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Proofreading for Grammatical Errors Help (page 3)

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Updated on Aug 10, 2011

Proofreading for Mechanics

Mechanics refers to the standard practices for the presentation of words and sentences, including capitalization, punctuation, and spelling. As with grammar, there are many rules for mechanics, but here we will cover the ones that cause essay writers the most problems. See the Appendix for more thorough grammar and mechanics resources.

Capitalization

Capitalization is necessary both for specific words and to start sentences and quotes. However, many writers overuse it. Only six occasions require capitalization:

  1. the first word of a sentence
  2. proper nouns (names of people, places, and things)
  3. the first word of a complete quotation, but not a partial quotation
  4. the first, last, and any other important words of a title
  5. languages
  6. the pronoun I, and any contractions made with it

Punctuation

There are dozens of punctuation marks in the English language. They're used to separate ideas, form words, and make the meanings of sentence clear. Poor punctuation can confuse your readers and change your intended meaning. For example, one comma completely changes the meaning of this short sentence:

      Don't call me, stupid!
      Don't call me stupid!

Here's a quick punctuation review:

Punctuation

Spelling

Proofreading for spelling errors after you've run a spell-check program means looking carefully for real-word errors. If you typed tow instead of two, that mistake is still in your essay, waiting for you to find it. Use the professional proofreading tricks listed earlier in this article (especially numbers 2, 4, and 6) to scan for mistakes.

In Short

Proofreading is the final step in the writing process. Begin by running spell- and grammar-check programs, being mindful of their shortcomings. Then, using the professional proofreaders' tips, study your essay for errors in grammar. In particular, look out for confused words, agreement mistakes, and run-on sentences and fragments. Finally, check your mechanics. Have you used capital letters and punctuation marks correctly? Are there real-word or other spelling errors that spell check missed?

Skill Building until Next Time

Get a good grammar handbook that includes practice exercises and review the rules of grammar and mechanics.  Work on your skills to address your weak points. If you tend to write sentence fragments, for example, spend extra time working through the exercises on complete sentences.

Practice exercises for this concept can be found at Proofreading for Grammatical Errors: Write Better Essays Practice Exercises.

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