a good proofreader. There are tricks here that will help you produce perfect essays every time.
At last, you've reached the final step in preparing your writing to be read by others. All your efforts at planning, writing, revising, and editing thus far have been focused on getting your ideas down on paper thoroughly and effectively. The last thing you need to do once all the writing and revising are done is proofread, which means checking your document to make sure that no errors in spelling, grammar, punctuation, or formatting have crept in.
This step may be the last, but it is far from the least. If you don't proofread carefully, you risk presenting your work in the worst possible light—full of avoidable errors that reflect badly on your skills and may result in a lowered grade or a negative response from your teacher. As with all the other steps in the writing process, the best strategy is to proceed slowly and carefully. Hold your imaginary magnifying glass in one hand and your pencil in the other, and look closely and critically at your work.
Is It Okay To Use Spell-Checking And Grammar-Checking Computer Programs?
The answer to this question is Yes, use them—but with extreme caution. Computer spell-checkers and grammar-checkers are wonderful aids for the writer, but they make lots of mistakes, and you must never rely on them totally. These checkers are huge programs full of lists of words and word combinations that might appear in written documents; it's as simple as that. The problem with spellcheckers is that they don't think; they simply look for words spelled correctly without regard to their usage. Note this sentence that passed the spell-checker program in Microsoft Word successfully:
My teacher promise me that she would gave me a good grade.
Technically, there are no spelling errors in this sentence. However, there are two grammatical errors. Can you find them? The sentence should actually look like this:
My teacher promised me that she would give me a good grade.
The spell-checker does not know that both verbs in the sentence need to be in the past tense. In fact, this sentence also made it through Microsoft Word's grammar-checker, which caught only one of the verb errors in the sentence.
Here's another sentence that the grammar-checking program let slip by. This step may be the last but it far from the least.
Note that the second clause of the sentence is missing a verb, and the sentence requires a comma before the word but. The program missed both errors, but your teacher wouldn't. Nor would your teacher miss capitalization errors, a common problem for spell-checking programs that don't contain many proper nouns. For example, if you wrote the words dunkin' donuts, the program might suggest that the word dunkin' is not spelled correctly, but it wouldn't remind you to capitalize this proper name. And of course it would not know that Dunkin' Donuts is an actual proper name that is always spelled that way on purpose by the company's owners.
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