1. Ask yourself, “What language issues challenge me most often?” If you are not sure, start to keep a language learning log. A language learning log is a written record where you collect and keep track of words, phrases, sentences, grammatical concepts, or any examples of writing that you want to remember. By keeping this log, you will be able to refer back to your own notes and practice the techniques you have recorded.
A language learning log can be a helpful tool because:
2. Use this systematic process when reviewing your draft:
3. Use Writing Center handouts. Once you have identified your concerns, use our handouts on the Writing Center website to learn more about grammar and style.
If you’re having difficulty thinking of your own sentence-level concerns, consult the list below. While not all of these concerns affect meaning, they are common and may be worth looking for as you review your draft, especially if you are focused on the grammaticality of your sentences.
Noun Form : He was a very diligence student.
Adjective Form : He was a very diligent student.
The first sentence uses the noun form, “diligence,” but the word is describing the student. Thus the adjective “diligent” would be grammatical.
For more on word forms, see our quick-guide on Choosing the Correct Word Form.
Out of Agreement: She practice violin every day.
In Agreement: She practices violin every day.
The verb “practice” would be used with a plural subject, but in this case, the subject (“she,” the person doing the practicing) is singular, so the writer revised the verb to “practices” to maintain agreement.
For more on subject-verb agreement, see our Subject-Verb Agreement quick-guide.
Main verb + auxiliary verb:
Simple Present: He was eat pizza at the party.
Past Progressive: He was eating pizza at the party.
The verb form in the first sentence, “eat,” is the simple present, which is used to describe an action that happens habitually (e.g., “I eat pizza every Friday.”) The past progressive form, “eating,” is used to express events or situations that were in progress at a particular time in the past. In this case, because the person was eating pizza at a party that already happened, the writer revised the sentence to include the past progressive verb form. Helpful Note: a helping verb like “was” will never come before the simple present.
For more on verb tenses, see our Verb Tenses quick-guide.
Modal + main verb:
Progressive form: We should buying groceries before the storm.
Root form: We should buy groceries before the storm.
When a modal (can, should, would, must, may) is used to describe a situation in the present, it will be followed by the root form of the verb. In this case, the writer revised the present participle “buying” to the root form “buy.”
For more information on modals, see our Modal Verbs quick-guide.
Adapted from: Cogie, Jane, Kim Strain, and Sharon Lorinskas. “Avoiding the Proofreading Trap: The Value of the Error Correction Process.” The Writing Center Journal 19.2 (1999): 7-31.
Last updated 2/16/2021