Ok so we’ve got the big picture sorted – our essay as a whole does what it’s supposed to – but what about when we look closer?
The next step is to do a slow, deliberate proofread – the aim of this is to make sure the details are correct.
The first detail is, does your essay make sense when it’s read? If it doesn’t, the marker has no choice but to give you low marks – how can they not when they don’t understand what you’ve written?!
So let’s get started
Some people prefer to print it off and read through a hard copy of their essay; I prefer to read it on the screen. It doesn’t really make a difference; though seeing your work in a slightly different form and environment, in hard copy as opposed to sitting and staring at your laptop screen (exactly where and how you wrote your essay), can make it easier to pick up your mistakes.
How to read
This is very important. Read slowly. Read deliberately. Read every single word.
When people usually read, they speed read. There are many different ways of speed reading and some of the techniques are identifying words without focusing on each letter, not sounding out all words, not sub-vocalising some phrases, or spending less time on some phrases than others, and skimming small sections (from Wikipedia). In short, you are taking in the big picture and filling in the little details yourself.
Now this is fine when you are reading what someone else has written because you have never seen it before; but when it comes to your own work, if you speed read, you fill in the details with what you meant to say. The details of what you actually said might not be not quite what you intended. A comma out of place can be a very dangerous thing – but that’s for another post.
So you need to read slowly and deliberately, and the best way to do this is to read out loud. Read and sound out every single word; pause deliberately at the commas, semi-colons, and full-stops.
Does what you are reading out loud make sense?
Next week we’ll go over what else you need to look for when you do your slow and deliberate (proof)read of your essay.