Guidelines to Self-Editing and Proofreading

“The Rushmore approach teaches you how to teach yourself - the most important academic lesson you will ever learn.”
Dr. Michael Cox

Guidelines to self-editing and proofreading

From Your Editor

Title page

Check that you have answered all the questions. Make sure that:

  • The version of English is specified. We need to know this, as the spelling and punctuation differ. Make sure your computer was set to the correct version of English, as the Autocorrect function will change the spelling of common words to the language you set it to.
  • You have deleted the instructions in parentheses.
  • The titles of books and articles are correctly formatted. Common mistakes are incorrect use of title case, incorrect spelling of an author’s name, and incorrect book titles, for example The 10-Day MBA instead of The Ten Day MBA.

Note:  The date of editing and the editor are the date your Rushmore editor edits your paper. Your editor will complete this information for you. Do not put in the date you edited it.

Table of Contents

You do not have to include a Table of Contents. If you do include one, it should be generated by the Insert, Index & Tables command. Make sure that you use the Styles menu for formatting the headings and sub-headings. A Table of Contents without page numbers is of very little use.

Page set-up and formatting

Make sure your computer was set to A4 size, with margins of at least 2.8. Papers should be written in Times New Roman, as this is the easiest font to read. Use a font size of 12, with 14 for the headings.

Check that you have a header, giving your name and the course number. Your footer should have the page numbers in the format Page x of x.


Paragraphs may be flush with the margin or indented, but all paragraphs must be formatted the same way. If indenting is used, indent the paragraphs with a tab stop, not spaces. You should leave a blank line between paragraphs.

If you use a very long quote of more than one paragraph, you might like to indent the quote to make it stand out.


  • Avoid starting a sentence with a numeral, for example: 48 percent of the population has a computer.
  • Avoid starting a sentence with a conjunction – words like and, but, therefore. This is sometimes done intentionally for a particular stylistic effect, but if you are not a native speaker I would advise you not to do it. A conjunction joins the parts of a sentence, so it is used between two statements.

Consistency of use and formatting

If English is not your first language, I suggest printing this section and keeping it near your computer. You can then check your work at the end of each study session, or when you want a break from typing, instead of trying to check 5000 words at once.

  • First, check your spacing. One space between words, but you can choose to use two spaces between sentences. I know it seems obvious, but I have seen many papers with two or three spaces between words.
  • Do not use a capital letter for the word following a colon.
  • Some words, particularly in UK English, have alternative spellings. Examples are focused or focussed, advisor or adviser, organisation or organization. Although both versions are correct, use the same version throughout your paper. We suggest choosing the same option for every word in which there is the same option, e.g. if you choose organise, then choose minimise, maximise, realise, and so on. UK English also has different spellings for the noun and verb in words ending ‘ise’. For example, advice (noun) and advise (verb), licence (noun) and license (verb).
  • There are a few words that are ‘in transition’. This means they are in the process of changing, and there is no authoritative agreement on what is correct. The two most common words in this category are data and agenda. Both of these words are – or were – plural: datum/data, agendum/agenda. It is now common usage to treat agenda as singular, with agendas as the plural. It is your choice, but you must be consistent. Data is more difficult. It is used as either singular or plural, so you can say the data is, or the data are. Once again, you must be consistent. Decide it is singular and always use singular verbs, or decide it is plural and always use plural verbs.
  • Check the continuity of your pronouns. For example, ‘One should follow one’s own conscience.’ A common mistake is to change the pronoun and say ‘One should follow your own conscience.’ This is wrong, because ‘one’ is third person and ‘your’ is second person.
  • Check your subject/pronoun agreement. If the grammatical subject of your sentence is singular, you must use a singular pronoun. For example, The organisation’s strategy must align with its mission statement. Remember that a group, set, team, or staff is singular. The team must meet its objectives. The marketing staff should be recognised for its contribution to the success of the campaign, but the team members should be praised for their early completion of the project.
  • Be consistent with your narrative – the story you are telling. For example, you might be explaining how to develop a marketing plan. You could narrate or report it, as if you are telling a story. (The first step in this process is to identify your target market.) You could tell your reader what to do. (You must first identify your target market.) You could write as if your reader were part of your team. (We will identify our target market first.) However, once you have started the explanation, you must keep to the same formula. You should not say ‘We will identify the target market first, (First person) so you will need to decide on the demographic characteristics of your typical consumer, who is most likely to buy our product. (You and your are second person, our is first person) This avoids wasting the promotional budget on unproductive advertisements.’ (Straight narrative – third person.) This is a very common mistake.
  • If you use title case for a term or the name of a theory, use title case every time you use that term. For example, if you say the Pareto Principle, then you have to write it the same way every time, not write it sometimes as Pareto principle. This is a very common mistake. Other words often formatted differently are Government / government, Central Bank / central bank, and so on. We have noticed that the names of currencies are often written inconsistently. Students write about the dollar, then mention the Euro, revert to the British pound, then discuss the Naira and the yen! Be consistent. There is rarely any need to write currencies in title case. Follow the same principle with time – if you have the 18th century, don’t later refer to, say, the seventeenth century.
  • You can check through your paper using Find. However, be careful with Find, Change All. If you instruct it to Find organization and Change All to organisation, it will change Organization as the first word of a sentence to organisation.

Word as a word

This is the use of a word as a noun, for example “The word quality means different things to different people.” This is ambiguous. You might be thinking of the quality of a strategic plan, or the quality of widgets coming off the production line. As an editor, we might think that the ‘word quality’ (the correct use of words) has different meanings to different people. If you mean that ‘quality’ has different meanings to different people, then you can use either single quote marks or italics: The word quality means different things to different people. The word ‘quality’ means different things to different people.


See these sources for how to cite sources you relied on in your paper.

  • A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations by Kate L. Turabian

The other point to watch is that you quote the author correctly. Most quotes are from US writers, so if you use UK English you need to change the language setting. If you are writing in UK English and insert copied US text, the computer will reset to US and subsequent work will be in US English. If you type a quote in, with your computer set to UK English, the Autocorrect function will change the US spelling to UK spelling, making the quote incorrect. You also need to reset your computer to UK English once you have finished the quote in US English. Failure to do this is a common problem.


As well as citing your sources for quotations, footnotes can be used to explain industry-specific jargon or a local condition or circumstance that affects the argument you are presenting. For example, you might be discussing opening a branch office in a foreign country and mention leasing premises, without discussing the option to purchase. You can use a footnote to tell the reader that this country forbids the sale of land to foreigners.


This is the use of another writer’s words – his ‘intellectual property’ – without his written permission. You can quote up to 150 words under the ‘Fair Use’ provision, provided that you use quote marks and acknowledge your source. Any other use of copyright material is a criminal offence. It could bring serious legal consequences and not only cost you, Rushmore University, and your advisor a heavy financial penalty in a court of law, but would also seriously damage the reputation of all parties. Rushmore’s editing service automatically checks for plagiarism, will reject any paper that contravenes the internationally recognized guidelines, and will inform your advisor and the Dean of the reason for the rejection.


  • Make sure your columns are correctly aligned.
  • Keep the same style of bullet points throughout the paper.
  • Be consistent from list to list with the formatting. If you write one list in sentence case, write them all in sentence case. (Sentence case is like a sentence – the first word starts with a capital letter.)
  • Make sure every bullet point follows grammatically from your introduction to make a complete sentence.

Note:  A common mistakes is to create a list by indenting with tab stops and/or spaces. This causes a lot of problems, because as soon as we add a word during the editing process, the whole list goes out of alignment and the words look as if they have been scrambled all over the page! To create a list, write the first bullet point, then press Enter. Continue in this way until the list is finished. Highlight (select) the list and click on the bullet or numbering icon. This will add the bullet points or numbers, and indent the list. The list will then adjust to any editing changes and remain in alignment.


The template says Appendix (es). If you use only one appendix, delete the (es) so it says Appendix. If you have two appendixes, delete the parentheses – Appendixes. Incidentally, in UK English the alternative – Appendices – is more common.


When you use an abbreviation for the first time, put the word or title in full, followed by the contraction or abbreviation in parentheses. For example, International Monetary Fund (IMF). You can then use the abbreviation on its own throughout the rest of the paper. If you use a lot of abbreviations, you might like to include a list of abbreviations at the beginning of your paper. Make sure that you have used full stops in common abbreviations such as e.g., etc., i.e.


Misplacement of apostrophes is common. It is also a problem for us as we often don’t know whether a student intends the singular or plural.

Apostrophes have two main uses. First, they are used to indicate ownership or possession. This is the use where most mistakes are made. Second, they are used to indicate the omission of a letter or letters.

The rules are very simple. The apostrophe indicating ownership or possession goes immediately after the owner. For example, the organisation’s goals are the goals of the organisation. The organisations’ goals are the goals of the organisations. The same rule applies with irregular plurals, for example the children’s books, the women’s clothes. Note that you will almost always need owners’ equity, not owner’s equity, as all companies have more than one ‘owner’ (person or organisation with equity in the business). The exception is the self-employed person who is the sole trader.

The apostrophe indicating omission goes where the letters were left out. For example, they are becomes they’re, let us becomes let’s, and so on.

There is a third use for the apostrophe. It can be used to form a plural with letters or digits. For example, to mind your p’s and q’s. For further information on this usage, you might find helpful.


The formatting of numbers in UK and US English differs from the format commonly used in European countries.

  • Numbers under ten should be written in text (except in accounting or statistics, or course).
  • Do not use a numeral at the beginning of a sentence.
  • Use a comma, not a full stop, in numbers e.g. 50,000
  • Use a full stop as the decimal point. For example 93.9%
  • Format currency consistently, for example $US v US$
  • Do not use an apostrophe in dates. For example, the 1990’s is INCORRECT. It should be the 1990s.

Spelling check

Look for common words that will not be located by a spell check. Sometimes these are typographical errors. Common mistakes are form/from, sight/site/cite, stationary/stationery, complement/compliment, discrete/discreet, assess/asses, lose/loose, possess/posses, for/fore/four, to/too, two/tow, than/then, there/their/they’re.

If you are not a native speaker, this list of commonly-misused words might be helpful.

  • Compliment – to praise (You should be complimented for the excellent speech at the annual dinner.)
  • Complement – to enhance (The dry white wine complemented the fish entrée.)
  • Perspective – point or angle of view (From this perspective, I can see the harbour bridge.)
  • Prospective – likely to happen in the future (The prospective student attended the open day at the Polytechnic.)
  • Stationary – not moving (You must stop at a rail crossing if the bells are ringing and remain stationary until the train has passed.)
  • Stationery – paper and envelopes (Please get a new order book from the stationery cupboard.) Memory aid: E for Envelope.


All figures of speech – metaphors, similes and so on – must be internally consistent and be used in a way that is consistent with their literal meaning. Correctly used they can add variety and impact to your writing, but when they are used incorrectly the effect can be either humorous or bizarre. Either of these effects will detract from your credibility and the impact of your argument.

The most common mistake that we see in students’ papers is to mix roadmaps with inappropriate activities. A road map is just that – a map of the roads. You use it to follow a route from A to B and arrive at the right destination. You can therefore say that an organisation should follow a roadmap to its objectives. However, we have had students say that the organisation will find its marketing strategy plain sailing if it follows the roadmap. Plain sailing means it is easy, there will be no obstacles. That is fine. Following a roadmap is fine. But you can’t follow roadmaps in a sailing boat! This is what we mean by internal consistency.

Remember that these literary techniques are like salt and pepper: they add spice and flavour, but if you use them to excess you will ruin the main dish – your argument.

After your paper has been edited

When you have completed all the changes and the paper is ready to send for assessment, go through it and check your headings and tables. If a heading is not followed by two or more lines of text, move it down to the top of the next page. If possible, avoid breaking lists or tables, but if you must do so, make sure you don’t have just one line on another page. Check that charts are not broken by a page break. Leave half a page blank, if necessary, to put your chart on one page. This includes the title and key.

Note:  These guidelines are written in UK English. Most students write in US English. We will edit either version, but please do not use other variations, such as Canadian English. There are 17 variations, and it is not possible to be familiar with all of them.


Graduates of Rushmore are hired, promoted and earn raises at Fortune 500 and other organizations because of what they learn and learn to apply within their programmes.