Writing tip of the week

by Harriet Castor

[Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow in the Department of Arts & Cultural Industries] 

When you’re writing an essay or a dissertation, never underestimate the importance of the proof-reading stage. Here are my top tips for proof-reading:

1. Plan enough time before the deadline to enable you to take a break from your work. Don’t look at your draft for at least 24 hours, so that you can come back to it with fresh eyes. Then…

2. Print it out. There is scientific evidence to prove that we spot more mistakes when we read work on paper, rather than on screen (it’s to do with generated and reflected light, apparently).

3. Read it out loud. This may feel weird, but it is worth it. Take it slowly and let yourself hear it; your ears have their own expertise. If you find sentences difficult to read, that’s a pretty sure sign that they need some work to make them clearer or more straightforward. Don’t be afraid to split a long, complicated sentence into two shorter ones if that helps. Listen for the thread of your argument, from sentence to sentence and from paragraph to paragraph. Is it clear and easy to follow? 

If you’d like to book a confidential one-to-one session with me to work on your writing skills, please email Harriet.Castor@uwe.ac.uk I’m at Frenchay on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

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