What is Proofreading?
Proofreading is usually the last step in the publishing process. It is the final analysis of the visual and content levels of a document after it has evolved from various cycles of revision and has been finalized by a content editor. By the time a document reaches the proofreader, corrections of sentencing and word usage have already been addressed. Having gone through a thorough review to tidy up text via a focus on style, content, punctuation, grammar and consistency of usage via copyediting, proofreading is the final polish that ensures that the document is finally ready for publishing.
Though proofreading reflects no real editorial authority, proofreaders mark-up documents for typesetters, editors, and authors to reference for additional changes. In addition to immediate errors in grammar, spelling, punctuation and other language misuse, proofreading includes a final check to ensure all elements of the document are included and in proper order, all amendments have been inserted, and that the house/style guide has been followed.
Get the Skills
What do publishers look for in a top-notch proofreader? Below are a few frequently noted skills to cultivate:
- Proofreading symbols and abbreviations
- Knowledge of the publishing process and industry
- Style or house manual(s)
- Publisher’s preference for a descriptive or prescriptive approach to the application of grammatical rules
- PDF editing tools for digital editing
- Microsoft Word’s track changes
- Hyperlinking when working with website content
- Excellent command of written English
- Specialization in a specific subject, though not absolutely necessary
- Above average eye for catching typos, punctuation, and formatting inconsistencies
- Patience for the long, slow process required to review a document from word-to-word to paragraph-to-paragraph
- Communication, communication, and more communication
- Self-starter with the ability to work well independently
- Ability to juggle and meet multiple deadlines
- Relationship-building and management
How Do I Know I’m Good?
Want to test your current level of proofreading acumen? Most publishers will extend a proofreading and or copyediting test within their new hire/candidate review process. Some will assign a proofreading project as a task to entry-level new hires to ensure fundamental editing skills are in place. If you want to get an idea of what this testing may entail, here’s a 20-question online proofreading test from UK-based Society for Editors and Proofreaders.
Carol Saller, the author of The Subversive Copy Editor and contributing editor to The Chicago Manual of Style blogs about “the second-most common* fatal error that candidates make” when taking the test her office administers when hiring at the entry level. She notes that, “…the fatal error candidates make on the test: that is, their failure to understand the concept of proofreading.” Wannabe Editors: Can You Pass a Proofreading Test?
How to Get Trained
The PEN Institute has group courses and lesson packs that cover the how to of proofreading and how to provide serves as a freelancer as well. Below are the 2019 group course offerings. Each group course has a corresponding lesson pack. lesson packs include the same lesson materials as the group courses but are self-guided without the online discussion or instructor feedback.
August 19–September 23, 2019
Registration opens June 19, 2019
- Establishing Your Freelance Business 101
September 23–December 9, 2019
Registration opens July 23, 2019
- NF Copyediting and Proofreading Boot Camp 401
October 14–November 18, 2019
Registration opens August 14, 2019
Since finding The Christian PEN during a prayerful search in 2015, Sharon Ford has been more than blessed by the wisdom, camaraderie and opportunities she’s found with her PEN family. When she joined, she jumped at the chance to volunteer and support this new found oasis in hopes that she’d learn and grow in preparation for a long mulled over career change. After many classes and months of support from the PEN and PEN Institute courses, she launched her freelance business, Tidy Up Content Services, late 2018!