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This expert advice comes from Christine Jensen Sundstrom, PhD - Coordinator, Graduate Writing Support Program, University of Kansas 

Proofreading 101

  • Print out what you have written and read it aloud, reading only for grammar and editing issues
  • Edit for conciseness working to eliminate "to be" verbs, passives, and phrases that come between the subject and verb
  • Eliminate words like various and different as well as etc.
  • Avoid the use of contractions, slang, and idioms in formal analysis or reporting (they are appropriate in creative writing, reporting interviews, and other primary sources)
  • Check the 3 major rules of sentence punctuation. In these rules, I will use a common connector to represent the 3 major types of sentences or independent clauses. S will refer to a sentence (independent clause). Punctuation in () is optional.
    • S, and S.
    • S; however, S.
    • Because + S, S. S (,) because + S.
  • Keep a record of grammar and punctuation issues that you need to check for in your writing.
  • Make a list of personal proofreading reminders. Learn how to proofread for these specific issues.
  • Learn how to use the search and replace function of your word processing software effectively. For example, if you are in journalism and you learn that media must always be the media; you can correct that in a long paper using search and replace.

Notes for Improving Your Use of Language in Your Field

  • Improve the "tape in your head" by reading abstracts from journal articles in your field aloud. If you frequently drop articles and endings in your professional writing, you might highlight those before you read it aloud.
  • Learn the rules for using count and noncount nouns in professional level writing. Learn which key terms are count and which are noncount.
  • Find a comprehensive list of verb + preposition combinations.
  • Make a list of reporting verbs that can be used to report on the work of others.
  • Choose verbs carefully to determine how certain your claim is, how current you think the work of others is, how polite you want to be towards an author that has been disproven


(Adapted from Writing for Graduate School, Christine Jensen Sundstrom, manuscript in preparation, Copyright 2008 ©.) 


About the author: Dr. Sundstrom has over 35 years of experience teaching language, technical writing, ESL, and graduate writing and presenting in a higher education setting. She has done editing in fields ranging from humanities to sciences.