Revising Stage

40 Editing and Proofreading: Lower Order Concerns

Perhaps you are someone who edits and proofreads while you write a draft, so when you are done drafting and revising for content and structure, you may not have that much editing or proofreading to do. Or maybe you are a person who pays no attention to grammar and spelling as you draft, saving all of the editing until you are finished writing. Either way, for academic assignments (and professional work), plan to carefully edit and proofread your work.

Tip: For most people, editing and proofreading on a printed copy is more effective than working entirely on screen. Print out a version of your assignment and use a pen, pencil, highlighter, or even coloured pencils to make notes all over your draft. As you input the changes into your word processor, cross off your notations.
Pro Tip: When you meet with your instructor to get help before an assignment is due, when you receive feedback on a work in progress, or even if you have an opportunity to improve your grade through revisions and resubmission, do the same technique of crossing off notations from the instructor as you input them into your word processor.

Editing is the act of making changes at a moderate level of organization, or indicating what to change; proofreading means a detailed level of error and checking to make sure that changes discovered earlier were made. When you are working on improving the grammar, spelling, punctuation, and other formal aspects of your writing, instructors usually refer to that task as editing or proofreading, not revising.

Use a checklist to ensure you are catching errors and actually fixing them. You may have seen examples of editing checklists. One type of checklist is a general list of common errors that writers often make; another type is a checklist based on an assignment; and a third type is a checklist you make yourself that tracks the kinds of errors you make most often.


Proofreading is the final and most detailed step in the revision process. There is no point in making sure that you don’t have an extra space between two sentences (proofreading) when you don’t have a thesis statement (revision) or correct sentence structure (editing). Using a system can ensure you’ve made all the corrections necessary.

Using a System

  • Circle, highlight, underline: Select one method to mark all the corrections you want to make. You might choose to circle, underline, or highlight all errors you find. Check off each circle, highlight, or underline when you make the correction in the electronic document.
  • Check marks and checkboxes: Some writers make a check mark in the margin for every error they find in a line of typing, then put a slash through the check mark once it is corrected. You can also make checkboxes and then check the box once the correction is made.
  • Using editor’s marks: You may have certain marks that you have learned to make for some kinds of errors, either from an instructor or from professional editing marks. If so, feel free to use those. For an extensive list of editing marks, consult the proofreading page at the Chicago Manual of Style online (at

Using Technology to Edit

Computers revolutionized the way that we edit writing. Here are some useful tools to make editing easier and faster.

  • Find and Replace: If you know that you frequently make the same spelling or punctuation error, use the Find and Replace function in your word processor (in most, pressing and holding the “CTRL” key and then simultaneous pressing the “F” key will get you to the Find and Replace function). For example, if you know that you often type “though” instead of “through,” you can search for all instances of “though” and replace them, one by one, with “through,” checking each item to be sure you are making the right choice.
  • Spell checkers: Always use spell check. Do understand that spell check cannot find misspellings that are actual words. Spell check should mark “tge” as an error, but if you typed “accept” when you meant “except,” spell check will not help you. (See “Find and Replace” in the previous paragraph.)
  • Grammar checkers: Grammar checkers are sometimes correct, sometimes not. If you use a grammar checker and disagree with a suggested correction, use other resources such as dictionaries, grammar handbooks, or websites like Purdue OWL to determine what is correct. If you find that you often make a certain kind of mistake, it’s worthwhile to study up on the topic and perhaps keep an editing checklist to help you remember to check for that type of error. Whatever you do, don’t start randomly changing things just to make the grammar marks go away!
  • Screen readers: Sometimes it helps to hear your words aloud. Using a screen reader can do that for you, and it will definitely read a mistake as a mistake, without correcting it. Many word processing programs have a screen reader built in. There are also apps you can purchase, and some schools provide applications to students for free.

Text Attributions


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

Advanced English Copyright © 2021 by Allison Kilgannon is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book