How can I proofread my own essay?

The key word when it comes to ESL proofreading is consistency. Students are often unsure whether they are using the correct terms, but more often than not, as long as you keep things consistent, you will not go far wrong. Having said this, university departments and lecturers often have specific requests so be sure that you are aware of these.

The author of this article, Zac Wearden, is a professional proofreader for Proofreading Service and has edited essays for hundreds of ESL students.

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1. No spelling mistakes

Spelling is very important in essays. If you are to achieve a first-class grade for your essay, you simply cannot have any typos or spelling mistakes. Spell checkers can help, but do not rely on them alone. Check your work manually as well. And be sure to set your spell checker to UK or US spelling depending on which system you are using.

2. Ensure that sentences agree for number

ESL students often slip up when it comes to number agreement. Below are some examples that demonstrate the type of thing you should watch out for when proofreading your own work:

  • Several scholar have commented (wrong)
  • Several scholars have commented (right)
  • All of the essay are excellent (wrong)
  • All of the essays are excellent (right)
  • He marked a essays (wrong)
  • He marked the essays (right)

As can be seen above, it is crucial that the noun agrees with the quantifier or determiner. The indefinite determiner a is used with singular nouns. If it is to be used with a plural noun then a word such as host should be present, as in a host of problems. Definite determiners on the other hand (namely the), can be used with plural nouns (e.g., he marked the essays).

The noun must also agree with the verb that follows it, as can be seen below:

  • All of the essays is excellent (wrong)
  • All of the essays are excellent (right)

In the second sentence the noun must be marked for number (with the plural marker s). This must agree with the determiner and must also agree with the verb (i.e., the plural verb are must be used).

3. Prepositions

Many ESL students often use incorrect prepositions as can be seen below:

  • They found it easier to concentrate of other issues (wrong)
  • They found it easier to concentrate on other issues (right)

The preposition of is often used to show belonging. For example, the garden of the church, whereas the preposition on has a more direct feel (e.g., focus on the page).

4. Ensure that no other inconsistencies are present

Below you will find some of the most common inconsistencies that occur in ESL essays. In fact, many of these issues have nothing to do with the fact that the essay is written by an ESL student. If you are careful and read through your work repeatedly, then you should have no problems.

  • U.S./US — Certain things in essays are very subjective. More often than not you can use either U.S. or US to refer to the United States of America. However, again, you must be consistent.
  • Table 1/table 1 — If you are making a direct reference to a table in your essay then it is generally a good idea to use an initial capital letter (with the same being true for ‘Section 1’, ‘Chapter 1’, etc.).
  • Numbers (e.g., two or 2?) — The way in which you display numbers in your essay is a slightly trickier issue. The most commonly consulted style sheet is the APA style sheet. Most universities have their own version but it is often similar to this. You should consult this sheet. It states that worded representations should be used when numbers are below 10 and numerical representations should be used when numbers are above 10. However, if numbers below 10 are used in the same sentence as numbers above 10, then the numerical representation should be used.

*Denise and I recommend only products that we have tried and tested. These include Ultimate Vocabulary. We have agreed to receive a commission from some sales of the Ultimate Vocabulary software because we are happy to endorse this award-winning vocabulary software.


Last modified on Sunday, 29 November 2015 01:05
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