25 Lower Order Concerns for Proofreading

Previously we examined higher order concerns (HOCs) as part of the revision stage of the writing process. Once we move to the proofreading stage, it’s time to consider the lower order concerns (LOCs). The difference is simple: HOCs are global issues, or issues that affect how a reader understands the entire paper; LOCs are issues that don’t necessarily interrupt understanding of the writing by themselves.

HOCs

LOCs

Audience

Grammar

Thesis statement

Punctuation

Organization

Citation

Focus

Spelling

Development of ideas

Sentence structure

You may find yourself thinking, “Well, it depends,” or, “But what if…?” You’re absolutely right to think so. These lists are just guidelines; every writer will have a different hierarchy of concerns. Always try to think in terms of, “Does this affect my understanding of the writing?”

Are HOCs More Important than LOCs?

No, not necessarily. HOCs tend to interrupt a reader’s understanding of the writing, and that’s why they need to be addressed first. However, if a LOC becomes a major obstacle, then it naturally becomes a higher priority.

Think of an example of how a Lower Order Concern could become a Higher Order Concern.

Here are some other issues you might face. These may be more difficult to categorize, and they may largely depend on the writing. If you think, “It depends,” make notes about the circumstances under which these issues could be a HOC or a LOC.

  • Evaluating sources
  • citation method
  • style
  • paragraph structure
  • active vs. passive voice
  • format

How to Address LOCs

Two students sitting at a round table in front of a bank of windowsAnalyze your use of source material. Check any paraphrases and quotations against the original texts. Quotations should replicate the original author’s words, while paraphrases should maintain the original author’s meaning but have altered language and sentence structures. For each source, confirm that you have adhered to the preferred style guide for the target journal or other venue.

Consider individual sentences in terms of grammar, mechanics, and punctuation. Many LOCs can be revised by isolating and examining different elements of the text. Read the text sentence by sentence, considering the grammar and sentence structure. Remember, a sentence may be grammatically correct and still confuse readers. If you notice a pattern—say, a tendency to misplace modifiers or add unnecessary commas—read the paper looking only for that error. Read the document backwards, word for word, looking for spelling errors. Throughout the writing process and especially at this stage of revision, keep a dictionary, a thesaurus, and a writing handbook nearby.

Strategies such as reading aloud and seeking feedback are useful at all points in the revision process. Reading aloud will give you distance from the text and prevent you from skimming over what is actually written on the page. This strategy will help you to identify both HOCs, such as missing concepts, and LOCs, such as typos. Additionally, seeking feedback will allow you to test your ideas and writing on real readers. Seek feedback from readers both inside and outside of your target audience in order to gain different perspectives.

Proofreading Advice

The following video features two student tutors from the Writing and Reading Center at Fresno City College. In addition to great guidance about proofreading strategies, they also offer insights about what to expect when working with Writing Center tutors.

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Fundamentals of Composition by Lumen Learning is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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