How to proofread for grammar mistakes

17 February 2011


  Image by jarodkintz


Word count: 465

Estimated reading time: 4-5 minutes


Have you ever wondered – how can I proofread my writing if I don’t even know which grammar mistakes I’m making?


Here are some tips on how to get around that problem and develop your proofreading skills.


Discover your problem areas

First, you need to discover precisely which grammar mistakes you usually make. To do that, take a grammar diagnostic test, like the one located here.


This f.ree test takes about 20 minutes, and you’ll get immediate feedback. Then you’ll know which grammar mistakes to be aware of while you proofread, as well as grammar areas you need to study.


Take it one bite at a time

If you cram food down your mouth without chewing it properly, you’ll end up with an upset stomach.


If you try to learn grammar all at one go, you’ll end up with an upset stomach (from stress). And you’ll never really learn correct grammar.


So be patient and focus on one small area at a time.


‘Chew’ thoroughly

The purpose of the ‘Grammar Bites’ series is to help you become aware of common grammar mistakes. Here’s how to ‘chew’ each of those bites and become a better proofreader.


On the ‘Favourites’ page, you’ll find a list of all the ‘Grammar Bite’ posts. Based on the results of your diagnostic test, choose one of the posts, and read it again.


Then for a full week (or even longer), proofread everything you write, looking only for that single type of mistake. Every time you find one, correct it.


After a week or two, choose another type of mistake for your proofreading focus, and so on.


This method will help you build the habit of looking for and correcting specific types of mistakes.


Create your own proofreading checklist

While you’re using the ‘bite by bite’ method of proofreading, keep a list of the types of mistakes you commonly make. Then refer to your checklist every time you proofread.


(For convenience, you can also include links to useful online grammar resources on this checklist and keep it on your computer desktop.)


Here’s a sample checklist you can get started with. Just add or delete items as necessary.


Proofreading checklist

--all ready or already

--all right or alright

--all together or altogether

--articles (with singular nouns)

--besides or in addition


--passive voice (transitive verbs/intransitive verbs)

--word type (nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs etc)

--present perfect tense or simple past tense

--simple past tense or past perfect tense

--subject & verb agreement

--will or would


(If you can’t find the help you need from the ‘Grammar Bites’ series, there are many online grammar resources to check. Here are two that I can recommend: Grammar Girl and Kenneth Beare’s English as a Second Language.)

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