The Hub Improve your writing with these proofreading strategies
Dear Write Site

Improve your writing with these proofreading strategies

By: Sarah-Jean Watt, Write Site coordinator

Dear Write Site is a new series that equips Athabasca University (AU) learners with tips and tricks to improve their writing—whether it’s for an essay, research paper, or the next great novel. We will feature advice from the Write Site, AU’s academic writing support services, with answers to learner questions.

Dear Write Site,

I’ve heard that reading my work out loud to myself will help me catch errors. Do you recommend this as a way to proofread?

—Eager Proofreader

Dear Eager Proofreader,

Reading aloud can be a good starting place for editing, but there are strategies that are much more effective for proofreading.

Text-to-speech tools

My number-one recommended proofreading strategy is having the computer read your paper to you with a text-to-speech tool. Research has shown that reading papers aloud helps students to improve technical word choices and content, but did not help them to effectively hear and fix their grammatical errors.

Text-to-speech tools can improve both style and grammar through hearing. Such tools also highlight words as they read, allowing writers to comprehend a word’s visual and auditory parts at once.


The tool Read&Write highlights text at both the sentence and word level, perhaps allowing writers to more effectively see their errors in the context of each sentence. I encourage writers who are deaf or hard of hearing to try the tool for this visual component (see image below).

Using Read&Write tool for proofreading.

The highlighted text at both the word and sentence level has the potential to help writers see their errors. The text-to-speech function helps writers hear their errors.

To use Read&Write, download it, then choose “Sign in with Microsoft” and log in with your AU credentials. If you have any difficulties signing into the software, please contact us at the Write Site.


Some writers may prefer the text-to-speech tool built into Microsoft Office, ReadAloud, found under the “Review” tab in the Word and Outlook desktop apps (see image below).

How to find the ReadAloud tool in Microsoft Word.

ReadAloud only highlights at the word level and has fewer features than Read&Write, but does not require extra software.

Using error logs to identify mistakes

If you prefer or require another strategy, an error log is another useful tool. An error log is a list of the errors you know you commonly make.

As you receive feedback on your writing from your tutor, instructor, or writing coach, fill out your error log so you will have a record to use the next time you proofread a paper (see image below). Research has also shown that using a checklist can decrease errors during proofreading. Keeping your own checklist can remind you of the errors to look for.

Table with 4 colums. From L-R Error Type - Inncorect article. Example -
A sample error log entry.

While you are learning how to correct errors, you may want to proofread the paper once for each error, focused on just that one error type. This will save you time in the long-term by increasing your ability to identify and fix each error type effectively.

Other proofreading strategies

There are several strategies that you can use to improve your proofreading. First, before beginning the writing process, plan ahead to allow time for proofreading prior to submitting your paper. Then, ensure you:

  • Let time pass after writing and revising before proofreading
  • Proofread when you are most alert
  • Make your environment comfortable with good lighting
  • Reduce distractions around you
  • Allow for breaks to refresh your mind
  • Proofread more than once

Believe it or not, I proofread this letter more than once using multiple strategies. Proofreading is always worth it to produce a polished result!


Sarah-Jean Watt, Write Site coordinator

For questions about using text-to-speech tools and other proofreading strategies, contact the Write Site.

The Write Site offers services that support AU students with academic writing. With support from the Write Site’s writing coaches, learners can discuss writing questions and receive feedback about the writing aspects of assignments. Writing coaching is usually most helpful when a learner’s goal is to develop writing skills within the context of course work over time.

Filed Under:
  • February 3, 2022
Guest Blog from:
Sarah-Jean Watt, Write Site coordinator