Proofread Your Essay

Check It Out Before You Hand In Your Essay
By Linda Correli

When it comes to finalizing an essay, we often forget or simply do not feel like giving it the final glance so that to make sure the essay is sound as a bell. Unfortunately, we think how stupid it was of us not to pay several minutes to the essay only when we get the it back scribbled all over with the teacher's corrections.

Experience is the best teacher. And next time you will be writing an essay, you'll definitely check it for grammar and punctuation mistakes. Here is what you've got to pay special attention to:

1. Each time you see "its" or "it's" ask yourself: Do I need "its" as a possessive case of "it" or a contraction that will stand for "it is?"

2. Check it out with the rest of the words, such as "you're" and "your", "they're" and "there", "there's" and "theirs." As you might have noticed, unlike contracted phrases, the possessive pronouns never use apostrophes. It would be great if you could learn this rule of thumb by heart.

3. You must make sure all pronouns in your essay are used in the correct pronoun case. Simply determine whether the pronoun in every sentence is used as a subject, an object, or a possessive, and select the pronoun form to match.

4. Do not refer to a lady like "it" and do not call your pet "she". Be sure to use such pronouns as "it," "they," "this," "that," "these," "those," and "which" carefully to refer to definite referents, namely nouns. This way you will prevent confusion and misunderstanding on the reader's part.

5. Make sure everything agrees regarding singular and plural. "My cat and my wife is sleeping," is wrong. To avoid such silly mistakes, you should know all the cases when plural and singular are used. By the way, make sure your plurals don't have an apostrophe before s. It's a rough mistake.

6. See whether you spell "a lot" in two words. And remember that it is ALWAYS two words!

7. Does "too" in your essay mean "also"? If your "too" was meant to be a number 2, change it for "two". If both previous meanings are not your case and you wanted to use a preposition, spell it like "to." It is as simple as that.

8. At least once per essay you are bound to get confused in the meaning of the commonly mixed-up words. Some of the easily confused words are "than" vs. "then," "affect" vs. "effect," "lead" vs. "led," "accept" vs. "except," "advice" vs. "advise," "ensure" vs. "insure" and so on. Enumerating all easily confused words will take too long so you'd better check them out in a good dictionary.

9. Keep an eye on the verb tenses within a sentence and in closely related sentences. "She took a ball and plays with it" won't do.

10. Beware of the dangling modifiers. If you still want to use them, know exactly what each character of your essay is doing and do not make things do something they will never do. Sentences with flying knives and rushing bombs are a real laugh for readers and a headache for teachers.

11. Each time you are reading the sentences in your essay with the word "that", try to find out whether you can delete this word and still achieve clarity. If so, go ahead and kill it. Do the same with the sentences in your essay. Remember that your main goal is to write a meaningful essay, not to write about nothing in 500 words!

12. Check your essay for punctuation. To make it easier, here are the punctuation caveats you should keep in mind when writing your essay: a period shows a full separation of ideas; comma and coordinating conjunction show such relationships as: addition, choice, consequence, contrast, or cause; a semicolon reveals that the second sentence completes the idea that was started in the first sentence.

You may add to this list of last-minute preparations anything you are especially bad at. This way you will make the process of essay writing even more effective and the result even more pleasant.

About the Author: Linda Correli is a staff writer for She specializes in writing History, Literature and English essays and book reports, as well as admission essays, personal statements and letters of recommendation.


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