Although the terms are often used interchangeably, editing and proofreading are two different stages of the revision process. Both involve close and careful reading, but they focus on different aspects of writing and employ different techniques.

Edit your work when you finish your drafts. Reread what you have written and consider whether it fits in with your argument. This is part of the cyclical nature of the writing process. Proofread at the end of the writing process, this involves checking your spelling and grammar.

Try to keep the editing and proofreading processes separate. When editing an early draft avoid checking punctuation, grammar and spelling so you can focus on the important task of developing and connecting ideas.

Edit your work

Reread your draft and check that the paper is well organised, that transitions between paragraphs are smooth, and the evidence backs up your argument.

Check the following aspects of your work:

  • Have you done everything the assignment requires?
  • Are your claims accurate?
  • If relevant, does your paper make an argument? Is it complete?
  • Are your claims consistent?
  • Are your points supported with adequate evidence?
  • Is the information relevant to your overall writing goal?
  • Is there an appropriate introduction and conclusion?
  • Is your thesis clearly stated in the introduction?
  • Is it clear how the paragraphs are related to your thesis?
  • Are the paragraphs arranged in a logical sequence?
  • Are there clear transitions between paragraphs?
  • Does each paragraph have a clear topic sentence?
  • Does each paragraph focus on one main idea?
  • Are there any extraneous or missing sentences?
  • Have important terms been defined?
  • Is the meaning of each sentence clear?
  • Is it clear what each pronoun—he, she, it, they—refers to?
  • Avoid using words found in a thesaurus that are not part of your normal vocabulary, you may misuse them.
  • Is the tone appropriate—formal, informal, persuasive?
  • Is the use of gendered language appropriate?
  • Have you varied the length and structure of your sentences?
  • Have you used the passive voice too often?
  • Is there unnecessary phrases like "there is", "due to the fact that"?
  • Have you repeated a strong word unnecessarily?
  • Are your quotes, paraphrases, and ideas from others cited appropriately?
  • Are the citations in the correct format?

Learn more about referencing

Proofread your work

Proofreading focuses on misspellings, punctuation and grammatical errors. It is the final stage of the writing process and should be done after all other editing revisions have been made.

Content is important. The way a paper looks affects the way it is judged by others. Careless errors can distract the reader, pay attention to the details of your work to help make a good impression.

Most people spend a few minutes proofreading, hoping to notice obvious errors. A quick and cursory reading, especially after working long and hard can miss errors and omissions. To avoid this, work with a definite plan that helps you search systematically for specific kinds of errors.

If you know you have an effective way to find errors when the paper is almost finished, you can worry less about editing while you are writing first drafts. This makes the entire writing process more efficient.

Be systematic

Try different strategies until you find the best process that works for you. Ensure you follow a systematic and focused approach to find as many errors as possible in the least amount of time.

  • Don't rely entirely on spell checkers.
  • Be aware grammar checkers can be problematic.
  • Read slowly and read every word.
  • Separate the text into individual sentences.
  • Circle punctuation marks.
  • Read the paper backwards.

Remember, proofreading is a learning process.

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