YOU’RE Ham and Cheese Guide to Editing and Proofreading

Bu John Focht

You’re ham and cheese sandwich is one of the finest I have ever tasted, after you toast the bread witch way do you typically spread the mustard to make it so tasty, I has never tasted a sandwich like this before?  The grammar and spell check function in Microsoft Word did not catch any mistakes in the previous sentence, so it must be correct (for the record, there are three grammatical errors in this run-on sentence).  Many students struggle in editing and proofreading for a few reasons.  Number one, in some cases, they may never have been taught how to actually edit and proofread; and two, they may never have been taught the difference between editing and proofreading.  Students may pick-up on editing and proofreading in class exercises, but then continue to make similar grammatical errors in their own writing (Fox).  Students and teachers alike feel a sense of relief when their writing is compete, and have little desire to go back and read their own work (Fox).  An effective pedagogical strategy in editing and proofreading is to distinguish between the two stages and define how students review their papers.  Distinguishing the two phases will enable students to effectively understand what they will be reviewing during either the editing or proofreading phase.  Defining the editing and proofreading phases, through group sessions, elapsed-time, line-by-line review of a paper, and proofreading work aloud, students will be instructed how, and when, to edit and proofread.

Editing is defined as reviewing the content of a document while improving the language, flow, and readability; whereby proofreading is defined as the process of correcting grammatical, spelling, and typographical errors (Scribendi).  Defining the process of editing and proofreading as separate phases of the writing process will enable students to effectively understand what it is they are looking for while editing versus proofreading.  Instructing students that the editing phase is about making sense of their document, will assist them to better comprehend what they should be looking for during this phase.  Breaking students into small group sessions of 4-5 students per group helps further assist students in the editing process.  Students review each other’s papers and provide comments and feedback on each other’s work.  This process of group editing affords students the ability to take observations and suggestions not only on their work, but on other’s work, and apply to their own writing.  Group editing sessions also allow students the ability to better understand what it is they should look for in this phase of writing.

A challenge with proofreading is writers or students tend to read what they thought they wrote not what they actually wrote (Harris).  There is a fundamental flaw in how students proofread their papers; the flaw is they are reading, not proofreading.  Proofreading is vital in the success of writing, and the success of teaching writing.  Proofreading is not only a writing skill, it is a reading skill (Harris).  Proofreading should be taught as part of the writing process, not in addition to the writing scope.  Understanding what we thought we wrote verses reading what we actually wrote is an important distinction between students successfully proofreading their work verses simply re-reading their work.  A clear distinction between the two is that reading is a process of anticipation of reading ahead, whereby proofreading is looking at each word individually (Harris).  For instructors to effectively teach proofreading, it is important for them to impress upon their students to get out of the mindset of just re-reading their own text.  Len Fox notes in What to Do When Grammar Exercises No Longer Help: Group Proofreading that students, and himself, have little desire to go back and read their own work; the important point of note in Fox’s writing is he is not distinguishing reading versus proofreading. In Fox’s writing, he is not addressing the need for student’s to proofread, rather simply read their work prior to submission; this is the fundamental flaw in proofreading as a whole.  Most students do not understand what it is they should be looking for in this phase of the writing process.

A pedagogical proofreading strategy separates the writer from the proofreader.  Teachers should instruct students to walk away from their work once the work is complete prior to beginning the proofreading phase.  Allowing elapsed time between the two phases of writing is a mechanism to help students separate the two phases.  The elapsed time can be anywhere from five-minutes to a few days.  Instructing students to create a mental distance from what they wrote and what they are about to proofread may provide a productive fresh eye when it comes to proofreading (Purdue OWL).  A fresh eye will provide students a new perspective as they proofread from a different viewpoint; the tendency is students do not perceive errors because they read and do not proofread (Harris).

Once distanced from their own writing, the students not only have a fresh eye but will have a different mindset.  Students will be approaching their paper with the intention of finding mistakes through proofreading, not with the intention of re-reading their work.  Through line-by-line review, students are specifically looking at each word and mark of punctuation on their paper (Harris).  This provides a proofreading mindset in the students and enables them to carefully note, not only what is there, but what is not there (Harris).  An effective way to ensure students are proofreading line-by-line is to instruct them to actually print out their paper and hold a ruler or a straight edge against each line to ensure they are able to proofread each line effectively (Wisconsin).  The techniques of line-by-line proofreading can be further strengthened by also having the students read aloud.  Proofreading aloud will further focus the students attention on each word in a proofreading mindset, as opposed to simply reading, or re-reading, their writing.

Editing, proofreading, and re-reading are areas in writing that often get confused, overlooked, or combined into a single task to be complete prior to submission of an assignment.  As a result, sentences like you’re ham and cheese sandwich is the finest I’ve tasted is the end-result.  Proofreading should not be a hurried or forced process, nor should it be treated as a reading exercise.  It should be a methodical process that highlights to the students the areas of improvement on their own paper.  Through this pedagogical strategy of distinguishing editing and proofreading, and the mechanism within each phase, students are taught the intricacies of editing and proofreading, but more importantly, they are not simply being told to re-read their paper.  Now go enjoy you’re ham and cheese.

Works Cited:

Fox, Len. What to Do When Grammar Exercises No Longer Help: Group Proofreading. JSTOR. October 1981. Web. Article Stable URL:  JSTOR is an online research and teaching website founded in 1995.  Utilized by researchers and scholars, this digital library, JSTOR content is provided by more than 900 publishers; the database contains more than 1900 journal titles in more than 50 disciplines, according to Wikipedia (

Harris, Jeannette. Proofreading: A Reading/Writing Skill. JSTOR. December 1987. Web. Article Stable URL:  JSTOR is an online research and teaching website founded in 1995.  Utilized by researchers and scholars, this digital library, JSTOR content is provided by more than 900 publishers; the database contains more than 1900 journal titles in more than 50 disciplines, according to Wikipedia (

Scribendi. Editing versus Proofreading: Decide whether your document needs editing or proofreading. Web. Founded in 1997, Scribendi is an editing and proofreading company based out of Ontario, Canada.  Scribendi was founded as one of the first online editing and proofreading companies.

Wells, Jaclyn M. Proofreading: Where do I Begin? Purdue OWL. 17 April 2010. Web. The Purdue Online Writing Lab provides online writing and research services to instructors, trainers, and students.  According to Wikipedia (, the Purdue Online Writing Lab was founded in 1976 on request of the Department of English at Purdue to establish its writing lab.  Dr. Muriel Harris designed the campus-based service to assist learners with rhetorical writing.  Today, the Purdue OWL is available via the internet and is open to users worldwide.

The Writing Center @ The University of Wisconsin – Madison. The Writer’s Handbook: How to Proofread. 2 July 2012. Web.  The Writing Center @ The University of Wisconsin – Madison is designed to assist students from all disciplines in writing.  Opened in 1969, the Writing Center @ The University of Wisconsin – Madison, staffs academic staff, classified staff, graduate teaching staff, and undergraduate Writing Fellows.  Their mission is to provide short-term writing instruction in all disciplines.


Working Adults Going Back to School

By John Focht

Adults going back to school is not a recent phenomenon.  Working adults have returned to school for decades in the hopes of either finishing a degree they started decades earlier, or to further their education in the hopes of advancing their careers or starting new careers.

Today, nearly 4 million adults over the age of 35 are enrolled in a degree-granting institution, according to CNBC citing the National Center for Education Statistics.  

The large number of adults back in school after a substantial time away may have to do with the fact that nearly 89% of adults feel there is still room to grow in their current careers, according to Market Watch citing a 2012 poll conducted by the University of Phoenix.

In recent years, beginning with the University of Phoenix online availability, online courses have made it relatively less complicated for working adults to go back to school.  Data provided by Market Watch supports online courses are more advantageous for adults as 74% of adults between the ages of 25-34 are either currently enrolled in online courses, or plan to enroll in online courses, according to Market Watch.

Colleges and universities have made online courses readily available to students for all types of degrees, certifications, and general courses.  A student today can earn a master’s degree without ever stepping foot into the classroom.

Many online courses are designed in a manner that allow students to complete assignments on their own time.  Classroom participation is also required in some online classes through technology like Blackboard.  Blackboard is a software technology that enables professors and students to interact online.  In some ways Blackboard can be compared to a classroom chat room.

Whether taking courses online or in the traditional classroom setting, going back to school for many adults is a fact of life they face in order to keep up in their current job, or simply to hold their jobs.

Adults who have been in their career for 15-20 years have seen their salary rise through promotions or year-end salary adjustments.  In some cases, younger employees are able to come in and potentially do the same job for a much lower pay.  The older workforce, who are 15-20 years into their career, are faced with the potential of losing their job for younger and less-expensive workers.

Furthering an education is a way for adults to continue on their career path and not get stagnant in a specific role with a larger salary.  And of course furthering education is a way to make yourself more marketable in the job market overall, not just with your current employer.

The challenges some adults face in going back to school though is time and commitment.  After all, unlike the days of being 18, 19, 20 years-old, there is quite a bit more responsibility on your shoulder.  Juggling classes while working full-time and supporting your family can be quite challenging.

The fear factor of going back to school as an adult is a real factor too.  Whether going back to school in the traditional classroom setting or taking courses online, there can be an anxiety in going to class with students half your age.  From an online class perspective, the fear can be learning and understanding new technology on top of taking the actual class.  And of course, traditional classroom settings of sitting with and interacting with students who may not have even been alive the last time you were in a classroom.

Further education still remains one of the best options for adults who have been in the work force for 15-20 years. Whether it is to continue advancement in your career, or simply keeping yourself aware of recent technologies and ways of doing business.  It is also the best option if you are in a situation where you are considering changing careers.


Epperson, Sharron. Adult education: Is it worth going back to school? CNBC. Web. 25 September 2013.

More than Half of Working Adults Plan to go Back to School and the Majority will Take an Online Course, reveals University of Phoenix Survey. Market Watch. Web. 19 December 2012.


Making a Career Change? Five Tips to Work you through the Process

By John Focht

Making a career change can be a tough and challenging process to work through.  If you are making a career change ten, fifteen, twenty years into your existing career, you may be faced with starting from the ground up again.  Your annual salary will probably take a significant hit from what you are currently accustomed to.  Your lifestyle may take a hit too with a lowered salary.  Are these things you are prepared for?

When do you even know it’s time to take your career in a different direction?  Does it hit you over night?  Is it weeks, or months, or years of painstaking uncertainty of trying to figure out how, when, and why you make that career change?  Do you just look for a new job in a new industry, or do you need schooling or special training?

Unfortunately there is no cookie-cutter answer to any of these questions.  For some, it is a methodical process that takes a bit of time before a career jump can be made.  For others it happens overnight because you may have been laid-off in your current job and decided this was the time to make the jump you always wanted to make.

Whatever the decision making process, it is a major life-changing event.  With any major life-changing event, it’s good practice to try to get a plan and a set of goals in place to ensure you can achieve what it is you are after.

When changing careers, it’s best to create a list of goals and targeted completion dates to achieve your goals.  This will help you in determine when you are most prepared to make the jump.

A few big items to keep in mind when deciding if a career change is best for you:

Research Schooling and Training:

If you are making a major career change, odds are you are probably going to need some sort of schooling or training.  Research and understand what type of further education is required.  Is it finishing your Bachelor’s degree or going back for your Masters?  Do you need specific certification or training to make your career jump?

Whatever the educational requirement is, research the commitment, time, and cost associated with it.  Begin mapping out goals to complete the education by a certain date.  Now, at least, you have a starting point as to when your career change may actually take place.  Whether it is six months, a year, or three years, you can assess whether this is something that you can even accomplish, or figure out what you need to do to accomplish your goal.

Employer Reimbursement:

Now that you have costs figured out, find out if your current employer will absorb the cost, or a percentage of the cost.  Most employers will at least absorb a percentage of your education or training if there is long-term benefit to how you will use that training or schooling within that company.

Be aware though, if your employer flips the tab, you will be required to stay with that employer for a certain amount of time post-graduation or upon completion of the training/certification.  Understand what that commitment is and make sure there is no penalty if you leave the employer prior to the end of that commitment. Be sure this is an employer you expect to have a long-term career with before allowing them to flip your tuition bill.

Evaluate the Salary:

Evaluate the salary of the new career you are thinking of moving into.  How does it compare to your current salary?  Odds are you will be taking a decent size salary hit against your current salary for at least a few years.  Can you afford to take that type of hit?

Be sure to also review what the salary growth is in this new field.  How and when do you start seeing increases to your salary?  One year?  Three years?  Five years?  If you are taking a 30%, 40%, 50% salary cut to move into a new career, will that type of salary hit over a 1-5 year time period make you miserable?  If so, is a career change really what you need?

Job Market:

What does the job market look like in this new field?  This may be the most important task you do.  It would be a shame to spend the next three years in school, taking out a huge loan, and changing your lifestyle, only to find out it’s a real tough job market in this new field.

Research what the market is and what the growth potential is.  Will you remain at the bottom floor, or can you make your way up?  If so, when and how?

Plan…and Plan Some More:

If you lose your job and get a new job that requires you to switch careers, that’s one thing.  But if you are legitimately looking at a new career, be sure to research, evaluate, and plan.  Don’t make a jump overnight to a new career.

Research and understanding the schooling requirements, the time it will take to get through school, new salary structure, lifestyle changes, and the long-term job market and career growth.  Be methodical and deliberate in your approach.  If your new career can help your existing employer, share your plan with them; they may assist you in getting to where you want to go more quickly.

It’s never too late to start anew with your career.  Just be sure you have researched your options.  If you don’t do it now, you may one day look back and regret that you didn’t.