Proofreading: Don’t (Let Your Paper) Leave Home without It

Dana E. Yanulavich, Senior Editor, Excelsior College
Dana E. Yanulavich, Senior Editor, Excelsior College
Dana E. Yanulavich,
Senior Editor,
Excelsior College

As Excelsior’s senior editor, I am called upon to review all sorts of content ranging from reports and articles to ads and posters. What is among the most important things you can do before handing in a paper or hitting submit for your discussion post? Proofreading! It’s not a glamorous or much sought-after job, but it plays an important role in communicating your material and showcasing your hard work.

Here are a few humorous examples from my work here at the College that underscore not only the need for your own careful review, but the importance to enlist others to read your writing with a fresh pair of eyes. Proofreading has always been a fundamental requirement, but now with the prevalence of spellcheckers, it’s important to make sure some helpful algorithm hasn’t changed a word and quite possibly the meaning of your work.

  1. In addition to straight typos and misspellings, you need to be on the lookout for homophones.

Hold the phone: What am I talking about? A homophone is a word that has the same sound as another word but is spelled differently and has a different meaning (e.g., to/two/too).  Here it is in action in this example of copy submitted to the College’s Faculty Newsletter:

“Professor Smith submitted a chapter to Nursing Without Boarders.”

Do you think the book’s about making money for your nursing degree by renting out a room in your house to boarders? The real title of the book is Nursing Without Borders.

And here’s a tasty tidbit from a submission to an honor society’s newsletter, “We all have a roll in contributing toward the improvement of health around the world.” Of course, the correct word would be “role.”

  1. The ever-helpful spellchecker can mistakenly correct your fumbling fingers and insert a valid word, but not the one you intended. Check out these gems:

For those of us who have taken courses, we might agree that it can be an experience prone to pain and injury as this Faculty Newsletter submission seems to support:

“The School of Liberal Arts contuse to launch exciting, state of the art new courses including Social Science offerings…” I think the word that really hits the mark is “continues.”

And of course, we only allow the nicest people to work at the College as this submission attests:

“Excelsior College held its First Annual Health Fair on September 24th under a Big Top in the west parking lot. There were free screenings for posture, vision, kindness, blood pressure and blood sugar.” Hopefully, when you’re done laughing over this one, your kidneys won’t hurt.

What are some steps you can take to improve your proofreading? Here are some tips:

  1. Read your paper carefully once you’re done no matter how much you want to get it off your desktop.
  2. Read it backwards, starting with the last paragraph, so your brain sees the words in a different way.
  3. Enlist a family member or friend to read your paper. Not only might they find errors that you missed, but they’ll also gain a new appreciation for your knowledge!
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