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How to Proofread Your Paper

How to Proofread

How to proofread? Here is the checklist of items to look out for, during the proofreading process.


Some elements of paper writing are not a matter either of the words themselves, or of punctuation, but, rather, are matters of alignment, layout and consistency, or inconsistency.

  • Check that your layout (page margins, line spacing, heading style, etc.) conforms to the format prescribed by your instructor.
  • Keep an eye out for changes in font face, or size.
  • Check all text that is underlined, italicized, bold face, and any other special text format.
  • Check for consistency in page margins, line spacing, outline numbering, and paragraph indentation.


Keep a dictionary handy. First, run a spelling checker. Don’t automatically accept its suggestions as it’s not always right. Try to learn from errors it catches. Second, check spelling by hand (eye, ear and dictionary).

  • When checking for spelling errors, start at the end of the sentence and work backward, word by word.
  • Look for easily misused words, such as to/too/through, where/were, it’s/its, know/no. These types of errors are mostly due to one’s fingers, or brain, having a momentary hiccup, during which they select the incorrect word.



Check for the following.

  • Every sentence should start with a capital letter.
  • All proper nouns should be capitalized.
  • Titles of books and other publications should be capitalized.

Punctuation and spacing

  • Sentences should end with a period, a question mark, or an exclamation point.
  • Check that the punctuation mark, at the end of the sentence, is right next to the character preceding, and that there is no extra space.
  • Check that all marks are properly used.
  • Determine if any is missing.
  • Just to clarify: marks of punctuation include the apostrophe, brackets, the colon, the comma, the dash (including the em dash and en dash), ellipsis marks, the exclamation point, parenthesis, the period, the question mark, quotation marks (single and double), the semicolon and the slash.

Repeated or omitted words

The reader’s brain tends to fill in any missing words and to ignore repeated words – that is why it is important to look at every line, one word at a time. Reading aloud, is especially helpful in catching these types of errors.

Word division

Word processing has eliminated most word division (dividing a word at the end of a line), but if your paper does include it, check to make sure it’s correct. If you are including long URLs (Internet addresses) in your paper, particularly, in your citations, you may be forced to break them. Never add a hyphen, when you break a URL. If it is necessary to break a URL, do so just after a slash, or just before a period.

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