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This was a really hard essay to write. Not because I couldn't figure out what to write about; I knew almost from the moment I read the prompt that I wanted to write about Dracula. On the contrary, it was hard because I had TOO MANY ideas for this essay – I had so many thoughts buzzing excitedly around in my head that my outlines kept coming out really scattered and disorganized. I went through, no joke, at least FOUR different outlines for this essay – and I refused to even start writing a draft until I'd sorted out what precisely was wrong with my outline, scrapped it for the third time, and started over from scratch. I went through several different organizational schemes, starting with one centered around a favorite Hitchcock quote about suspense that was a good idea, but ultimately, had no place in this particular essay. My outline eventually settled on the format that probably should have been obvious from the start – the one that related most closely to the prompt. My outline... read more

Hello everyone! Or should I say kazoozampola! That is Dzongkha (the national language of Bhutan) for HELLO! After a few months away in the Land of the Thunder Dragon, the Kingdom of Bhutan, teaching at the Royal University of Bhutan, I am back and ready to see you. I am ready to apply some of the insights into teaching that I gained on this last adventure. Every year or so I try to freshen my approach to teaching. Subjects don't change that much. Let's face it - spelling stays pretty much the same, as does the pronunciation of words, and the structure of a sentence. But HOW to teach these topics -whether to a high school student struggling with essay writing or a business executive getting prepared for a presentation, or a non-native speaker hoping to improve his job prospects - refreshing teaching methods keeps me fresh, and keeps you interested (and helps towards better results). A few years ago I took some ASL (American Sign Language) courses to help inform my teaching... read more

Before submitting or printing an academic research paper, essay, email, memo, or any other written document, it is very important to carefully proofread it. Proofreading of written material is the final step that must be taken before a document can be considered complete. When proofreading a document, you should first read it slowly and carefully to determine whether or not it communicates its message. If the title or the introductory paragraph do not clearly signal the intent of the paper or if the paragraphs that follow do not naturally flow from that introduction, you might want to rewrite those parts of your paper. If the research does not seem to verify what you are attempting to communicate, you may wish to rethink your thesis or you may need to conduct further research. Once that part of the proofreading process, the overview editing, has been completed, it is time to perform a more exacting analysis of the paper. During this part of the proofreading procedure,... read more

Many people, myself included, feel that for all its advantages, the internet has precipitated a steady decline in the quality of writing. Anyone can write anything anywhere, and while that gives a voice to many who otherwise might not have a public forum to share what they have to say, it also makes it difficult and sometimes impossible to uphold any sort of standards.   That said, the internet also offers plenty of resources for improving your writing. Here are a few of my favorites:   Dictionary.com http://dictionary.reference.com Here you'll also find a thesaurus and several other reference tools. It may not be the Oxford English Dictionary, but it gives you plenty of good definitions and sometimes includes usage notes with practical implications for your writing, like differences in how similar words are typically used.   Difference Between http://www.differencebetween.com Speaking of differences, this is a really cool site... read more

Here is information on what I do, how I bill, and what I need from you. Feel free to read the entire blog, or just skim the bold headings until you see the type of proofreading you need. I look forward to working with you! For $5 per unit, I will do the following: Proofread your paper for grammar, spelling, and punctuation. ($5 per 1200 words)  Provide notes explaining the changes I suggest. Make these changes (tentatively) in your paper and mark them in red print. I am: Certified in Teaching English as a Second Language Experienced in proofreading college-level academic writing, having done so as an employee of a nearby college and as a professional tutor Ethical and attentive to detail How it works: Message me and let me know what you are looking for in a proofreader. See the “extras” below for more options, and let me know if you need a service that is not listed. Charges: o $5 per 1200 words for basic... read more

This afternoon, I found myself writing to one of my ESL students: ______________________ Hello, XXXXXX--- I am imagining you and your dog having a fine time at the cabin as I write this. I bet you are in the cabin as well. In the first sentence at the cabin is correct, just as you would say "I am at home" rather than in home. It would also be correct to say "I'm in the house" rather than outside in the yard. When you are at home, the yard is included. When you are in the house, the yard is excluded. With cabin, the same word is used both ways. When you are at the cabin, the exterior property is included, but when you are in the cabin, it is excluded. By the way, while you might be in your yard, you would be on your property. ______________________ Preposition problems are common to all but the most advanced English language learners, including many native speakers. After sending my student this email, I realized the word office... read more

Wow! I can't believe I'm opening a tutoring business. Well, it's to serve the community but it's also to empower me as an independent contractor. Hopefully I'll be working from home, but if there's a need out there, requiring my assistance, I'll be on my way to enlighten people at whatever the outpost it is - within 15 mile radius, though (let's not get carried away here) :)

As you probably know, the same sorts of errors appear year after year in the Improving Sentences and Identifying Sentence Errors sub-sections of the SAT Writing Test.  Some might say ETS is striving for reliability, but the beret-wearing inner writer in me says they just lack imagination.   Many of these errors, unfortunately, require students to read and carefully consider all options before identifying the error and selecting the right answer, but at least one sort of commonly (not to say "universally," in test after test after test) appearing error is easy to spot and correct; I have trained even the most grammatically / stylistically challenged students to correctly answer such questions in 5 seconds at most, freeing up precious time to spend on the more nuanced items.   The error is the dangling modifier.   In case you're a little rusty, or have sensibly been spending your time thinking about almost anything other than esoteric... read more

Computerized spell-check can be a handy time-saver when writing papers, and many students swear by it. However amazing it may be, though, spell-check is still just a computer program, and as such should not be considered a substitute for proofreading with human eyes. As evidence, here are three common mistakes that spell-check won't catch. Proper Nouns Spell-check uses a dictionary to compare the words you type to existing words. Proper nouns, like names of people or places, usually won't be in the computer's dictionary, and so the spell-check will flag them as misspelled. This means that when you proofread, you'll have to ignore the wavy underline under those names. But this can also backfire – what if you happened to misspell that name? The computer will underline it same as before, but your brain is already prepared to ignore underlining on that name so you run the risk of not catching it yourself. This is one reason I advocate actually printing out a hard copy of your... read more

Here is a sample proofreading checklist which I created for one of my English Language Learner (ELL) students. It is not an exhaustive list, because it is targeted to her most frequent errors.    Proofreading Checklist Did I check… 1. Spelling ?  Microsoft Office Spelling and Grammar check? ? Spelling of proper nouns (specific people, places, things?) ? Example: President Barack Obama 2. Grammar ? Circle all the verbs? ? Check subject/verb agreement? ? Check the verb: o Tense o Spelling 3. Sentence Structure   ? Correct any sentences that are too long? o Add a good variety of short and long sentences? 4. Punctuation ? Put a box around each punctuation mark? ? Check apostrophes? o They should be for possessives (show ownership) or in place of a letter ? Example?: That is Joe's essay. ? Example2 : It’s (It is) a nice day. ? Commas... read more

A semicolon connects two independent but related clauses, or thoughts. When To Use a Semicolon: If the two clauses could stand on their own as two complete sentences. Note: Use sparingly! One a paragraph at absolute most. Too many semicolons can interrupt the flow of an essay. Do Not: Use a semicolon with conjunctions (and, but, or, nor, yet, etc.). CORRECT: My baby sister has cried every night this week; I've hardly slept in days. INCORRECT: I didn't feel like doing my homework; so I went for a jog instead.

As you know, all teachers (and tutors!) were once students. So they know all the pitfalls that can cause a student to not get their homework done. The reason can be social - maybe the student wants to get his or her work done but the distraction of all the social media is too much to resist. The reason can also be academic - maybe the subject is difficult, such as challenging concepts or perhaps they're faced with an assignment that didn't get explained well enough to be done independently. Or sometimes it's the dreaded PROCRASTINATION. That can be the worst of all reasons to not get work done because the longer you procrastinate, the more the work piles up and then the student becomes "paralyzed", overwhelmed by the mountain of work that has accumulated. When procrastination has gotten the better of you, the important thing is to not let yourself be so overwhelmed that you don't do the work at all. Here's what you do: PRIORITIZE AND GET STARTED! It is a simple phrase... read more

You have one hour with a college prep specialist who can help make your admissions/scholarship essays award winning.  How can you maximize your time?  Here are five tips to get the most out of your time:   Come Prepared. - Bring the essay prompts from each of your colleges.  Bring a sample personal statement and resume.  Be sure to have any information necessary to complete an admissions essay, to include your GPA, test scores, and any major accomplishments. Know Thyself - Always know your stats.  During this time, knowing your GPA and SAT score is as important as knowing your name and birthdate.  Also, know (and have a list of) your interests, hobbies, favorite subjects, etc.  Have an idea of at least 3 possible majors and careers you would like to explore. Be on Time - There is a lot to cover!  The better prepared and earlier you are, the more likely we are to get a lot done. Also, I tend to take my time... read more

To help you edit a document for spelling, do NOT trust spell-checker. I told our fourth-grade daughter the same some years back when she was preparing a paper on the Yaqui Indian Nation. An aquaculture, they catch lots of fish.  Her paper ended up saying they most enjoyed eating "white surgeons."   Hilarious.   Spell-checker missed the irony, of course, and she would've submitted the cannibalistic sentence were it not for Daddy's vigilant proofread.   To avoid the same pitfall, it is very useful to check for spelling by going backwards through your document from end to beginning. Avoid reading the sentences in reverse order: literally read the document backwards word-by-word.   This helps you avoid reading quickly through sentences you've written yourself and accidentally skipping over speling misteaks. (Ha ha!)

One of the more frustrating things about tutoring is when students or their parents want to treat tutoring like a quick fix. In other words, sometimes they want to meet the night before a test and cram for said test in hopes of getting a better grade. On the surface, this problem might work, but it treats the symptoms rather than the root of the problem. If you're going to take the time to invest in a tutor, then here are a couple of suggestions. First, try to catch the problem early. If you (or your child) is struggling in a subject, get help right away. Don't wait until you (or your child) feels that overwhelming feeling that comes when one is completely lost in information. The sooner a tutor can get involved, the better the tutor can help a student to stay on track. Work with your tutor to adopt a thorough approach to the subject. It is not enough to learn the facts of a subject, but also to learn the reasons behind those facts. If you want to do well in a subject,... read more

I love sandwiches. In fact, to say I love sandwiches would be an understatement. Sandwiches are a staple for me. I occasionally like to buy them from a deli or bakery, as it’s important to me to experience the work of a fellow sandwich connoisseur; however, I do spend a great deal of time making them in my own kitchen. I like to use a variety of breads – dark Jewish rye, croissant, focaccia, rosemary olive oil. The choices are endless, but once I’m finally able to decide on what type of crust I’d like, I’m usually much faster at choosing the meat and cheese. I like to keep it simple. Honey ham, bacon, grilled chicken, or herb turkey. If I’m feeling fancy, I’ll pull the Havarti cheese out of the refrigerator. If I’m feeling ordinary, I’ll choose pepper jack. Sometimes I’ll add banana peppers or jalapeños if I’m feeling especially risqué. And then there’s the ultimate question: romaine lettuce or spinach? Both are healthy for you, but you usually don’t get the crisp texture when... read more

Ernest Hemingway is one of the American writers of all time, but that did not happen overnight. Hemingway was a great writer because he accepted the fact that even great writers write terrible first drafts. The real magic happens in revision. As a writer, the most important thing to do is write. The time to be critical of your writing is when you come back to it for revision later. 

Q. Where will we meet for tutoring? A. We will try to find a suitable place that is convenient for both of us. Though I do travel to meet you, time and distance are important factors in making this work feasible and profitable for me, so I try to find locations that minimize my travel time, while also providing convenience to you. Q. How will we decide on a time to meet? A. We will try to find a suitable time that is convenient for both of us. Q. When are you available to tutor? A. It varies from week to week, but my general availability begins at 10:00 a.m., Monday through Saturday, and ends at 9:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, and at 3:00 pm Saturday. Please contact me for my current availability. Q. How long will each session be? A. The session length can vary, depending on the subject, the student, and the schedule. Unless otherwise agreed, the session times will be two (2) hours each. Q. Why do you recommend two (2) hours per session? A. Through... read more

When I started this post all I had in front of me was a blank white screen and a blinking cursor. Maybe you know the experience. Maybe you have a report due for school or work, and now that you put it off as long as possible, it is time to sit down and write. Dread washes over the inexperienced writer like waves on a beach. "What should I write about?", "How do I start?", "I'm going to fail this class!" Been there, done that. Here's some free help: The best way to start writing is just to...start writing! Let's say your paper is on the life of American author Henry David Thoreau. What should your first sentence be when you sit down to write? How about, "Today I went to Wal-Mart and bought groceries." Yes, that's it! Are you going to include that first thought in your final paper? No way! But the point is, don't be afraid to just start typing whatever comes to your mind. Just get your creative juices flowing. Write now, edit later. Let your... read more

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