If you are an ESL student, there are unique challenges you face in order to get a good grade on your paper or college essay. We've put together these proofreading tips to help ESL students with editing their papers. If you follow these steps, it will help you do well on your next assignment.
1. Give yourself plenty of writing time- It takes extra time to prepare papers in a foreign language. Always be aware of your paper deadlines and start early on your research, writing and editing. Your grade will be better if you make the time and effort to edit.
2. Avoid computer translation- Most programs do a very poor job at translating into English. It will sound awkward and confusing to English speakers. It is best to write your paper first in English and then get some help with the grammar and usage.
3. Follow the guidelines- Teachers and professors are particular about what you submit to them. Your paper needs to be the recommended number of pages and words, and focus on the specific assignment given. Most professors will lower the grade if your paper is too short and not on topic.
4. Be prepared to write several drafts- All students (even native English speakers) need to review their paper several times to check for accuracy and clarity. It is also necessary to observe how well the paper flows. For example, is there a strong introduction and concluding paragraph? Is your thesis statement effective?
5. Document Spell and Grammar Check Functions are incomplete- While it is important to review spelling changes or grammar changes recommended by computer document programs, this is not enough proofreading help. The computer does not know if what you have written makes sense.
6. Get live proofreading help- A second set of eyes is always best. Though it might feel uncomfortable to ask for help, getting someone to proofread your paper will improve your grade and be a great way to improve your writing for the future.
7. Other ESL students may not notice all errors- It is easiest to ask another ESL student to edit your paper, but even an ESL student who is very skilled at English may not notice all errors.
8. English speaking students are not necessarily good writers- It makes sense that getting help from a friendly American would work. But knowing English is not enough, because the grammar and style rules for academic papers are complicated. And not all good writers are good editors, as proofreading is very detailed work.
9. Use professional proofreading services- All ESL students should plan to get professional help editing their academic papers. Check with your school's ESL department or Writing Center for help. There are also some excellent online proofreading services. We recommend these websites:
10. Learn from your mistakes- After the editing is done, take the time to review your original draft with the edited draft. When your teacher returns your graded paper, read all their comments. Talk with your editor and teacher about what tips they have to improve your writing.