White hand in red sleeve holding red pen over essay with edit marks

5 Tips to Help You Proofread Your Own Essays Like a Pro

Proofreading may not be your forte, but it's a skill you can develop! Here are five tips to become a better proofreader with your own essays and work.

Proofreading is a vital part of the essay writing process. It ensures your written work is error-free and accurately conveys your intended message. While many students may skip or be intimidated by this step, it’s not as tricky as it seems. With these five tips, you can learn how to proofread like a pro and ensure your essays are practically flawless.

1. Read it backward

The most common proofreading method is to read your essay out loud. However, this can be tedious and time-consuming. An alternative approach that can be highly effective is to read your essay backward. This technique requires you to start at the last sentence of your essay and work your way back through each line. Reading it this way helps you focus on the words rather than getting caught up in the flow of the content or structure of arguments. You’re more likely to spot grammatical errors this way as your eyes aren’t following a natural pattern. 

Related: Writing Habits to Kick Before Going to College

2. Make a list of your mistakes

Making a list of any errors you uncover is crucial while editing your work. By doing this, you'll find it simpler to monitor the areas of writing you need to work on and ensure you're correcting any potential errors. This is also an excellent rewriting tool because it gives you a quick visual signal to refer to while working on a piece of writing. The first step in making a list of mistakes is identifying common errors, including:

  • Typos
  • Improper grammar
  • Punctuation
  • Syntax (sentence structure) and diction (word choice) 

It’s helpful to organize by mistake types so it’s easier to find them when revisiting your essay. For example, have one section for typos you often make and another for grammatical errors.

After identifying the types of mistakes to look out for, it’s time to make your list! Start by thoroughly reading your essay and noting any areas that require improvement. If a section needs more than one edit, jot down specific notes so you can refer back to them later. For example, if there are multiple typos in one paragraph, write down "typo" on your list and the page number and line numbers where they appear. Once you’ve made your list of mistakes, it’ll be much easier to focus on improving these areas individually.

3. Use a digital automated proofreading tool

A great way to proofread your paper is with a paper checker—an automated program that scans your article and identifies any errors, typos, or inconsistencies in your writing. It’ll provide helpful feedback on grammar, spelling, structure, and formatting to ensure your paper is of the highest quality. Tools like these will perform a complete scan of your paper—looking for any potential spelling, grammar, and formatting irregularities—and offer tips on how to make your writing easier to read overall. In addition, using plagiarism detection tools can help you feel confident that your paper is completely original and hasn’t been plagiarized unintentionally. Always read over the input you receive with a paper checker and keep the advice provided in mind to enhance your work, but realize technology isn’t perfect and shouldn’t be relied on totally.

Related: 5 Helpful Ways to Improve Your Writing in College

4. Avoid negatives and passive voice

A good rule of thumb for a great essay is to stay away from negative and passive language and voice. Negative words such as “no,” “not,” and “never” could weaken the impact of your essay and make it difficult for readers to understand your meaning. Similarly, using passive language—such as “The war was won” instead of “They won the war”—could potentially confuse your readers. Spend some time changing any negative words or passive voice to more positive and active ones. This will help make your arguments more concise and clear.

5. Check your word usage

It’s essential to evaluate word choice as you proofread your essay. You must ensure you utilize words and expressions appropriately in the context of your topic or argument. Using the wrong term or phrase in a place where it doesn’t make sense is a common error many writers commit—for example, mixing up “they’re,” “there,” and “their.” These errors can reduce the impact of your essay and cause misunderstanding. That’s why it’s essential to take the time to consider how you use words carefully for the utmost clarity.

Related: 7 Tips to Boost Your Writing for Homework and Essays

Proofreading your essays may seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. With these tips, you can quickly become a pro at proofreading. Start by reading the article out loud, looking for structure and organizational mistakes. Then use a spellchecker to catch spelling errors. After that, look for grammar and punctuation mistakes. Finally, make sure your ideas are clear and concise by removing any unnecessary words or phrases. With practice, you can become an expert proofreader in no time!

Looking for academic advice beyond writing tips? Check out all Our Best Advice for Homework, Studying, and Tests.

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now


About Marquis M.

Marquis is as free as the Statue of Liberty. She is now a part-time writer who loves to write articles based on surviving college and a professional blogger whose work revolves around blogging, managing websites, web content, and social media.


Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
Dani York

Dani York

High School Class of 2022

CollegeXpress helped in my journey by comparing multiple colleges for my final decision. While looking at different colleges, I was able to compare the tuition expenses and that landed me with the college that I’m currently enrolled in, Western Kentucky University. Thank you!



High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress helped me find the school I am currently attending by consistently sending me emails of other schools. This allowed me to do research on other schools as well as the one I am in now!

Fabiola Rodriguez

Fabiola Rodriguez

High School Class of 2022

CollegeXpress helped me on my journey to get to the school of my first choice by showing me all the options I have. I didn’t know of the College of Southern Nevada until I went on this website, and it helped me look for other choices and compare what colleges would be right for me.

Abhishek Kumar

Abhishek Kumar

High School Class of 2022

As a high schooler, I know how hard it is to plan for college. You have to consider a lot of factors: SAT/ACT scores, college searches, scholarships, and more. CollegeXpress has been a helpful resource that solves all these problems. One can easily create a free account and search away. They help you search for scholarships and colleges, they have graduate program search, they have lists and rankings, and so much more. CX also has a lot of articles and advice to read—whether it’s financial aid, test prep, campus visits, internships/careers, or anything. Not only that, CX gives out free scholarship money to students who sign up and create a free CX account. I love CX and will continue to use it! Thank you CollegeXpress for making my college journey easier!

Jeff Parsons

Jeff Parsons


Thank you so much for this valuable information about these opportunities. I truly appreciate the CollegeXpress communications and use them to keep my high school seniors informed about their opportunities!

College Matches

Colleges You May Be Interested In

Fort Lewis College

Durango, CO

Vanderbilt University

Nashville, TN