13 Proofreading Tips to Improve your Research Writing Skills

Proofreading Tips to Improve your Research Writing Skills

Have you ever “lost” during a proofreading exercise? Or didn’t know where to start? Today, we want to give you proofreading tips to improve your research writing skills.

Reviewing a text is not the same thing as rereading it. The reading is done by the reviewer (or by the author himself, when reviewing) should employ much more attention and care than in the case of common reading, also using techniques and strategies for correction and improvement. As the aspects to be observed are numerous, the ideal is that several readings are made, so that attention can be given to each of these aspects separately.

Below, 13 tips have been gathered so that you can review your text more efficiently, improving your way of expression.

1. Read letter by letter

Even those who master grammar and vocabulary end up missing some mistakes when proofreading. In these cases, the inaccuracy does not occur due to lack of knowledge, but due to lack of attention. Thus, a fundamental technique for the proof-reader is to read the text letter by letter.

In ordinary reading, we tend to jump from one word to another as soon as we consciously identify them. We don’t need to look at each letter: the general form of the word is enough. It’s because of this reading shortcut that we miss several errors, such as misplaced letters, lack of accents, or even the absence of whole syllables.

2. Don’t trust automatic proof-readers

Yes, they are very useful, nothing short of a miracle of technology. But don’t rely too heavily on them: their ability to check grammar is low. If you write “fair” with the intention of writing “far” for example, it will easily identify that such a word does exist in the dictionary.

3. Zoom in

You don’t need to have visual difficulties to benefit from this technique. Sometimes it is only possible to identify textual inconsistencies (such as misplaced italic, double space, lack of a period) when we see the characters very closely, or in expanded proportions. Therefore, the more enlarged the text, the easier and more efficient it will be to proofread it. Of course, this will depend in part on the size of your monitor. Anyway, it is always possible to use the application’s zoom tools (Word, Acrobat, etc.).

4. Print

For those who have a printer handy, this is a good way to boost proofreading efficiency. It’s easier to spot errors when text is printed.

5. Consult a dictionary

We often confuse the meaning of words. In some cases, the confusion can be comical, and a little faux pas can ruin a text’s seriousness, if not our reputation. Thus, with words that we are not quite familiar with, we must be careful. When in doubt, always consult a reliable dictionary (printed or online) during proofreading.

And don’t just look up the meaning of words. Always keep in mind that verbs have different usage patterns: some require prepositions, complements, others do not. So, if you want to know whether “we target the job” or “we target job” the dictionary will give you an answer.

6. Concentration

It may seem obvious, but sometimes we don’t realize the importance of a quiet and interruption-free environment for performing delicate tasks that require great concentration. Try to make your reviews in a place free from noise and distractions. It is precisely when you stop reading to pet the dog that some mistakes may go unnoticed. Now, it is a fact that in some cases the search for a quiet environment is a challenge, depending on where you live and what time you work. In these extreme cases, try isolating the sound with headphones, listening to some calm and steady instrumental music, or, as a last resort, use earplugs.

7. Google it

There are many reliable websites whose contents are produced or selected by trained professionals, postgraduate professors, and doctors, as well as official language manuals that can serve as the basis for well-founded research. The key is knowing which sites are trustworthy.

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8. Pay attention to homonyms, paronyms, etc.

Homonyms, homophones and paronyms are words with the same or similar spelling or pronunciation, but with different meanings. Automated proof-readers are often unable to verify this aspect: are you using the correct keyword?

When in doubt, the solution is easy: consult the dictionary.

9. Slang and popular expressions

Try to avoid slang and phrases in written expression. These are linguistic forms with the potential to harm the message or the intended tone, and although they should not be prohibited, they must be used with care.

The slang, for example, tends to be used within specific social groups, both spatially and temporally: some are dated, others are markedly from one region or another, and there are still easily identifiable with any social class. Furthermore, they can consciously or unconsciously undermine the seriousness of the message as well as clarity.

In the case of ready-made sentences, or popular expressions, the problem lies in the fact that these are generic linguistic constructions, with a worn meaning: in addition to having lost their strength, they sound inauthentic, or clichés, as they seem copied and pasted from other lines. And, from a formal point of view, they are generally inelegant.

10. Ask your friend to review

People’s attention tends to fall on different items, and so does their inattention. So, it’s a good idea to ask a friend or colleague to review your text to complement your review. You might be shocked by the amount of nonsense you missed.

11. Evaluate the efficiency

Does your text have a purpose? Every text must have one. Then, when reviewing the material, try to see if it can fulfil its purpose with the intended audience (i.e., the reader). Sometimes we just want to communicate something. So, ask yourself: will my reader clearly understand the message? Sometimes we want to convince. So, the question: am I being convincing? Will my reader follow the same line of reasoning and reach the same conclusions?

Sometimes we want to impress. This is the case with short stories, novels, poetry. You want to make an impression. Put yourself in your reader’s perspective and ask yourself: do the techniques I’m using work?

12. Assess consistency

We always think that what we write makes perfect sense. Even when we reread, we often tend to indulge our own words and ideas. The reader, however, may be reading your text without special sympathy, analyzing your ideas purely by logic. Therefore, when rereading your text to review its logical consistency, ask each sentence: Does this contradict any other statement I made in my text?  Do not expect the reader to forgive possible shortcomings of expression or textual logic, or to fill in the logical gaps in the text. It is the role of the text itself to chain ideas together satisfactorily.

13. Assess structural cohesion

Pay attention to the structure of the text. Just like a song, the parts that make up a text need to be in a certain order for it to reach its goal, usually having an introduction and a sequence of ideas that follow logically to the conclusion. Poorly articulated texts, and therefore poorly cohesive, present information in such a random way that it would make little difference if the paragraphs were shuffled in any other order (as in an abstract collage).

When a text is properly cohesive, each of its ideas is presented in an appropriate location about the whole, being an essential part of the whole. In a well-executed text, as well as in a well-structured novel or film, no part seems to be leftover or missing. And take care of the transition between ideas. Otherwise, the abrupt change of subject will look like a typo.