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There are a wide variety of hurdles one must jump over when one attempts to write academic work as an ESL student. At high levels of education, perfect grammar and spelling are simply understood to be necessary, along with proper use of terminology, syntax, vigorous checking for malapropos, and other faux pas for professional writing. Standards of excellence in all academic fields include the ability to communicate in the language of the intended target audience. This is just a bare scratch of the surface of why everyone, especially ESL and other foreign language learners, should have their work carefully processed and checked, both manually and through automatic services.
University students rely heavily on their peers for support and assistance, even in the most competitive fields. There are fewer better sources of knowledge than those individuals closely working alongside you to reach the same or similar goals. Your peers can provide great assistance in making sure your language is properly translated within the work itself.
Starting with the basics of proofreading, however, is, of course, the original writer of the document, or you. Once you have finished writing your text, essay, or other document, you are the first person who should carefully comb the text for errors of any kind. Again, this can include the basics such as grammar and spelling, but it also calls for deletion of awkward wording, sentences, etc. You may also want to use the helpful trick of standing in front of a mirror or in front of your webcam and reading the text aloud. This often helps writers to determine whether their work “sounds right”, or in other words properly conveys its message with zero errors.
One of the most important things to keep in mind is that, no matter how perfect you believe your paper is, chances are, there is room for improvement still, and once you’ve read your own words enough times, it’s harder to notice the errors that have escaped you. It could be, at this point, that you have decided to do additional research to properly support your thesis. If you’ve added additional text, review and proofread it with the same vigor as before. In any case, you should always trust another set of eyes, so to speak, to catch the details that you did not.
It happens to the best of us, because the truth is that most of us just cannot catch all of our own errors. Reading over the same text over and over again, we can easily overlook several of the same mistakes over and over again. Your next step is to contact someone else and ask if they would kindly review your work. Of course, you should make sure that this is a person that you trust completely. The integrity of your work is a sacred thing in academia, and it should be protected by all parties considered. It could, again, be a peer within your study program, or perhaps a friend or family member. There are numerous services online that can connect you with a professional editor, if you are willing to pay for such services.
Now that we have covered the human aspect of paper editing and proofreading, you should also know that there are countless online services to check your writing for you. Keep in mind that these services should not be used alone, and that you should always proofread for yourself and it’s advisable to ask someone else to take a look, too. However, these services are out there, and they can be invaluable to your work. Remember that you can never be too careful in proofreading your writing! Your goal is to communicate effectively and concisely, above all, and to maintain professional appearance.
Some of the best online tools may include payment of some sort, but we have decided to cover the best free ones we could find—paid does not mean premium, after all! One of the best we managed to uncover is a service known as Grammarly. Now, there is a paid version of Grammarly, but the free service works optimally for checking spelling and grammar errors, as well as punctuation checks. When you want to sign up for an account, the website even prompts you to add their extension to your web browser, to maintain good spelling and grammar at all times. The account making process is simple, and Grammarly’s quick tour of their services demonstrates beautifully the proper way to use their service most effectively.
Another great service we uncovered is PaperRater, which, similar to Grammarly, offers both paid and free services for all of your proofreading needs. Some of the features PaperRater includes are plagiarism detection, their auto-grader function, which gives an approximated grade level for the paper you have submitted, spelling and grammar checks, and more. Signing up is easy and, again, there’s no need to pay for their service, but you may find the added benefits of premium packages to your liking.
Finally, we come to SlickWrite. There are fewer so-called bells and whistles when it comes to SlickWrite, but they have a fast service and provides a sort of customizable feedback through its tools that makes the service more relevant to your individual needs. SlickWrite reaches out to a variety of different writers, from academic to creative, because their services are valuable to virtually every piece of written text. Best of all, it’s completely free, so put it to good use!
A word to the wise, though. A lot of these tools are good starting points, but not replacements. Nothing beats the human eye and brain… and a good look at The Chicago Manual of Style!