Proofreading and writing are very distinct disciplines. Some people prefer the creativity that comes with writing, telling a story and working out the best way to let it develop. Others love the puzzle-solving aspects of proofreading, fixing the document by applying clearly defined rules. It is important to know which you prefer. A person who loves writing may not be happy proofreading, and vice versa.

A proofreader is a person who checks a written text after it has been edited and before it is published. The idea behind this is to identify and correct any errors such as misspellings, punctuation, grammar, spacing, alignment, font, style, etc.

This means that a proofreader acts as a final quality checker who makes sure that nothing has been missed by the copyeditor. If you have patience, a passion for reading, and a good eye for details, then you may enjoy being a successful proofreader.

Proofreaders and copy editors do similar work but there are some differences. Copy editors analyze and transform a document into intelligible, easy-to-understand prose. They ask questions like, “What is the author trying to say?” and “What is the best way to say it?” They concentrate on the big picture, ensuring the article is aimed at its target audience.

Proofreaders, on the other hand, examine every last letter and punctuation to get the document into error-free perfection. Proofreading is the final stage of the editing process of a piece of writing and should only be carried out when all other revisions and edits have taken place.

Proofreading services are required by every person or organization that produces writing for the public domain, including business advertisements, web copy, direct mail, information booklets, technical articles, books, business and technical reports, and so on. First impressions count, so it is essential that the copy a company or organisation uses to promote or provide information about itself looks professional and is error free.

Proofreading Objectives

The objective of proofreaders and copy editors is to improve the quality of the final document, ensure there are no mistakes, and correct inconsistencies. But proofreaders put an extra emphasis on catching the errors that others have missed – such as text alignment (margins and bullet lists), improperly alphabetized lists, errors in captions, columns, dates, and headlines. You don’t want to be the person who missed an error in a headline!

Proofreaders check the spelling of the names of people and organizations against other sources (such as Web sites), and they try to maintain a consistent style, such as using one space after a period, not two. Here, an agreed style guide is very useful.   

Proofreaders don’t see things the way other people do. They are investigators. When something looks off, they dive down for a closer look. Their job is to fix any remaining errors. What separates good proofreaders from bad is practice. The more you do it, the better (and faster) you become at catching errors.

Proofreading Plan

There are different ways to proofread a document. You should try different techniques until you find the one that works for you. Scan the document first by scrolling down and checking such things as text alignment and whether the paragraph spacings are consistent. Check if the headlines correspond with those in the table of contents. You can then go back for a more detailed read.

Then you can read the document slowly and consider the spelling of each word. When you get to punctuation, ask yourself if that (comma, semicolon, hyphen, whatever) belongs there. Make sure each sentence is properly structured and that there is subject–verb agreement. Look out for capitalization. Stop at every number and check if it should be spelled out or in numeral form. Think hard about each sentence. When you get to something that is confusing, write a query to the author or editor.

The last thing you want to do when proofreading is sacrifice accuracy for speed. Focus on each page, each paragraph, each word for as long as you need to until you are comfortable that it is correct. With time, your speed will naturally increase.

Proofreading Jobs

Training courses can be a good investment of your time if you want to improve your proofreading skills as they provide you with tests similar to those that potential employers use. If you are looking for proofreading jobs and you can’t get work because you have no experience, and you can’t get experience because you can’t get work, you need to be creative.

Your first jobs might have to be on the house. They will become the “experience” section of your résumé. These jobs could come by making contact with everyone you know with the message, “Friends, I am beginning my proofreading career. Right now, to gain experience, I’m looking for any sort of project that needs to be checked – no charge.”

One of the benefits of being a proofreader is that you may get an option to work from home, but remember, a very high level of concentration is required. As for qualifications, generally you do not need to have any particular qualifications, but you must have excellent grammar and language skills. However, in practice, most are graduates with some expertise in a given area.

For instance, if you possess a mechanical engineering degree, then it would be easier for you to check textbooks on mechanical engineering or business and technical documents. Apart from the qualifications, practical experience is considered to be the major factor when choosing a proofreader.

There are many personal qualities and environmental conditions that you have to consider as well. For starters, the environment that you work in should be calm with minimum disturbance. You’ll also have to keep yourself up-to-date with developments in publishing and the technical skills required to use proofreading software.

In conclusion, it’s worth mentioning that this is a job where passion for reading is identified as the most important factor above anything else. The professionals in this area of work love this job because they consider reading as a hobby and a passion.

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