Proofreading could be seen by others as tedious and boring – not me! I love to find your mistakes and I really enjoy the hunt.
I have developed a good eye for spotting errors on the page and on the screen, as well as articles and comparing typeset copy against original copy. I have a keen sense of knowing when something actually looks wrong, and I always check.
Let’s look at your workspace – computer, paper, pens, highlighter, whiteout strips, pencils, possibly a computer.
As a Professional proofreader my workspace has a special toolkit – I like to use different types of style manuals, dictionaries, editing handbooks, online screen tools that allow me to check for spelling and grammatical errors. I even subscribe to an online dictionary. Any good proofreader has a ready supply of referencing tools at the tips of their fingers when they commence a proofreading assignment. I like to be fully prepared.
However, before I get to the point of cross-checking with my reference tools I need to go hunting on your treasure. I will hunt down that elusive typo, grammatical error or even that website link that doesn’t work. The more I ‘hunt’ for errors, the easier they become to spot, and my eyes are more accustomed to finding them than yours.
Not everyone sees errors. Believe it or not the professional proofreader practices eye-focusing exercises on a range of differing texts such as magazines, children’s book, adult fiction, promotional and raw material.
As a professional proofreader I have been taught to make a minimum of 3 passes over text before being satisfied with its error free content. It may take a little longer to get to the ‘error free content’ point, but it’s worth it.
So, when you engage me as a proofreader it is really important that you communicate with me so that we can find the best outcome for your text;
- To avoid confusion prepare a brief specifically detailing the work to be undertaken. For example, do you require straight proofread from digital or hardcopy, copyediting, formatting or style development. Many of these practices overlap so you have to be very specific in your requirements.
- Give me a copy of your in-house style manual if you have one
- Give me a realistic timeframe for the work to be completed
- Give your final expectations about the finish of your document e.g. do you expect to see my annotations on your copy?
It is important for a proofreader to develop the qualities of a good editor, which means we have to be tolerant and flexible. It is very easy to get carried away with the power of correcting other people’s mistake but we have to be flexible enough to realise when to stop. The Author always has the last say on the final approval of any changes.
Symbols and Red Ink
We are taught to use specific symbols when marking up text so that when it goes to the typesetter he will understand any amendments that need to be made. Me, I just love using the ‘teacher’s red pen’ – obviously the yearning I had to become a teacher when I was younger still lingers within me.
Test your skill – common word misuse
There are many examples where common words that sound alike but have different meanings can completely alter the meaning of a sentence, I’ll give below an examples of what I mean, see if you can work out which word belongs to which sentence.
Should the following sentences use the word ‘accept’ or ‘except’?
- Everyone in the team had contributed to the presentation ____________ for Jillian.
- Sarah looked at the beautiful gift for a long time then said, “I can’t possibly _________ it.
For some it will be easy, for others you’ll have to think about it or go and check with your favourite referencing tool.
Let me know how you go.