Proofreading your work

It is bank holiday in the UK. That means two things: the weather is horrible and the DIY shops are full! Just as we headed into the long weekend, the temperature fell and it started raining! How does it know to do that??

Classes at my university have finished for the year which means that exams are coming up in a few weeks. Examinations are particularly hard for overseas students, especially if they have to write essays. I always tell my students to make sure they do two important things in an exam: spend time thinking and planning your writing before you start the real essay, and make sure you finish early so that you can check your work before the end of the exam. Students who just plunge straight into writing an essay often make so many corrections and additions as they go along that when they hand in their work it looks terrible and is difficult to read. Presentation is important! Think about the poor examiner who has to grade hundreds of essays. If your essay has a plan at the start of it, followed by the essay itself, it is likely that the marker will be impressed. One lecturer told me that if he saw notes in the plan that the student had not managed to get into the essay for some reason (like running out of time) then he would still be inclined to give marks for the ideas.
The other thing to do is to check your work carefully for grammar and content and after you’ve written it. This is a skill which you can practise and get better at. The Online Writing Lab at Purdue University has lots of good material on academic writing. Check out its ‘Finding Common Errors’ page here.