Chapter 7: Revising Your Work
Proofreading often challenges us to be a detective of our own mistakes. Once, I submitted an entire manuscript of hundreds of pages to an academic press. When I got back the editor’s changes, which included proofreading, I was embarrassed to see that every time I had used the word “surprise,” I had spelt it as “suprise.” If I’d noted my tendency to misspell that word, I would have looked for it myself.
How can we become mistake detectives? After all, the reason we make mistakes is probably because we don’t notice them in the first place. Again, our classmates and instructor can be a helpful resource here. Look at your instructor’s comments on the last assignment you handed in. Are there any patterns in what they wrote? Is there a type of mistake you make over and over?
Another way to become a detective of your mistakes is to figure out common mistakes for your peer group. Many students, for example, learn in English, but it is not their first language. English uses articles—”the,” “a”—differently from many other languages, and so many additional language learners either forget to put articles where they are needed (“He walked into house”) or write them where they are not (“I want to have the hope”). Seeing this pattern in your peers’ work can give you a clue to look out for similar mistakes in your own work.
- Review feedback on a recent assignment, either from a peer or from your instructor. What are some mistake patterns you can find?
- Start a proofreading log. For each mistake, write the error, and then write a correction. Describe the correct usage (“Articles are used when something is specific, but not for general ideas”) and add a tip for yourself that will help you catch the error in future (“Read the sentence out loud to see if the article sounds like it belongs”).
- A grammar handbook or reference can be a helpful tool for your assignments. Your instructor may be able to recommend one.
- Many schools and even some libraries offer writing centres where you can have a peer or instructor look over your work, in addition to any peer review offered in your class. While writing centres will not correct your work for you, they will work with you to reduce errors. If you can arrange your schedule to finish your assignments a week before the due date, you will have enough time to visit the writing centre and fix any problems you find with their help.