Proofreading why is accuracy important?

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Why is accuracy important?

  • Accuracy is a fundamental skill required both at university and in the workplace.

At Uni…

  • ‘Accuracy is crucial to the conveyance of Meaning’ (Lloyd Pettiford).
  • Tutor comment: ‘At times I struggled to understand the intended meaning of some paragraphs. This was due to incorrect spelling, grammar and punctuation’. (Social Theory essay)

In the workplace….

  • ‘The printed word is often the first, and sometimes the only, communication a potential customer receives. It should reflect professionalism in all its aspects, but sadly this is often not the case’.
  • (Geoff Barnett, n.d.).

At Uni…

  • Mistakes jupm out at tutors.

It’s easy to make mistakes…

  • ‘while tutor’s usually make allowances for slips here and there, if you want your writing to have its full impact you really cannot afford to omit to read your work carefully’ Northedge (1990, 129).
  • So. Accuracy has nothing to do with intelligence…

What can you do?

  • Attend Academic Support lectures.
  • Research the rules of grammar, sentence structure, punctuation and spelling and PRACTISE, PRACTISE, PRACTISE!
  • Find out what to look out for and proofread your work thoroughly. USE A CHECKLIST.
  • Start a proofreading club?
  • Suggest a session? Contact me via form on website (read your emails). Drop into my office: GEO85. NB I DO NOT PROOFREAD WORK!


  • What should I look out for?

You need to proofread for:

  • THE BIG 3:

Paragraph Structure

  • Task:
  • Bearing in mind the last few Academic Support lectures, what questions might you have on your checklist?

Sentence Structure

  • Task: What might you look out for when checking your sentences? To decide this, ask – what is the function of a sentence?

Sentence Structure

  • A sentence contains 1 main idea.
  • Go ‘idea spotting’.
  • Avoid running ideas together in the same sentence.
  • Look out for long sentences & perhaps break them up.

Easier said than done…

  • David was not able to attend school yesterday seeing as how the problem he is having with headaches has come back again.
      • (Peck and Coyle 1999, 52)

How about?

  • David was not able to attend school yesterday. He has been having a problem with headaches, and it has come back again.

Sentence Structure

  • Gray (1999, 39) argues that liberalism is internally inconsistent, Smith however disagrees with the idea that liberalism cannot achieve its ideals.
  • The growth of international institutions does not mean that liberalism has won, the example of the UN shows that states do use international institutions to their own advantage. .
  • International laws can be seen as rules of behaviour rather than rules for behaviour, this point is important because states tend to set rules based on their values.
  • Although from a realist point of view it could be argued that it was more to do with each state protecting its own interests.

What would you change here?

  • The family values that I have been brought up by, is to care for everyone and for everyone to be treated equally.
  • So, is Sex and Gender so different?
  • State and national security is seen as a highly important factor in…
  • Verbs has to agree with their subject….


  • Didn’t you know? I should of told you!
  • By the end of the month, my health will of improved as I am eating very healthily.
  • I should of known I’d see you in the pub!


  • When using words like: this, these that, those and pronouns (eg: I, you, s/he, it, we, you they; his, her, its, their)
  • STOP!

Spot and analyse the referents…

  • ‘Liberalism was born after WW1.
  • It was called the war to end all
  • wars and no one wanted to be
  • involved in another war. They
  • decided that a mutual
  • agreement between allies
  • could prevent another war.’

Combating Spelling Errors

  • Use a computer ‘spellcheck’ wisely
  • Keep a special list of key subject/specific technical terms
  • Beware of problematic words – those ending ‘ent’ or ‘ence’/ similar sounding ones
  • Make a note of your own typical errors and use a dictionary as you write them
  • Start a proofreading club


  • Major errors (subject specific ones)
  • According to Gramshi’s theory of hegemony
  • These authors include Maciavelle and Hobbs.
  • In the coup against Salvedor Allende
  • Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, more commonly referred to as AIDs, (…)
  • For Elizabeth, Sir Walter Ralegh represented a Romantic ideal.

Should be:

  • According to Gramsci’s theory of hegemony…
  • Machiavelli and Hobbes
  • Salvador Allende
  • AIDS
  • Sir Walter Raleigh

Common errors:

  • Words ending in ‘ance/ ant, ate’
  • Relevent/ Relevant?
  • Seperate/ Separate?
  • Developement/ Development?
  • Grammer/grammar??


  • RelevAnt
  • SepArate
  • Development
  • GrammAr

Poor spelling causes problems with meaning

  • ‘He flounted his degree’.
  • Does this mean that s/he flaunted it (showed
  • it off)? Or that s/he flouted it (treated it with
  • contempt)?

Advice on improving spelling

  • Learn the word. Look at it until you know it.
  • Say it slowly to yourself. Without looking at it, write it out (by hand). Check that you got it right. Then write it out several times.
  • Write it in different ways - write it BIG, then small, write it in different colours, in CAPITALS as well as in small letters. Finally, check that you've got it right.

Watch out for similar words such as:

  • ‘THEY DON’T KNOW THEIR THERE FROM THEIR THEY’RE’ The Guardian, Sat, March 1, 2002, 7
  • They’re = they are. ‘They’re good at sport’
  • Their bag/ their theory/ their books / their friends / their house = not mine!

Their or there? Other Errors?

  • People can now change there/their sex.
  • There/their have been much heated discussions raised from Hamlet.
  •  (…) these two central assumptions provide realists with support for there/their argument about the need for states to behave selfishly.
  • During early nineteenth century there/their was very few women thriller writers…

Word Choice

  • Liberalists believe that…
  • This theory of social learning fell into distribute.
  • The Tsunami has had a massive affect on Asian economies.

Word Choice – More Importantly

  • Why do you write???

Do you understand what the authors are saying?

  • From an essay on Romanticism:
    • ‘This new beginning started as a theory to the extremes of change in which new ways of living were reflected in new ways of thinking’.
  • ‘The Dispositio of the speech make’s it very effective on the audience. Queen Elisabeth skilfully starts and ends the speech with digresso this eases the situation she’s in and enables her to deport from the theme of the monopolies’.


  • Remember that you write to be heard
  • You write to communicate
  • You don’t ‘sound academic’ with lots of posy words/phrases
  • Explain words/phrases which are ‘out of the ordinary’/ambiguous


  • Signal that words are missed out – I don’t = I do not. BUT:
  • In general, don’t abbreviate in academic work!
  • I.e. = that is
  • Can’t cook, won’t cook = cannot cook, will not cook
  • Can you explain when else an apostrophe should be used?
  • Analyse the following sentences and draw up a list of rules which details when and when not to use the apostrophe. All sentences are correct.
  • Give examples to support your decision.
  • The blue car's lights were left on so its battery went flat.
  • Kant's works were written in the 1700s.
  • Lisa’s office is E014.
  • The children’s toys were scattered all over the floor.
  • Since the 1960s people’s interest in the environment has grown.
  • Oranges and lemons said the bells of St. Clement’s.
  • Did you watch “Jamie’s Kitchen”? ‘Yes, but I prefer “Hell’s Kitchen”’.

What is the difference?

  • The student’s essays have
  • been marked.
  • The students’ essays have
  • been marked.

Correct or not?

  • The teachers son is called Adam.
  • Weber’s argument is not convincing here.
  • Postmodern feminist thinkers argue that there is no authentic womens experience.

Insert the Apostrophe where necessary

  • Womens needs have been regarded as less important than mens.
  • In one crucial respect, Habermas work represents a major departure from Marxist analysis.


  • Charles Dickens novel Hard Time highlights a number of issues including utilitariansim and industrialisation.
  • Traditionally the assumption of the sexes portrayed that women were confined to the home whist men were the breadwinner’s.


  • Use professional checklists (See Crème and Lea 1997, 119)
  • Analyse tutor comments on your work
  • Turn these comments into questions which you can use to check your next essay.
  • Group the questions into sections – eg Paragraphing; Style; Referencing.

Further Reading

  • Rose, Jean (2001) The Mature Student's Guide to Writing, Basingstoke: Palgrave
  • [Clifton: 808.06637 ROS ]
  • Peck, John and Martin Coyle (1999) The Student's Guide to Writing: Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling, Basingstoke: Palgrave [Clifton: 428 PEC ]


  • offers proofreading strategies.
  • This is a website which discusses the rules and conventions of academic writing and contains a section on accuracy:
  • Accuracy and proof-reading (Warwick Uni: It includes a test with answers:

URLography: checklists

  • Check this out!


  • To practise your apostrophes:
  • These 2 sites are full of quizzes, exercises and tests on all aspects of writing and proofreading:


  • Barnett, Geoff Healthcare Editing Services [online] (Date Accessed: 04/03/04)
  • Woodward, W. (2001) ‘Britain near bottom for adult literacy’[online],4273,4161319,00.html (Date Accessed: 08/12/08)

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