Proofreading Tips for ESL Students

Many students commit the mistake of questioning the importance of proofreading. The star is the content, right, so why should proofreading be given the same amount of effort? Like it or not, though, how you present your paper affects people’s perception of it, particularly those tasked with judging it. Of course, you will have poured your heart out creating that writing assignment. You have developed your ideas to present them well, so why would you let careless errors distract your reader from fully understanding your text?

Proofreading tips for ESL students

Why should we proofread?

Before submitting any written project - essay, academic research paper, thesis, essay, email, and many others - it is vital that you take time to carefully proofread. Keep in mind that for any document to be considered complete, proofreading is an essential step that must be taken. The process of proofreading helps us check if whether or not all vital information have been included, and have been discussed accordingly. This also gives us the chance to review our written work, adding or subtracting anything we deem necessary. Proofreading also helps us iron out unnecessary errors we may have committed - in essence, it helps you earn those extra marks. If we wish our readers to focus on our content, and not the mistakes and errors we have simply overlooked, then the proofreading stage should never be skipped. A presentable written work implies ethics and careful attention to detail, giving our writing credibility and potency. 

Proofreading Tips for ESL Students

Although the importance of proofreading is apparent, most people devote only a few minutes to it. A quick and cursory reading, however, usually misses a lot. While glaring errors can be easily seen, a quick process of proofreading will not be enough to identify any more errors. Keep in mind that you may be tired from working long and hard on a written assignment, so it is best to work with a definite plan that works systematically, rather than just skimming through errors. Of course, such effort will take more time, but the payoff will be invaluable. If you find that proofreading tricky for you, we have gathered the best proofreading tips for ESL students, guaranteed to help you learn how best to do it - and hopefully never skip the proofreading process again!

Read your work out loud. Experts suggest that reading out loud is key to proofreading. Our minds move too fast when reading silently, but when a text is read out loud, much can be simplified and modified when heard. Verb tense errors can be easily identifiable. Here are some strategies to adopt to make this proofreading tip more effective:

  1. Print out a copy of your work. This method allows you to place marks in areas in need of changing as you read, so that you can easily return to these later on.
  2. As you read your text, follow along with your finger. Point at each word you come across, as this helps you stay focused. This also prevents you from skipping anything - so no, do not be afraid of looking like a kindergarten reading his first sentence. The benefit is undeniable. 
  3. Read your text at a moderate pace. Read one sentence at a time, beginning at the end of the sentence to the start. This method allows you to focus on the structure of your sentence, rather than the overall structure of your argument. In short, you will be able to zero in on errors otherwise invisible at first glance.

Let your finished paper sit for a little while. Read it again, but after that, put it down. Wait for five minutes, ten, or even overnight if possible. This is already too obvious to point out, but many are guilty of skipping this step entirely: before submitting or sending anything out, re-read your paper. Check for typos or any missing words. And when you do, let it sit again. The more time that passes in between writing and the process of proofreading, the better the chance of you seeing and identifying your mistakes. 

Make sure your first sentence is always right. No matter which type of project you are writing, this proofreading tip should always be taken into consideration. The best way to hook your reader into reading the rest of your work, is to ensure that your statement is correct. No matter what style you opt to use for your first statement, your readers will not find your paper interesting if it has an error. Quite unconventional to be a part of our proofreading tips, but hey, we are all about making that writing project squeaky clean, right? One of our writers named Beth says that the first sentence should “sing” - meaning, it should be bold and charismatic. As you proofread your paper, exert extra effort on choosing a great hook for your essay (and other projects!).

There should be no room for excess. William Strunk’s advice resounds to our writing principles: omit all unnecessary words. Of course, your first draft will always be wordier than it needs to be, so do not be too hard on yourself. If you are wondering which words should you eliminate first, check out our guide on taboo words in academic writing

Make sure your proofreading goes on for multiple rounds. We cannot stress this proofreading tip enough. Our writers suggest to do at least two rounds of proofreading, if not more. On the first round, focus on the bigger concerns. For instance, try to identify what is missing. Check if it resounds to the target audience intended - was it written with them in mind? If you have decided to write a nonfiction, does your thesis match the text? The second round, on the other hand, should be for the minor concerns - punctuation check, grammar, and spelling. Other rounds are highly encouraged - you will need them to fix the minor stuff over and over, as they are very much easy to overlook.

Change your view. It does not have to be a big move - just do something that will make your writing look physically different. Perhaps you could zoom in to see just one sentence at a time, or maybe change the font and font size. The main goal is to make the entire text feel unfamiliar, so that your brain gets reprogrammed to recognize mistakes it otherwise blurs out. If you do not have much time to let your writing sit out in between sessions of proofreading, this particular proofreading tip can help you look at your work in a fresh perspective.

Try to read your text backwards. Yes, you heard that right. One of the best proofreading tips we can give you is to read your text backwards, and it works, even though it sounds quite kooky. We find that when you are not distracted by the meaning of the sentences, spotting mistakes in your work is easier. Begin with the last word, working your way backward through each word. This proofreading tip is especially helpful for ESL students who frequently misspell words, repeat words, and have trouble with writing formats

Avoid relying too much on spell checkers. Do not get us wrong - spell checkers are incredibly useful tools! We admit that we often rely too much on Microsoft Word and Google Documents for spelling mistakes, but they are far from foolproof, which is why we are painstakingly training ourselves to not be too dependent on them. As an ESL student, you should be, too. Keep in mind that spell checkers only have a limited dictionary, so some words may remain unrecognized. Moreover, spell checkers fail to see errors in grammar, especially when another valid word is used. For instance, the use of “your” instead of “you’re”, or “to” instead of “too”.

With that in mind, know that grammar checkers can even be worse. Despite seemingly advanced technologies, these programs still work with limited rules and regulations. This means they cannot identity every possible error ever, so they often make mistakes. These also fail to give you explanations enough to help you understand why a mistake is a mistake, so they are not much for learning. As an ESL student, this is a liability. If you are in need of a guide, check out this post on the most common grammar mistakes students make

Keep in mind that proofreading is a learning process. What people do not realize is that proofreading is not just the task of looking for errors - it is a learning process. There are errors that you recognize, and there are those that you do not. This is where those guides and dictionaries come in, so keep them close to you as you proofread!

Ignorance will not make you a better proofreader. This is a situation all too familiar for many of us, especially among students. Often times you come across words and concepts that do not seem right, but then you cannot seem to identify what is wrong with them. A spell checker announces that your document is clean, but then a word looks like it has been misspelled. You should probably insert a comma here, but you remain hesitant as you are unsure. The golden rule in proofreading? If you are not sure, look it up. Always check other resources and then learn!

The proofreading process becomes easier and more efficient because you gradually come up with a strategy. In time, you will be able to identify specific areas of your work that are in need of careful attention. Your writing itself will become less and less error-prone, and more developed in terms of content. 



Essay writing service for students

We do get it, though - proofreading can still be quite difficult to do, especially if English is not your first language. It still takes skill, knowledge, and a whole lot of patience. If you are trying to beat deadlines, though, there will be not much room for such matters. Imagine trying to finish three writing assignments in one go, all of which are in need of proofreading! Luckily, though, there are options out there that will not require you to proofread. In fact, you do not have to even write at all! Services like CustomEssayMeister offer you talented pools of writers, who are very much willing to take on whatever task you may need. They are professionals with degrees, and even more, they are native English speakers. You never have to worry about deadlines ever again, so go ahead and give us a call!