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Editing and proofreading: A short guide

Top tips

Read aloud

It is a good idea to read through your essay aloud. This will give you an idea of how well your language flows. For example, if you keep stumbling or run out of breath it could be because your sentences are too long or your punctuation is in the wrong place. You might wish to find an audience for this! You'll be surprised at the mistakes you sport when performing your work. You might want to record yourself while you read so that you can listen back. Or, you could ask a friend to read it out loud to you, or use software such as MS Word ‘Speak.’ .

Distance yourself

Ideally you should leave at least a day between finishing your writing and starting to proof read. Try to plan this into your schedule. It is very easy to read what you expect to read, not what you have actually written, so you want to distance yourself from your writing and read with fresh eyes.

Could one of these techniques be useful to you?

  • Reading your essay in another room from where you wrote it
  • Printing a paper copy of the essay and making changes with a pen or pencil.
  • Making the essay look different and unfamiliar by changing the font or colour.
  • Reading backwards!
  • Proofread at the time of day when you are most alert
  • Put a piece of paper or a ruler under the line you are reading

Critical Friend

The ultimate way of distancing yourself is to ask a trusted critical friend to read through your document.

You are, of course, responsible for checking your work but a friend will have no preconceptions and may spot things you have missed.

Try not to get anxious

Do not worry about trying to find every single mistake. Nothing will ever be completely perfect. You will have have spotted mistakes in academic books, no doubt. Just aim for the best that you can do!


Proofreading your references

It is a good idea to check the referencing requirements for your course ahead of time. You could check with your tutor or look at your course handbook and guidance on Canvas. 

Reference management software and proofreading.

  • Do not assume that any software you may have used to manage and create your references has done a perfect job. They can all make mistakes. 
  • Please note that there are different variations of the Harvard style of referencing.  Examples in the iCite Harvard pages use the Cite them right Harvard style, as used in the “Cite them right” guide (Pears and Shields, 2019) and the online resource “Cite them right online”.
  • If you are using EndNote Online (or Desktop) and wish to produce citations and references as per the examples in the iCite Harvard pages (and Cite them right), then choose the “Cite them right Harvard” style from the lists available in EndNote.
  • If you are using Vancouver you may have to convert journal titles to abbreviations if the software has not done this for you.
  • If you are an undergraduate or taught postgraduate (PGT) student, you might want to book an appointment with the Academic Skills Centre to discuss referencing and EndNote Online queries.


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