The English language comes with a whole host of inarguable, black-and-white rules, and it’s my job as a proofreader to know these and apply them. Proofreaders also know a great deal about style, and I’m a stickler for consistency in my business proofreading.
I’ve proofread reports for government bodies, annual reviews for charities, brochures for a car manufacturer and prospectuses for a university. I’ve proofread copy for websites, for magazines and for manuals; copy to inform, to sell and to impress. Over my years in business, I’ve proofread millions of words – and saved my clients from many mistakes.
Why commission proofreading?
Publishing text that contains mistakes and inconsistencies is unprofessional. You’re saying to the reader – your client, customer or service user – that you don’t care much about quality.
Clearly, then, proofreading is important in order to protect your organisation’s reputation. But why outsource proofreading – why not just read through the material yourself? Here are a few good reasons to call in a professional:
- You can’t rely on your spellchecker. Spellcheckers are great for ‘embaresing errers’ in your writing, but they fail to flag up many other mistakes and they have no problem with inconsistencies.
- You can’t rely on your own eyes. When you’ve read something over and over, you get blind spots. You read what you think is on the page, not what’s actually on the page.
- You can’t rely on your learning. Unless you’ve trained as a proofreader, you’re unlikely to know all the ins and outs of the English language. You may not even know that some mistakes are mistakes.
- You can rely on an expert. A qualified proofreader, I’ve been doing this for many years and I can spot mistakes and inconsistencies a mile off. My clients are often astonished by how many errors I find.
My business proofreading service
My job as a proofreader is to find and fix the mistakes and inconsistencies in a piece of writing. That means correcting errors in spelling, punctuation and grammar, and ensuring that a consistent style is applied in areas such as capitalisation, italicisation, hyphenation, punctuation and spelling. These are just some of the issues I’m looking for as I proofread:
- Inconsistent capitalisation: ‘British Army’ and ‘British army’
- Inconsistent italicisation: ‘ad hoc’ and ‘ad hoc’
- Inconsistent spellings: ‘co-operate’ and ‘cooperate’
- Incorrect grammar: ‘The list of issues are long’
- Incorrect or missing punctuation: ‘Peoples opinion’s differ’
- Missing or repeated words: ‘This report opens door to’
- Misspellings: ‘accomodate’
- Misused words: ‘The affect of this issue’
- Formatting glitches: a missing indent or a random font change
Think of proofreading as addressing the black-and-white issues in the language, the ones that absolutely must be fixed before publication (but not improving the writing; that’s copy-editing).
I usually proofread in Microsoft Word, marking up revisions and queries using the Track Changes tool. By arrangement, I can also work with paper proofs, on a PDF document or in the client’s content-management system.
I am British and have a degree in American Studies, so I am equally comfortable proofreading in UK English and US English.