I am surprised on a daily basis how many mistakes I catch in other people’s papers just by reading them out loud. These mistakes range from simple spelling and grammar mistakes to entire sentence fragments. In order to make sure your paper is free from error, I recommend reading the paper from start to finish and then from finish to start.
Note: I also recommend that you print out your paper and write all over it. This helps you catch every single error instead of scrolling past them quickly on your screen.
Start to Finish
Reading from start to finish will help you see many things in your paper, including choppiness, grammar errors, and argument development.
- For choppiness, reading out loud will more strongly enunciate the lengths of your sentences. If all of your sentences are the same length, your paper will sound choppy. It could also sound choppy if you use a ton of short words sort of like this.
- For grammar errors, you could realize that you are missing punctuation or have sentence fragments.
- For argument development, make sure that you explicitly state your argument and explain it. Make sure your support is there and that you aren’t just writing statements.
- Also double check all your in-text citations and make sure you didn’t forget any (which is a HUGE no-no).
Finish to Start
Reading from finish to start will help you find spelling mistakes and punctuation mistakes. Because reading it backwards isn’t very helpful in checking your development, this will help you find smaller errors.
- For spelling mistakes, reading your paper one sentence at a time from the bottom to the top will help you see misspellings of words like to, too, and two. It will also help you with words that end in “s” or “d,” which can be easily mixed up. For example, if you were saying that “she watches television,” but you meant it in the past tense “watched,” you would catch it easily when reading backwards.
- For grammar mistakes, you will notice apostrophes, citations, and quotation marks (or the lack of them).
These two methods of proofreading your paper can save you from a ton of errors, so make sure to check them out if you want to catch them all!