Man proofreading papers whilst also using laptop in library

Proofreading your manuscript

Getting it right is key. An error-free document ensures editors and reviewers can focus on what's important - the information contained in your manuscript.

Laptop and phone

Guide to proofreading

When you are proofreading your work you are generally looking at two key elements:

Coherence and clarity: This is about confirming that the structure of your manuscript is logical and your meaning is clear. Your focus is generally at the paragraph- and section-level.

Accuracy: Here you are carefully checking each sentence for:

  • Incorrect grammar, spelling and punctuation
  • Typing errors
  • Inaccuracies in mathematical or statistical content
  • Incomplete or inaccurate references
  • Style consistency, for example, are you using the same spelling of a word that has variations? Have you written each date the same way?

    Top ten tips for effective proofreading

    1. Build it into your writing schedule and don’t leave it until the last minute.
    2. Wait 24 hours. If you try to proofread just after you have completed your final draft, or after making peer review changes, you will be far too mentally exhausted.
    3. You may need to do several proofreading rounds, looking for different things each time (e.g. one for punctuation, one for spelling, and a separate check for elements, e.g. tables or statistical formulas).
    4. Read the paper backwards, sentence by sentence.
    5. Show the draft to someone else who can view it with a fresh, unbiased pair of eyes.
    6. Know what mistakes you commonly make, for example, words that you commonly misspell, and look out for these in particular.
    7. Try printing it. Sometimes it’s easier to spot errors in a paper version and you can also use a ruler to stop your eye moving down the page too quickly.
    8. Don’t rely on spell check. It has been known to make embarrassing errors. 
    9. Make use of the ‘find and replace’ function if you spot an error you may have repeated elsewhere.
    10. Read each sentence carefully, focusing on its accuracy.

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