Proofreading is about searching your writing for spelling, grammatical and typographical errors. This is spit and polish time, when you comb through the whole thing with methodical care and extreme attention to detail.

“Comb through the whole thing with methodical care and extreme attention to detail.”

It can be a real challenge to take the time and do this right, but it makes all the difference. Here are some strategies for making your proofreading phase a smashing success:

Review a hard copy.

Print out your essay and take a pen to it, circling or underlining all the errors as you go. Then return to your computer and correct them all in a single pass. Using a pen forces you to focus on one word at a time.Alternatively, you can use a blank sheet of paper to cover up the lines below the one you’re reading. The goal is to control your pace, keeping you from skipping ahead too quickly and from skipping over mistakes in the process.

Make sure that none of the essential elements are missing.

Take a close look at your assignment again and make sure that every required element is included. Is your name on your essay? Are you supposed to include the word count or class number? Take nothing for granted.

Look for one type of problem at a time.

Read through your essay several times. Concentrate first on sentence structure, then your choice of words, your spelling, and, lastly, your punctuation.

Read it backwards.

Another way of catching spelling errors is to read backwards, from right to left. Start with the last sentence and proofread that, then the one before it, and keep going through the entire essay, sentence by sentence, in reverse order until you get to the beginning.

Read your essay out loud.

Your ear will often catch awkward phrasing that your eye might gloss over. Similarly, any sentence that is difficult to read out loud might be impossible to understand. As silly as it might feel, take the time to read your essay out loud, if only to yourself. Better yet, ask someone else to read it out loud for you. You will inevitably find improvements to make.

Ask for help.

Ask someone else to proofread your text. An outside perspective can help spot errors you might have missed. As the writer, you know your essay well, and that familiarity can make it difficult to spot errors.

Check your facts.

In addition to reviewing for correct spelling and usage, make sure that all the information in your text is accurate. Double-check your facts, figures, and proper names.

Don’t rely on the spellcheck.

Your word processing program’s spellcheck will not pick up every single error in your essay. It may highlight typos and misspellings, but it won’t tell you if you’ve inadvertently used the wrong word altogether. It’s a handy tool, but no substitute for a careful examination of each word.