A free, comprehensive, peer-reviewed, award-winning Open Text for students and faculty in college-level courses that require writing and research.

Joe Moxley, Founder, WritingCommons.org

Joe Moxley

Founder
WritingCommons.org

Dear Colleagues and Students,

At Writing Commons, we are happy with the overall success of our project. Since 2011, when we launched at WritingCommons.org, we have hosted 6,315,882 users who have reviewed over 11 million pages. We are thrilled that students and faculty find our site to be helpful. Our ongoing mission is to be the best writing textbook possible. We also happen to be free. While we cannot perhaps claim yet that we are the best possible textbook for technical writing or creative writing courses, we are working on that.

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When we proofread a document, we are looking for small errors such as misspellings or accidental omissions.

Have you ever sent off an email message or submitted a school paper only to later discover that it was full of typographical errors?  How could you have missed all of these errors?

The answer seems to have something to do with how our brains work.  Our brains recognize patterns.  This is part of the reason why people who read frequently tend to read faster than infrequent readers: their brains more speedily recognize and process patterns of words on the page.

Texts that we write ourselves are the texts that we can read fastest of all, because our brains are already deeply familiar with the patterns of our words.

But what helps us as readers can hurt us as writers.  When we read our own work, our brains tend to quickly see the patterns that we put on the page rather than the individual words.  We see what we meant to write, and not necessarily what we actually wrote. 

To our readers, however, who are not as familiar with our words, the errors are more apparent—and they detract from our credibility as authors.

To proofread effectively, we need to distance ourselves from the text and see it as our readers will see it.  

Towards this end, consider the following proofreading strategies:

  • Allow as much time as possible between when you complete a document and when you proofread it. For example, if you finish writing in the evening, wait until morning to proofread.
  • Print out the document before attempting to proofread it. If this isn’t an option, try enlarging the text size on your screen. This larger view will make errors somewhat easier to see.
  • Read the document aloud. Read slowly. Make sure you are reading the text itself rather than reading from memory.
  • Read the document backwards—not word-by-word, but sentence-by-sentence. Again, read slowly.
  • Ask a friend or family member to read your paper out loud to you while you silently read along on a second copy of the paper. (This two-reader method is used by many professional proofreaders.)
  • Run your paper through a text-to-speech converter, and have a computer read it to you. The computer voice defamiliarizes your words and sets a steady pace that prevents you from skimming over sections of text that you know well. Free web-based online text-to-speech converters can be found at https://www.text2speech.org/ and https://www.yakitome.com. Two text-to-speech mobile apps are iSpeech (iOS) and Classic Text to Speech (Android).

Cassandra Branham, Editor-in-Chief WritingCommons.org

Cassandra Branham

Editor-in-Chief
WritingCommons.org

Dear Colleagues and Students,

Welcome to Writing Commons, an open-education resource for instructors and students of writing across the disciplines. Our mission is to provide a high-quality, cost free resource to support students in the development of writing, research, and critical thinking practices.

This summer, we have been working on a site redesign in an effort to increase the usability of our site for both instructors and students. Our most significant change has been the inclusion of additional categories and subcategories to create a more intuitive hierarchy within the site.

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