Getting Your Paper into Final Form
If you've followed the steps above, you probably have a good paper so far, but as in all writing endeavors, the first draft is never, ever enough. This rule is almost as important as the plagiarism rule (which, as you remember, is to properly cite all of your sources at all costs). You will always have proofreading to do, and in most cases, you will need to rewrite sections.
Finish your first draft with enough time to take a break before coming back to look at it again. Look over your draft closely. Ask yourself these questions as you check the phrasing of every sentence:
Did you choose the best words to prove your point?
Did you state everything clearly, in an interesting and grammatically correct manner?
You also need to proofread. Word-processing software is a great tool, because it helps you move text quickly. It reduces the amount of paper wasted and lets you correct mistakes efficiently. As discussed in Chapter 2, software spellcheckers can't catch all mistakes. Nor can a program's grammar checker do an even halfway decent job of catching grammar errors. English grammar and phrasing rules are not consistent in every application. Grammar checkers may prompt you to make a change to something that is more wrong than what you wrote!
If you can't rely on your software to catch your mistakes, then what can you do? You have several solutions:
Read your paper out loud. Many errors in phrasing will become evident because you'll be more apt to trip over them as you're reading aloud than if you're simply skimming the paper.
Have someone read your paper out loud to you. You will be even more apt to pick up errors because phrasing or word problems will sound harsh to your ear. (It can help to devise a plan so that you can signal your friend so that he or she knows when to mark whatever passages you wish to go back and review; despite any found errors, such a signal will allow your friend to continue reading without interrupting the flow of your paper.)
Have a friend proofread your paper. Make sure your friend knows to indicate any sentence he or she had to read twice to understand.
Take advantage of your college's writing center. Most universities offer this service for free. Just be sure to check in advance so you allow enough time for one of the workers or volunteers to look over your paper.
A paper free of language errors will make a great impression and make it easier for the reader to focus on what you have to say.