So you’re almost done, ready to attach the draft of your dissertation proposal in an e-mail to your mentor. But before you send a potentially error-ridden document to one of the most important people in your life right now, have you thoroughly proofread your proposal? If not or you’re just starting the proposal process, here are six tips to keep in mind:
The cliché two minds are better than one is certainly applicable to proofreading. What you miss your fellow proofreader may catch and vice-versa. A document as lengthy as a proposal has more information in it, and therefore a greater chance exists of a single reader missing errors.
It’s a good idea to proofread as you go along. It is easier to maintain focus for briefer periods of time. If you wait until the end of the writing process, you may be forced to proofread for longer periods of time, which equates to more missed errors.
In addition to grammar, punctuation, and typographical elements, the proofreader reading a proposal must be cognizant of formatting issues. Errors often creep up around in-text citations and special formatting rules. If you have the time, it is certainly beneficial to scan for the usual suspects first, and then focus on formatting problems during a second or third read-through.
Which is the better proofreader, the tortoise or the hare? Without question, reading a text slowly allows you to catch more errors. Problems occur because reading is a fast process compared to proofreading, and since proofreading involves the act of reading, we sometimes, out of habit, move a little too quickly through the text. Slow down and concentrate on the words.
When we read silently, we don’t necessarily read every word, often relying on our brains to fill in the lexical gaps, skipping what our brains may perceive as non-essential information in the meaning-making process. This tendency can be exacerbated by the fact that, being so familiar with our own writing, we may mentally flip on the autopilot switch, thereby missing important errors. Reading out loud allows us to catch errors that our eyes might have skipped.
Many people claim it is easier to catch errors on the printed versus electronic page. It is certainly more comfortable on the eyes and the black-and-white contrast is perhaps beneficial. A couple of helpful hints: adjust your printer to the “fast print” mode so you don’t waste ink, and use the blank sides of discarded pages that have already been printed so as not to waste paper. Switching to a thinner font can also save ink.
To reiterate, proposals tend to be long documents, so it is a good idea to have an overall proofreading strategy. Applying these tips will make the proofreading process easier and help you catch more errors. By submitting a relatively error-free document, you mentor or adviser will appreciate having to be less a proofreader and more of a mentor, helping to speed up the dissertation completion process.