A teacher has great responsibility to prepare the students for the real world. All those lessons and assignments may seem irrelevant, but they are important pieces of the puzzle. When it comes to essay writing, most students don’t understand how they would use that skill later on. However, that’s the skill that prepares them for successful college applications, job applications, and professional presentations that are part of their future.

With the evaluations and comments you offer on each student’s work, you make them better. That’s why you should stay fully focused when you proofread essay assignments. You have to catch every single mistake and point it out, so the student would understand the correct way to write.

Proofreading and editing are two different concepts. When you edit, you focus on the message the student wants to convey. When you proofread, you focus on technicalities. Proofreading is a bit boring, but it’s inevitable.

Tips for Teachers: How to Proofread an Essay

Read It Backwards

Before you get to the proofreading process, you have to evaluate the message of the paper. You’ll write notes on the side, telling the student how they could clarify their message with more points. When you get to the point of proofreading an essay, you’re already familiar with it. Plus, you’re tired because you went through several other
papers before this one. You’ll just scan the paper and you’ll probably miss some mistakes with that.

Why don’t you read the paper backwards? This takes your attention away from the message and brings it to the technical aspects of the content. When you read sentence by sentence without making logical connections, you’re able to focus on grammar, spelling, and punctuation.

Find a Proofreading Buddy

The teacher has to be a grammar expert. But grammar is too complex, and it’s only human of you to be insecure in some corrections. In that case, you should simply ask a fellow teacher. Maybe you’re a psychology professor and you’re not as knowledgeable in English grammar as you’d like to be. Maybe you’re an ESL teacher and you’re not sure about some sentence constructions.

There’s nothing wrong in asking.

Focus on Individual Words, Phrases, and Sentences

As a teacher, you have a responsibility to teach a student how to be a good essay writer. That’s why you suggest them to use more reliable resources next time, to reference more of them, and to clarify the thesis statement. But after that check, you must proofread for words, phrases, and sentences.

At this point, you shift the focus from essence to form. To manage with that, you can take some time away from this essay. Continue with the papers of other students. When you’re done evaluating them all in terms of message and logical flow, you’ll start proofreading them.

Use Grammar and Spell Checkers

If you don’t know a teacher who has the time to help you overcome insecurities, you can use an online tool. Software can’t be perfect at proofreading, but it’s really helpful.

The usual choice is MS Word’s Spelling and Grammar feature. It’s okay, but it’s not the best one you can use. A specialized grammar and punctuation check tool will catch more mistakes, and it will offer better suggestions for improvement.


A single reading isn’t enough. Your eyes are tired and you can easily miss out on obvious mistakes. That’s a problem, since the student won’t know they made a mistake if you don’t indicate it.

Go through all papers once. Then, take some time off proofreading. Come back to the papers the next day, and perform a second proofreading. With this strategy, you minimize the chance for an incomplete evaluation.

Make a List of Mistakes

You write notes on how the student could write a better paper, right? You mostly focus on their arguments. You should include spelling, grammar, and punctuation mistakes in the notes, too.

When you identify the common mistakes and you explain the rules behind your corrections, the student will understand. They will learn the rules and they won’t make the same mistakes in the future.

Check the Format Last

When proofreading your essay, you tend to forget about the format. You paid attention to it when you completed the outline and during the writing process. But what if the student skipped those stages? What if the flow between paragraphs is disturbed?

The student should maintain the proper essay structure. When you’re done checking the grammar, spelling, and punctuation in the paper, you should focus on the format. If the paragraphs are not balanced and the transitions are not good, you’ll include those remarks in the notes.

Inspire Your Students to Write Better

What’s the point of checking essays and sharing remarks with your students? It’s not about forming a grade. It’s not about shaming the students for making silly mistakes. It’s all about inspiring them to become better at academic writing.

Students have great aversion towards these projects. Most of them hate essay writing. They try, but they can’t achieve good results. When they see a page full of remarks, they get disappointed and dive into the closed mindset. “I can’t write and that’s it!” That’s the attitude you need to prevent when you share the results of the proofreading process. Instead of shaming the students for making mistakes, write gentle reminders about the correct way to write.

Be a teacher who inspires!

Author bio:

Michael Turner used to hate academic writing. He got bad grades and didn’t want to improve until the right teacher found him and showed him how it’s done. Through a lot of effort and practice, Michael got better. Now, he is a legit academic writer who’s still learning and growing. He loves sharing writing tips through his blog posts.

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