A photograph of a female student using a laptop computer.

Source: Working on Computer - Sara, Scott, Tyler, Clarence Fisher, Flickr

Now that you have worked through the previous sections, it is time to proofread a document. Whenever you write, you need to proofread your work afterward so you can catch those pesky errors before your teacher does. As you work through this section, feel free to go back and review the rules in the previous sections if you need help.

The excerpt below was written by Dave Barry, a contemporary American humorist. In this essay from the book Bad Habits, Barry discusses a solution for housework. First, read the excerpt, keeping in mind that many commas, apostrophes, quotation marks, and em dashes have been omitted. Next, you will be given instructions about how to fix these issues after you finish reading.

icon for an interactive exercise

Follow these steps to do the exercise:

  1. First, find the phrases where em dashes belong. Then you will be able to place the other punctuation. The em dashes might be more difficult to find, so here’s a clue: You will be looking for two places to insert em dashes. They belong somewhere in Paragraph 1 and Paragraph 4. Click before and after the phrases that would go between two em dashes now, and then go to the next step after the em dashes appear.

  2. Find the places that need commas and click on those spaces. If you are correct, a comma will appear. (Hint: You should find nine missing commas.)

  3. Find the places that need quotation marks and click on those spaces. If you are correct, the quotation marks will appear. (Hint: You should find five instances that need pairs of quotation marks. Don't forget the rule about irony and sarcasm.)

  4. Next, find the places that need apostrophes and click on those spaces. If you are correct, the apostrophes will appear. (Hint: You should find twelve places that need apostrophes.)

When you are finished with these steps, check your understanding to read a corrected version of the text.

Check Your Understanding
Sample Responses:

Over the years, men came up with thousands of excuses for not doing houseworkwars, religion, pyramids, the United States Senateuntil finally they hit on the ultimate excuse: business. Theyd get up, eat breakfast and announce, Well, I’m off to my office or factory now. Then theyd just leave, and they wouldnt return until the house was cleaned, and dinner was ready.

But then men made a stupid mistake. They started to believe that business was really hard work, and they started talking about it when they came home. Theyd come in the door looking exhausted, and theyd say things like, Boy, I sure had a tough meeting today.

You can imagine how a woman who had spent the day doing housework would react to this kind of statement. Shed say to herself: Meeting? He had a tough meeting? I’ve been on my hands and knees all day, and he tells me he had a tough meeting?

That was the beginning of the end. Women began to look into business, and they discovered that all you do is go to an office and answer the phone and do various things with pieces of paper and have meetings. So women began going to work, and now nobody does houseworkother than smearing and shiningand before long theres going to be so much crud and bacteria under the nations refrigerators that were all going to get diseases and die. . . .

But there is a solution; there is a way to get people to willingly do housework. I discovered this by watching household-cleanser commercials on television. What I discovered is that many people who seem otherwise normal will do virtually any idiot thing—if they think they will be featured in a commercial. They figure if they get on a commercial, theyll make a lot of money, like the Cheerful Housewife, and theyll be able to buy cleaner houses. So theyll do anything.

A photograph o f a laptop computer keyboard.

Source: Laptop Keyboard, iamdez, Flickr

This exercise shows how important proofreading and finding errors can be. You may have had difficulty reading the document when commas, apostrophes, quotation marks, and em dashes were not present. Once you have put all the correct markings in, however, the document is much easier to read and understand.

Remember to follow a strategy for checking punctuation in all of your own writing. You should be able to find many of your own errors. Plus, you will have the added benefit of a happier teacher and a higher grade.