Editing and Proofreading
© Copyright 1998, UNC-CH Writing Center URL: http://www.unc.edu/depts/wcweb/ University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill URL: http://www.unc.edu/
Site Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Last updated: 17 April 2002
What this handout is about…
This handout provides some tips and strategies for revising your writing. To give you a chance to practice proofreading,
we have left seven errors (three spelling errors, two punctuation errors, and two grammatical errors) in the text of this
handout. See if you can spot them!
Is proofreading the same thing as editing?
Not exactly. Although many people use the terms interchangeably, proofreading and editing are two different stages of the
revision process. Both demand close and careful reading, but they focus on different aspects of the writing and employ
First things first: Some tips that apply both to editing and proofreading
Get some distance from the text!
It's hard to edit or proofread a paper that you've just finished writing--it's still to
familiar, and you tend to skip over a lot of errors. Put the paper aside for a few hours, or days, or weeks. Go for a run.
Take a trip to Aruba. Get the point? Clear your head of what you've written so you can look at the paper fresh and see
clearly what is really on the page. Better yet, give the paper to a friend--you can't get much more distance than that.
Someone who is reading the paper for the first time, comes to it with completely fresh eyes.
Decide what medium lets you proofread most carefully
Some people like to work right at the computer, while
others like to sit back with a printed copy that they can mark up as they read.
Try changing the look of your document
--altering the size, spacing, color, or style of the text may trick your brain
into thinking it's seeing an unfamiliar document, and that can help you get a different perspective on what you've
Find a quiet place to work
Don't try to do your proofreading in front of the TV or while you're chugging away on the
stairmaster. Find a place where you can concentrate and avoid distractions.
If possible, do your editing and proofreading in several short blocks of tim
rather than all at once--otherwise,
your concentration is likely to wane.
If you're short on time, you may wish to prioritize
your editing and proofreading tasks to be sure that the most
important ones are completed.
Editing is what you begin doing as soon as you finish your draft. You want to reread to see, for example, if the paper is
well-organized, the transitions between paragraphs are smooth, and your meaning is clear. You can edit on several
Have you defined any important terms that might be unclear to your reader? Is the meaning of each sentence
clear? (One way to answer this question is to read your paper one sentence at a time, starting at the end and working