Take the 2-minute tour ×
Writers Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for authors, editors, reviewers, professional writers, and aspiring writers. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I am no expert in the English language. Things I need to improve are clarity, style and correct use of grammar. Any tips would be helpful.

I am writing a large document and plan to proof read it myself. What are the best tips you have. I am also looking for information on writing style (a reference book would be a good help) on writing text.

share|improve this question

migrated from english.stackexchange.com Dec 31 '13 at 14:45

This question came from our site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts.

    
Related, may or may not be a duplicate but very useful: writers.stackexchange.com/questions/5400/… –  Lauren Ipsum Dec 31 '13 at 18:15
1  
@LaurenIpsum - I think the questions are duplicates. Perhaps we can merge these two; does anyone see any obstacles to that? –  Neil Fein Dec 31 '13 at 20:39

3 Answers 3

There are a few things you can do.

  • Read your work out loud. This will give you a sense of whether your sentence structure works, whether any words are out of place or whether you have redundancy that needs to be fixed. Most of the time you'll catch egregious stuff by just reading things out loud and making sure it sounds right. If you're writing slowly, do this after each paragraph. Make sure you also do it for the whole document when you are finished.

  • Set your work aside for at least a day, then read it to yourself. Be critical; fix anything new you find.

  • Get someone else to read your work, preferably a native speaker. If you don't have someone in real life to do this, try to find someone online who is willing to give you feedback on it. Be open to constructive feedback and make changes.

This will help your grammar, but you also seem to be looking for some advice on composition, so here's what I can give you:

  • Mind your audience. Know what you are writing for, know the conventions of your target audience and make sure you follow them. If you're writing a paper for a conference or class, be sure to understand the standards you need to meet.

  • Start with something smaller, or break your work up into small chunks. If you have time, write several smaller pieces before you take on a big work. If you're writing a novel, try a short story first. If you're writing a research paper, try a summary first.

  • Work off of an outline. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to ramble. As a beginner try to outline each paragraph you're going to write before you write it. In this way your paper will to some degree write itself.

If you do these things, you'll be just fine.

share|improve this answer
1  
I always recommend a second set of eyes. I constantly read over spelling/grammar mistakes when writing because my brain knows what it is supposed to be and simply passes over the mistake. Proofreaders are awesome, try and find someone in your target audience to help you out. edit see...I meant to put this on the question not the answer...ah well its still true. –  James Dec 31 '13 at 15:20
  1. Listen to a text-to-speech program read your work to you. The nice thing about those programs is their stupidity -- whatever you wrote, that's exactly what they read. If you have a word twice in a row, most humans will skip the repeat and never notice. If you leave out a word, most humans will supply it and never notice.

  2. Do a repeated find on commonly mixed-up words, like "there/they're/their," "your/you're," and "its/it's." Verify each time that you are using the correct word. (You can get a personal list of these bugaboo words by searching for "commonly misused words" or "commonly misspelled words," and eliminating the ones that you know you don't mix up.)

  3. Run spell check! It is inexcusable to have blatantly misspelled words in a MSS that you're submitting to someone -- even if it's your editor -- since it's so easy to run spell check. Don't waste other people's time. Even if you're paying them. (Especially if you're paying them??)

  4. Ditto for grammar check. Even though grammar check is not as reliable as spell check, you should still run it. Make sure that any/all grammar flags are either false positives (i.e., not actually bad grammar) or are purposely breaking a grammar rule for effect (and BTW don't do that too often). Again, don't waste people's time.

  5. Read each paragraph, one by one, and ask yourself: "Is the first sentence a proper leading sentence for this paragraph?" If not, fix it, or fix the paragraph. In most writing, especially non-fiction, you should be able to get the gist of a MSS from only the leading sentences of paragraphs.

  6. MS Word has something called outline view. This can be very useful for getting your thoughts organized and ordered (and keeping them that way), especially for long, complex MSSs. If you have outline view available (or something similar), I suggest you figure out how it works and use it.

share|improve this answer

One trick that works for me is to read the pages in reverse order. This stops the text from flowing, and disrupts your tendency to read what you thought you wrote rather than what you actually wrote.

Also, try anything that stops it looking familiar: change the font to a different font from the one you used when you wrote it. If you're proofreading on screen (or using a colour printer) change the colours. Anything you can think of that will make it seem less familiar as you're reading through it.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.