Do you want to take the guesswork out of proofreading?  

Proofreading feels a lot like the lottery. You look over your paper a few times—maybe even read it out loud—and then you send it off, hoping you didn’t miss any mistakes.

When you get your paper back with red marks all over it, or one of your readers writes to you and says, “Did you know you spelled “friends” as “fiends”?, your hopes are crushed, and you wonder if you’ll ever get better at proofreading. And once again, you didn’t win the lottery… but you kind of expected that because—let’s face it—the odds of winning are slim anyway.

Fortunately, we can take the guesswork out of proofreading with a couple of simple proofreading strategies.

How to use the “find function” to find and correct simple writing mistakes

When you are proofreading on the computer, one of your key proofreading strategies is to use the “find function.” The “find function” can help you quickly identify punctuation marks, words, or phrases in your document.

Using the “find function” will speed up the proofreading process by highlighting something specific for you to examine. In this blog post, I’m going to teach you how to use the “find function” and then I’m going to show you how to use it in your papers to find and correct simple writing mistakes.

What is the “Find Function”?

The “find function” allows you to search your entire document for a punctuation mark, word, or phrase. To engage the “find function,” press “control + f” (PC) or “command + f” (Mac).

You should see a dialogue box in the upper right hand corner of your screen. I’m using Google Docs, so mine looks like the image below but the dialogue box design varies with the program you are using.

Find function dialogue box displayed on a sample page.

Let’s type a word in the search box.

For our example, I’m using a sample lesson from my old Writing Short Stories online writing class (no longer active).

Since this sample lesson is about creating strong images, I’m going to type in the word image.

find-and-correct-simple-writing-mistakes-find-function-example-word

As you can see, I use the word image six times in this lesson. Notice how it highlights each word for me. This allows me to easily skim through my lesson and check each usage of the word image.

How to use the “find function” to find and correct simple writing mistakes

Now that you know how to use the “find function,” let’s make it work for us to find and correct simple writing mistakes. You may be thinking, “What good does the ‘find function’ do for me when I have spell check?”

Good question. Spell check often misses homophones such as theretheir, and they’re. And the grammar checker is notorious for giving wrong suggestions. Spell check (and even grammar check) will also miss some common grammatical mistakes, such as run-on sentences (some grammar checkers will find these, but not all).

Finding and correcting there, their, and they’re

I type so fast I often substitute the wrong word. So let’s start by using theretheir, and they’re.

Dialogue box with the word "there" typed in.

As you can see, I didn’t use the word there. I continued searching for their and they’re. Didn’t use any of them.

Great. It took 5 seconds to take the guesswork out of these errors.

Let’s see what else we can find.

Finding and correcting run-on sentences

Run-on sentences are one of the most common grammar mistakes people make. In short, a run-on sentence is created when you connect two complete sentences together without proper punctuation.

For example:

The dog ran across the street and the cat chased it.

These two complete sentences are connected by the word and, but and is not strong enough to connect to complete sentences. It needs to be supported by a comma.

Corrected example:

The dog ran across the street, and the cat chased it.

One way to quickly search for run-on sentences is to use the “find function” to search for the conjunctions: forandnorbutoryetso.

Search for them one at a time. Look to the left and right of each highlighted conjunction and see if their are complete sentences on both sides. If they’re are, you need to add a comma.

Let’s do that with my sample lesson. I’m going to search for the word and.

Dialogue box with the word "and" typed in.

Looks like this one already has a comma. Woot!

Just the beginning

What I’ve described is just the beginning of how you can use the “find function” to find and correct simple writing mistakes. Think through some of the mistakes you commonly make and see if you can use the “find function” to help you take the guesswork out of proofreading.

Activity: Find my writing mistakes

I have purposely made 4 mistakes in this blog post. Use the “find function” to find them.

Hint:

  • 2 are theretheir, and they’re mistakes
  • 1 is a run-on sentence with and
  • 1 is a run-on sentence with but