Proofreading guide for students

Late last year I wrote and published a series of posts on proofreading advice. This is the first of those posts: Proofreading advice: take a break.

GuideI have put a lot of that advice into a PDF guide that is now available on my Resources and Information for Students pages. You can also download it by clicking on the image opposite.

My 4-page guide has been written primarily for students. I enjoy working on dissertations and theses, but not all students can use the services of a proofreader. If you aren’t allowed to use professional help, or if money is tight, I hope this guide will be of some assistance.

It contains four steps to help you prepare for proofreading your own work, as well as a list of common errors to look out for. The common errors include mixed -ize/-ise endings, incorrect use of apostrophes, and references that aren’t according to style.

Authors may not find all of the advice relevant to them, but they will probably find some of the information of use.

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Irregular verbs

A verb is irregular if its past tense and past participle do not follow the regular pattern of adding -ed (or -d) to the base form.

Regular verbs:

arrive – past tense arrived, past participle arrived
cook – past tense cooked, past participle cooked

Irregular verbs:

eat – past tense ate, past participle eaten
lose – past tense lost, past participle lost

PencilMost native English speakers have a good grasp of which verbs they can’t stick -ed on the end of. To native ears, forms such as I catched or I have readed sound childish or unnatural. It isn’t always as obvious for non-native speakers.

Native speakers do sometimes find it difficult to pick the correct form for past tense and past participle. For example, is rang or rung the past participle of ring?

Simple present: I ring
Simple past tense: I rang
Past participle: I have/had rung

There isn’t really a rule or tip I can give to help here, except maybe to list all the forms. And so that’s what I have done. You can download a comprehensive (I think) list of irregular verb forms by visiting my Resources page or clicking this link: Irregular verbs.

Sample style sheet

Crumpled paperI have previously recommended creating your own style sheet to aid you when you are proofreading. If you aren’t sure where to start, I have produced a sample to help.

The layout is the same as the one I use when compiling a style sheet for the projects I proofread. All my non-publisher clients get a copy of the style sheet for their own reference once I have completed proofreading.

The sample is for a made-up project, but it should give you an idea of the things to consider. I have also included some formatting and layout elements you would need to think about as you get ready to publish (e.g. chapter headings and page numbering).

I would advise recording the decisions you make as early as possible (particularly the basic ones such as is/iz suffixes and single or double quote marks). If you do create a style sheet and later employ an editorial professional, send them a copy. It’s really very helpful!

I have uploaded a blank copy of the style sheet for anyone’s use (although if you share it I would appreciate a link back to my original). The sample is for a novel, but you can make adjustments to the blank copy for any writing project.

You can find the sample and the blank style sheet on my Resources page or download the sample by clicking this link: Sample style sheet.