Proofreading Your Assignment

Many people make the mistake of thinking that proofreading is just a ten minute job which involves checking for typos and spelling mistakes. It is so much more than that, and done properly, can mean the difference between a pass and a fail.


When you proofread you are checking grammar, punctuation and spelling plus:

• Whether or not you have answered the question
• Whether you have structured your argument logically
• Whether the essay flows and the reader is signposted from one paragraph /
theme to the next.

How to approach proofreading

1. Preparing to proofread

When planning your assignment preparation, build in at least two days for proof reading. Always make sure that you print off your assignment before you proofread it as many mistakes can be missed if you read the assignment on the PC / laptop screen.

2. Assume an objective approach

When you have finished writing, leave it until the following day before you proofread. This allows you to be more objective and analytical in reviewing your work.

You might find it helps to read your assignment out loud. This will help you identify those sentences which overrun (i.e. they are too long), may help pinpoint where a comma is needed, and may also help ensure the writing makes sense. You might also want to ask someone else to read it for you; this should be someone who knows nothing about the course, so avoid asking a fellow student! They will be able to tell you whether or not it makes sense.

3. Review each sentence in turn, then one paragraph at a time

Proofread one sentence at a time. Check that each sentence makes sense and is a complete idea e.g. ‘When Jake runs’ is not a complete idea. However, ‘When Jake
runs a marathon, he takes an energy drink with him’ is a complete idea and is therefore a complete sentence. Check the spelling, grammar and punctuation before moving on to the next sentence. Make sure there is a variety of sentence lengths; some short and some long. Look for those sentences which might be considered too long and would be better as two smaller sentences.

Once you are sure all the sentences in the paragraph are correct, read the whole paragraph. Have you introduced the theme of the paragraph in the first sentence? In the main body of the paragraph have you developed the topic and included
evidence? In the final sentence have you indicated where you are moving onto next by using linking words and phrases?

4. Have you explained what you mean?

Make sure you have explained what you mean. When your lecturer reads each paragraph, will they understand what you are trying to say? You may well understand what you are talking about, but is it clear to other people?

5. Does your writing conform to the rules of academic writing?

Make sure that your writing conforms to the rules of academic writing. Consider each of the following points:

a. Have you used complex language rather than everyday colloquial words and phrases?
b. Have you checked there are no contractions e.g. avoid writing ‘don’t’, use
‘do not’?
c. Make sure there are no two word verbs e.g. ‘put off’ and ‘bring up’.
d. Avoid asking questions.
e. If you’ve given an indication of quantity such as ‘a lot’, consider attaching a figure to it so the reader has some idea of how much ‘a lot’ is.
f. Unless you are working on a piece of reflective writing, remember to remain objective by not including any pronouns e.g. I, we etc.
g. Make use of signalling to help indicate how ideas link together (these are
linking words such as ‘in contrast’, ‘furthermore’ and ‘consequently’).
h. Make sure you have used the most appropriate words for the context.
i. Consider the importance of ‘hedging’, a concept in which you write cautiously because you cannot be 100% certain of the facts. Words such as ‘might’, ‘could’, ‘possibly’ are used. (adapted from

6. Have you checked that you have answered the question and considered the marking criteria and past feedback?

When you have checked each sentence and each paragraph, you then need to read the whole essay. This time you are checking that:

a. You have answered the question bearing in mind the action words in the question e.g. critically analyse, compare and contrast etc.
b. Your argument is logical. Consider each of the premises (a statement that will justify a conclusion). Have you got clear evidence for each and, taking these into consideration, does your argument ‘stack up’?
c. You have been sufficiently analytical rather than descriptive. Make sure you have really considered the strengths and weaknesses of theories discussed rather than just describing the theories.
d. You have addressed the feedback that you received from your tutor regarding earlier essays. For example if they have said that you tend not to include evidence for each point made, have you done so this time?

7. Check your citations and reference list

Check your references. Make sure that you have a citation in the appropriate place within the essay and that links to the full reference in the reference list at the end.

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