How to Proofread in Spanish

If you’ve written an essay in Spanish, are going to turn in another Spanish assignment, want to send a letter in Spanish or simply have a Spanish text on your hands that you’d like to proofread, there are some basic errors in Spanish to be on the look-out for. Especially for non-native Spanish speakers, there are some typical mistakes that can be caught in a good, thorough proofreading.   Although word processing programs such as Microsoft Word may help catch mistakes, some things may still slip through the cracks. Here are…

Some of the basic points you should strive to notice when proofreading in Spanish:

Ser/estar: Make sure you check through the uses of ser and estar. You might end up writing that you are boring, someone is a sad person or coldhearted instead of what you meant: that you are bored and someone was feeling sad or felt cold momentarily. Remember the rule for ser and estar. Ser is for permanent descriptions or things beyond your control, like “soy alta”, “I’m tall” and estar is for feelings and telling where someone is, for example “estoy feliz”, “I’m happy” and “Estoy en casa”, “I’m at home.”

Tener: Be sure you’re using the verb tener correctly. This can be a confusing one if you’re not a native Spanish speaker, and might slip through the cracks in your word processer’s grammar check. Be sure you keep straight a few basic uses of tener:

  • Hot and Cold- Tengo frio, voy a por un suéter
  • Age – Tengo 23 años
  • Hunger – Tengo hambre
  • Sleepy – Tengo sueño
  • Lucky – Tienes suerte

Double negatives: While these don’t work in English, they are a normal part of Spanish and you must use them to write correctly. For example “No dijo nada” (He didn’t say nothing) is correct and “No dijo algo” (He didn’t say something) sounds strange. When reading through you work, notice any negative sentences and be sure that they are constructed correctly with a double negative where appropriate.

The “there, they’re and their” of Spanish ahí, ay and hay: The Spanish language has its very own spelling difficulties just like English. In English, many struggle to use there, they’re and their correctly, whereas in Spanish many struggle to use ahí, ay and hay correctly. We’ll take a look at each to make sure you’re getting the right spelling for what you mean:

  • Ahí is a place, it´s like saying “there.” You could write for example “¿Quieres que nos sentemos ahí?
  • ¡Ay! Is an exclamation or interjection, like “¡Ay! Me quemé”
  • Hay is a verb for saying that there is or isn’t something. For example “Sí, hay huevos en el refrigerador”

Gender agreement: This is another mistake that even the most seasoned Spanish learner may have trouble with. Be sure that all the nouns have the proper gender article to go along. Don’t make the mistake of writing el silla, it’s la silla. And remember…ma ma ma masculino, so it’s el problema, el clima and el idioma. This rule doesn’t always apply, but it’s a helpful reminder that irregular gender combinations in Spanish do exist, meaning that not all nouns ending with a are feminine and not all ending with o are masculine.

So, get in there and get that editing done! And when in doubt, ask for help with the Spanish language. You can always find a native Spanish speaker to help or find a professional to hire for your most important work. Happy proofreading!


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