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    Importance of having oversight -- and secondary input

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    This discussion summarises a question that often comes up by students and professional writers looking to fine-tune their works before submission. In quite a few cases, the individuals hold the technical know-how and linguistic command to proofread documents. Naturally, many of them consider the idea of handling their own proofreading. However, this is not necessarily the best approach when it comes to dealing with one's own work, and this discussion addresses some of the reasons why proofreading one's own work might not always produce the best results, along with basic solutions to deal with associated challenges.

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    The quality and consistency of grammar, syntax and spelling, in both academic and professionally published documents, remains a pertinent matter of concern. Many writers and students also happen to have adequate experience in basic proofreading to deal with such matters. In certain cases, the writer in question might even have an academic qualification in a subject relating to writing, editing and publishing. However, there is something to be said about competent writers proofreading their own work before submission, which can compromise the quality of the proofreading.

    When it comes to detecting grammatical and syntax errors, as well as structural consistency issues in documents, a writer engaged in both the act of putting together the document and then laying down the finer touches, might habituate to the standard pattern of errors and slipups that are naturally bound to occur in the document. In other words, writers are at risk of making common mistakes while engrossed in putting together a document, which is perfectly normal and to be expected, but in the process they also become accustomed to the mistakes in a manner where they might miss out on detecting the mistakes even when engaged in proofreading their own work (Rieffer, 1993).

    In a manner of speaking, it helps to have the writing process undergo a kind of peer review, by having someone else do the actual proofreading. This works because the other party isn't at a loss of perspective from being overly invested in the actual writing process, so the finer errors, especially typos, that the writer may have become accustomed to the point of being blind to noticing them, are more likely to stand and strike out at someone who isn't habituated to the pattern of such errors as the author of the document. This can be of particular help to individuals with learning difficulties (Raskind & Higgins, 1995).

    There are some strategies and techniques to deal with the issue of getting one's document adequately proofread.

    For one, students can develop a kind of rapport where they can mutually agree to proofread each other's work, which often benefits both sides of the arrangement.

    For those who just cannot or will not have someone else check their document, a functional approach can involve putting adequate space in terms of time span between the actual writing and checking processes. This means that once the writer is done with their document, they should take a meaningful break from the writing process, and then return to the document for proofreading by which point their previously accustomed issues in perspective would have cleared up and one would be more clear-minded and open to detecting such errors.

    Another tactic can involve reading one's work out aloud. This is particularly helpful as we tend to inadvertently overlook out typos while writing, knowing what we may have meant. Therefore, saying each sentence out loud can help voice out such errors that are normally overlooked during the writing process. Of course, this process can be time consuming, but it is also highly effective.

    Also, in some cases, reading back on one's work in printed form can be helpful. This comes down to a mix of the change in the medium - from screen to paper - and the break that is created between the writing and reading process as we cannot actively delete and re-do parts of a physically printed copy (Gibson, 2008).

    Ultimately, writers do understand the importance of having a well polished document that contains minimal errors by way of grammar, syntax, spelling and structure; of course, nothing and nobody is absolute perfect, but it goes a long way to strive for perfection. This is why publications prioritise editing and proofing processes while academic assessment procedures tend to favour well-polished documents. One can either take the approach of polishing their own document, but this involves careful handling and compartmentalisation of the writing and proofreading process; knowing how to hone two distinctly different perspectives. Alternatively, one can have someone else handle the proofreading part. All in all, as far as clichés go, it never hurts to have a second pair of eyes, or a distinctly secondary perspective, especially when it comes to producing academic or professionally published written content.


    Gibson, S. (2008). Reading aloud: a useful learning tool? ELT Journal, 62(1), 29-36. doi:10.1093/elt/ccm075

    Raskind, M. H., & Higgins, E. (1995). Effects of Speech Synthesis on the Proofreading Efficiency of Postsecondary Students with Learning Disabilities. Learning Disability Quarterly, 18(2), 141-158. doi:10.2307/1511201

    Rieffer, D. M. (1993). BEHAVIOR ENGINEERING PROPOSALS: 5. AN EXPERIMENTAL COMPARISON OF TEAM VERSUS SOLO PROOFREADING. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 76(1), 111-117. doi:10.2466/pms.1993.76.1.11.

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