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Basic Grammar and Punctuation: How to Proofread

The tutorials below address basic grammar and punctuation errors writers routinely have. Use these guidelines to proofread and correct errors in your papers before submission. For hands-on help, see a tutor in your campus Learning Support Commons.

About Proofreading

Proofreading can be difficult because your mind already sees the paper as you wrote it. However, there are some ways to shake up your perception so you can see your paper with fresh eyes and spot any errors.

Work ahead. The best way to see your paper fresh is to walk away from it for a few days. This means you need to have your rough draft finished a week before it is due.

Listen to your teachers. If your teachers tell you have run-on sentences, then take advantage of their expertise and look for the problem they’ve already pointed out.

Plan to read your paper several times – each time for a different challenge:

1)   Look for sentence fragments and run-on sentences.

2)   Check to make sure you have used the correct verb:

·       Does your verb agree with your subject?

·       Do you stay in the same tense throughout?

3)   Check that you use pronouns correctly:

·       Is it clear who or what you refer to?

·       Have you used the correct form?

4)   Check for commonly confused words such as their, there, and they're.

5)   Check your punctuation.


Always run spell-checker. It won’t catch every error, but it can compare a paper space by space to an established standard. You should run spell-checker every time you make a change.


Read your paper out loud. Saying the words out loud forces you to slow down and look at what your eyes might skip over.

Use a ruler. Place a ruler or blank piece of paper under each line as you read down the paper. This is a good technique if you find a whole page of text overwhelming.

Circle your suspects. If you’re prone to run-on sentences, circle every comma in the paper. This will help you look at each one and decide if it’s being used correctly. This also works for verb or pronoun problems.

Read from the bottom up. Using a ruler as a guide, start reading from the bottom of your paper. Read the last sentence, then the next to last. Reading your sentences out of order will help you look at what you've actually written instead of remembering what you meant to say.

Get a second opinion. There are live tutors at every campus and professional reviewers online through SmartThinking.

  • Look for the SmartThinking link in the Institutional Resources box at the bottom right of your Angel home page.
  • When you click on that link, you may go to a log in page, but just hit the skip button at the bottom of the log-in boxes and you'll go directly into the program.