Proofreading 101: Guide to Providing a Better Service

Posted on - Last Modified on

Finding a proofreader is easy. Finding the right proofreader, however, is the challenge. But what is it that distinguishes an OK proofreader from a professional one? Is it about how much you charge? Is it about how soon you can deliver? Well, I do not think so. Although these things are part of the equation when employers go about choosing a candidate, it is more important to assess the proofreader's approach to a project at hand, be it a simple article or a more complex business document.

In the following, I am going to highlight some tips that could help potential proofreaders better maintain their level of service and promise to their clients:

1. Battle the Illusion of Familiarity

If you keep working with the same document over and over again, you may easily fall prey to a condition that I call the illusion of familiarity. What this means is that your brain gets so much familiar and attached to the document at hand that it literally auto-corrects the possible mistakes for you. This condition is likely to deteriorate with time, so the longer you work, the more likely it is that you will keep making mistakes that you otherwise would not.

To prevent this condition from taking place, copy your text into another editor and change the font regularly to avoid making unnecessary mistakes. This practice is especially rewarding when you have to proofread a longer manuscript or book.

2. Read Backwards

What? Yes, that is an extremely useful practice that I have learned while working with a client on a longer proofreading project. The idea behind this hack is to try and take a step back from your writing and read the sentences in a backward order, from bottom to top. What this will do is add novelty to the individual sentences by making it easier to spot errors.

If you do not have time to put your text aside, this is a really good technique that you could utilize to make the most of your time and ensure quality proofreading services even under stress or pressing deadlines.

3. Keep Reading Your Text Out Loud!

If you are a natural-born proofreader like me, then this practice is probably an inherent attribute of your proofreading process. It does not matter if you just whisper it or shout it out to the world, for as long as you read it out loud, there is no way you cannot spot the spelling, grammar, or punctuation mistakes along the way. If a punctuation mark is missing here and there, you will immediately feel the change in the overall meaning and flow of the document. If it is a grammar or spelling mistake, your sentences will sound awkward, so that is your cue right there that something is way off!

If you want to go further than that, I have come to realize that you may not only spot spelling, grammar, or punctuation errors this way, but you can also improve the overall quality of your phrases and reword them for better clarity and communication. Who would not want to find a better, shorter, or clearer way of saying the same thing, right?

4. Keep the Cycle Alive

This technique is also a rather useful one, but not many proofreaders utilize it. It is called proofreading by cycles. I am calling them cycles because of their repetitive nature. The way you use this technique is by choosing, for instance, one particular issue on the first 10 pages and ignore the rest. Then you would go back to the beginning again and choose another issue to correct in the same cycle.

If you make use of this practice, you will save a lot of time by not having to do a follow-up reading every time you get to the end of your assignment.

Now, let's see the routine I use when it comes to proofreading a document of any kind:

  1. Check capitalization (note that capitalization may be a more important thing to consider in the case of branded copy than in the case of books or articles).
  2. Check two-letter and three-letter words, such as ‘is’, ‘be’, ‘of’, ‘the’, ’and’, ‘for’, ‘to,’ for they tend to go missing here and there.
  3. Check uneven spacing and punctuation.
  4. Check Subject-Verb agreement ( has or have great freelancers.)
  5. Check if you closed quotes "…", parentheses (…)  and brackets  […] that you opened.
  6. Check for consistency (if you keep using email throughout the text, then stick with it. Do not change it up to e-mail along the way).

There are many considerations and techniques that I use, but I believe these are the most important ones to pay attention to when you go about editing and proofreading a document of any kind. I hope this short article will be able to help you out with some useful tips for your next proofreading project.

Leave your comments below on the most important things that you sometimes miss in the first or second round of your editing process. Let's collect them all so that everyone may see and learn from them. Until next time!

Posted 11 September, 2015

LeslieTailor, MA©

Editor, CV and Copywriter of 15+ years exp

Hello and Welcome to my profile page! I am a freelance writer and editor who helps businesses and individuals develop high-quality content in the form of blog posts, product descriptions, whitepapers, essays or research papers. I also focus on improving existing content both grammatically and stylistically to ensure fluff- and error-free texts, be them technical or non-technical in nature. The ...

Next Article

Work = Play: The Freelancing Work Equation