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Whether you're writing a high school essay, college term paper or business proposal, proofreading puts the polish on your prose. No matter how well-presented the content of your writing may be, careless grammar mistakes and typographical errors detract from the overall message. Proofreading effectively requires more than just re-reading your paper once before you print it out. It is an important part of the writing process and requires planning and strategy.

Re-reading your paper and checking for errors immediately after you've written it is a sure fire way to miss mistakes. When you re-read immediately, you are often "reading" much of the paper from memory rather than concentrating on exactly what's on the printed page. Of course, distancing yourself from your writing takes planning, so you should fight the urge to procrastinate. Just how much time should you wait before proofreading? As much as you can. Ideally, going back to your finished piece the next day allows for a fresh perspective, but when deadline constraints prevail, even an hour away from your work can help you catch mistakes.

When re-reading your writing, it's difficult not to succumb to the temptation of skimming through it. However, the more quickly you read through your document, the more likely you'll be to miss errors. Reading your paper aloud forces you to slow down and give each word equal scrutiny. Putting a voice to your work not only helps you zero in on misspelled words, missing letters and typos, it also lets you hear the flow of the writing. Sentences that might seem well-constructed on paper may sound awkward when read aloud, and repetitive words or phrases are easier to spot when you actually hear them.

If you're not able to take time off from your writing, or if your writing environment prevents you from reading aloud, you can still eradicate errors by reading backwards. Reading one sentence at a time, from last to first, is another way to prevent yourself from skimming and reading from memory. Proofreading in this manner forces the focus of your attention to shift from the larger piece to the individual sentence construction. Initially, some people might find it difficult to read sentences from last to first. If this is the case, try this same method with paragraphs. Read the last paragraph, slowly and carefully, then the second-to-last, and so on. Even reading one paragraph at a time will seem less overwhelming than proofreading the whole document at once.

So you've finished proofreading your writing, and you've successfully spotted the errors. That's the end of it, right? Well, not exactly. Although you may be through with this particular document,now is the time to prepare to proofread your next piece of writing. Make a list of the corrections you made. Find patterns. Do you often misspell particular words? Do you frequently leave off word endings? By analyzing your errors and writing them down, you'll know which specific mistakes to look for in subsequent documents.

Many people, after trying these methods, refine them to suit their own particular type and style of writing. The more times you proofread your work following these steps, the better you will become at spotting your errors, and the faster the process will become.