What is Proofreading? – Proofreading is the activity of carefully checking for errors in text before publishing or sharing. This is the very last stage of the writing process, when you correct minor spelling and punctuation errors, typos, formatting problems, and inconsistencies.
Proofreading is essential for any text that will be shared with readers, be it academic papers, job applications, online articles, or printed brochures. Depending on your skills and budget, you may choose to proofread the text yourself or hire a professional.
In the publishing industry, correctors typically check printed “proofreading copies” of text and mark corrections using special correcting marks. Yet in another area, professional correctors often work with digital text and make live corrections using the track change feature in Microsoft Word or Google Docs.
What is Proofreading vs Editing?
Editing and proofreading are different steps in the process of revising text. Editing can involve major changes to content, structure, and language, but proofreading only focuses on minor mistakes and inconsistencies.
Often a text will go through several stages of editing before it is corrected. The table below shows some of the common steps in the editing process.
What is Proofreading? – Four Stages of Editing and Proofreading
Step 1: Content editing
Revising early drafts of text, often making significant changes to content and moving, adding or removing entire sections (also known as progression or substantive edits).
Step 2: Line editing
Revise the use of language to communicate your story, idea, or argument as effectively as possible. This may involve changing words, phrases and sentences as well as rearranging paragraphs to improve the flow of the text.
Step 3: Copy edits
Brush up on individual sentences to ensure correct grammar, clear syntax, and stylistic consistency, often following certain style guiding rules (such as APA or MLA). The copy from the editor doesn’t change the content of the text, but if a sentence or paragraph is ambiguous or awkward, they can work with the author to improve it.
Step 4: Proofreading
Carefully check for remaining mistakes, such as misspelled words, misplaced punctuation, and style inconsistencies. In print publishing, correctors are also responsible for checking formatting (eg page numbers and line spacing).
Proofreading Tips and Tricks
Basic proofreading skills are important for anyone who writes. For everyday texts, such as business reports, book manuscripts, blogs, or college papers, there are techniques you can use to proofread efficiently and effectively before sharing your work.
1. Edit your writing first
Before you reach the final stage of proofreading, make sure you have thoroughly revised and edited your work. There’s no point in spending time fixing small mistakes if you might later erase entire sections or rewrite paragraphs. Only proofread once you have a final, complete draft that you like.
2. Take a break from viewing texts
When you have been reading and rereading the same words for hours or days, it will be more difficult to spot the error. Before proofreading, take your work aside for a while so you can see it with fresh eyes.
Ideally you should wait at least a day or two before the final check, but if you have a tight deadline, even a half hour break can help.
3. Correction of the mold
Seeing your words on the printed page is another helpful strategy for paying attention to things that might otherwise have escaped your attention on the screen. If the final version is going to be printed, this is also a good opportunity to check that your formatting is correct and consistent on the page.
4. Use Digital Shortcuts
While reading from the print can help you find errors, word processing software can help you fix them efficiently. Most obviously, run a spell check – but don’t rely on your computer to catch every single error.
If you notice that you repeatedly misspell certain words, capitalize inconsistently, or switch between UK and US English, you can use the “find” and “replace” functions to correct the same error throughout the document.
Be careful, and don’t use “replace all”. Click and check each replacement to avoid accidentally adding more mistakes.
5. Learn from Mistakes
Watch for repeated errors in the text. This can help you avoid it in the future.
Knowing what to look out for is the most challenging part of proofreading. You might see obvious typos, but small mistakes in grammar and punctuation can be more difficult to spot.
6. Choose a Proofreading Service
If you lack confidence in your written Indonesian or English, or if you just want to make sure you don’t miss anything in an important document, you may want to consider using a professional proofreading service.
There are two main options: you can hire a freelance proofreader, or you can send your document to a proofreader and editing company. There are various things to consider when choosing a service.
Do you just need proofreading or editing?
It’s important to have a clear idea of how much work your text will require. People often think that they only need to proofread when, in fact, the text will benefit from some level of editing as well.
If you send proofreaders a document that’s riddled with grammatical errors, confusing sentences, and difficult-to-follow paragraphs, they may turn down the job or recommend other services.
Many freelancers and companies offer editing and checking, either separately (for a separate price) or combined into a single service. Make sure you fully understand the types of changes that are included. Will editors only correct minor mistakes, or will they also comment on odd phrases and structural problems?
Should a proofreader specialize in your type of document?
Many different types of documents require proofreading: from literary novels to technical reports, from PhD dissertations to promotional leaflets. The best service options are usually those that are specific to your type of document.
While proofreaders and copy editors generally don’t require expert knowledge of text content, the process will be much smoother if your proofreader is familiar with the rules and genre you are working on.
How much does proofreading cost?
Proofreading costs vary widely. Prices depend in part on the corrector’s location and level of experience, text type and length, and turnaround time.
Rates are usually calculated per word or per hour. If the service also focuses on formatting, it might be the price per page.
How long will it take to correct?
Most companies offer a variety of deadline options, but it is recommended that you plan for a minimum of 24 hours for proofreading.
For very long documents, work may not be completed within 24 hours, especially if you also need editing services.
For a combination of proofreading and copy editing, you can choose an experienced editor completing about 10,000–15,000 words a day.