Proofreading: What is it? And Can You Do it Yourself? (2022)

Whether you’re a student, a mechanic, a doctor, or a professional writer, you’ve probably come across proofreading in some form or another — though you might not be aware of it. So much of the work people do these days revolves around the written word. Mistakes in their writing can have a massive impact on their success — which is where proofreading comes in!

In this post, we’ll have a look at the ins and outs of proofreading, from the perspective of experienced proofreaders in the publishing trade.

What is proofreading?

Proofreading is the act of reading written work and marking any errors. These mistakes most commonly involve spelling, grammar, punctuation, and consistency.

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What is a proof?

The ‘proof’ in ‘proofreader’ comes from the publishing term describing an early printed copy. Traditionally, typesetters would arrange letters tiles onto large plates that are then used to print pages of a book. But before they started churning out thousands of copies, a ‘proof’ version was sent to the publisher for a final check.

With modern digital publishing (and computerized printing methods), proofreading is now usually done on a computer — though some proofreaders still prefer marking up physical copies.

What is the difference between proofreading and editing?

In publishing, proofreading comes into play at the very end of the editorial process, after a manuscript has been corrected by a copy or line editor. The proofreader’s job is to comb through the document and look for any mistakes that may have slipped through the cracks. Regardless of how meticulous the writer and editor have been, there will almost always be errors when you’re dealing with a book of 80,000 words or more.

(Video) How to Proofread Tutorial: 10 Proofreading Techniques They Didn't Teach You in School

Proofreading: What is it? And Can You Do it Yourself? (2)

If you'd like to confirm which type of editing your book needs at its current stage, we recommend taking this quick quiz to find out:

Why is proofreading important?

You might remember, in early 2019, the television hit series Game of Thrones was coming to an end. Devoted and casual fans alike sat in front of screens to devour every moment of the final season. So it’s no surprise that when a Starbucks cup made an accidental cameo during one of the episodes, viewers were pointing out the gaff on social media in a heartbeat.

The show’s producers were quick to act, and 48 hours later the disposable cup had been edited out of the show. Yet there’s no denying that hundreds, if not thousands, of viewers were yanked from the medieval realm of Westeros because of this tiny appearance of a modern artefact. Suddenly, the focus is on the error, and not the story.

(Video) Proofreading tutorial

Do you see where we’re going with this? A manuscript peppered with typos, grammatical errors, or contextual inconsistencies will jolt a reader out of the narrative the book is meant to tell. Instead of getting caught up in the story or thesis, they’re suddenly forced to mentally rectify the work’s mechanical mistakes. So proofreading is partly important because it allows your narrative to shine through uninterrupted.

What’s more, it adds a level of professionalism that is absolutely necessary if you’re looking to get publishers or readers on your side. When confronted with an obviously un-proofed book, both audiences will likely assume the author couldn’t be bothered to truly invest in their work. And if the author didn’t seem bothered to invest, why should they?

So whether you’re planning to seek out traditional representation for your book or to publish on your own, editing and proofreading is a vital part of the publishing process.

Find out how much it costs to hire a pro proofreader. Click to tweet!

Working with a professional proofreader

A professional proofreader does more than just look out for spelling, grammar, and punctuation mistakes. They will also look for consistency issues that could hamper the reading experience. This would include:

  • Ensuring that any web links go to the right webpage
  • Checking that the index matches the content
  • Confirming that the layout doesn’t fluctuate throughout the work
  • Making sure that the images have correct captions
  • Verifying that the copy adheres to the author’s chosen style guide

Proofreaders will not usually copy-edit, meaning that they won't make changes directly to the manuscript. Their primary job is highlighting potential mistakes, allowing the writer or editor to make the final decision.

Who should use professional proofreading?

In traditional publishing, every book will be proofed before it’s released to the public. If a reader were to find more than a handful of typos or grammatical mistakes in a novel, for example, it could negatively color their reading experience (and damage the publisher’s reputation).

(Video) Proofreading Tips | How to Proofread Your Novel | Self Editing for Authors | Sydney Faith Author

In self-publishing, proofreading is becoming a non-negotiable part of the editorial process. Independent authors often look for ways to reduce their costs, so they’re often tempted to proofread by themselves. But as the indie book market grows and its products improve in quality, getting a professional proofread is fast becoming common practice.

Proofreading: What is it? And Can You Do it Yourself? (4)

Outside of trade publishing, proofreaders will often find work in areas such as academia, journalism, and even advertising. In some corporate settings, they can even be hired to check through slide decks before presentations.

How much does a professional proofreader cost?

Based on statistics from Reedsy’s marketplace, proofreading services cost $10 per thousand words, on average.

Of course, this is only a ballpark figure and the final rate will depend on a number of other factors. For example, if the proofreader needs to cross-check the index, this would naturally escalate the cost.

In non-publishing industries, costs may also vary. A proofreader with a deep background in technical writing may choose to charge extra for their expertise and fact-checking, for example. But whatever the cost, you can be sure that getting a professional proofreader is worth it.

Tips for finding a professional proofreader

There are a lot of proofreaders advertising their services out there — where do you begin to find the right one for your project? We’ve got some pointers down below.

  • Ask your editor. If you’re already working with an editor, it’s worth asking if they offer proofreading services. If not, they probably know other professionals that they trust will be good for your project.
  • Specify your preferences. Do you like to work digitally or do you focus better reading a printed manuscript? The proofreading process is a two-way street, and when both you and the professional agree on a method, everything will be much smoother and more efficient.
  • Search niche marketplaces. If you’re writing a book, it’s better to go straight to editing societies' directories or publishing marketplaces, where the proofreaders’ credentials are checked, than to browse Upwork or Fiverr. That way you don't have to spend hours sifting through portfolios of proofreaders who aren't equipped with the right knowledge to advise you, not just on your writing but also on formatting your manuscript.

Proofreading: What is it? And Can You Do it Yourself? (5)

Polish your book with a professional

Meet Neil Gaiman's, George R. R. Martin's, and George W. Bush's editors and proofreaders at Reedsy

Learn how Reedsy can help you craft a beautiful book.

(Video) Online Proofreading Jobs for Beginners That Pay $30/Hour | Start Working From Home Today

Proofreading your own work

When it comes to a longer piece of writing meant for wider consumption — like, say, a book — there’s still nothing that can beat a trained professional.

For other types of content, however, writers can and do proofread their own work. Simply reading back something you’ve written will usually reveal typos and ungainly passages. In situations where your writing isn’t intended for a massive audience (for example, in an email to your boss), you can usually rely on an online spelling and grammar checker such as Grammarly to catch any major mistakes.

Let’s cover a couple of DIY proofreading tips to help you ensure your work is as polished as can be.

Proofreading tips

  • Start with self-awareness. There are certain bad grammatical habits we’re all prone to, or particular typos that tend to crop up frequently in our work. Before you get started, take a moment to determine your own "bad writing habits." Then do a sweep of your work, concentrating just on those. For example, perhaps there's a word you know you overuse? Search for just that word and really consider whether it needs to be there.
  • Read out loud. The truth is, your eyes can deceive you — and this is especially true if you're reading on a screen, where your eyes are quick to tire. You'd be surprised at how many mistakes you can spot reading something out loud vs. reading it silently in your head. A bonus tip here is to read your manuscript out loud with someone else. Take turns reading a set number of pages each, and you'll ensure you catch any awkward-sounding phrases.
  • Do one thing at a time. The worst way to proofread your own work is to read through it and try to get it perfect by the end. Effective proofreading requires multiple rounds, and each round should be focused on just one task. Don't look for spelling errors at the same time as you check for homonyms, as you'll likely end up letting stuff fall through the cracks.

[updated: 08/26/2020 UTC]

(Video) Learn Editing and Proofreading | Proofreading and Writing Editing techniques Part-1 :

Looking for a proofreader? Sign up for a free Reedsy account and browse through the best freelancers in the business.


Proofreading: What is it? And Can You Do it Yourself? ›

Proofreading is the act of reading written work and marking any errors. These mistakes most commonly involve spelling, grammar, punctuation, and consistency.

Can you proofread your own work? ›

Copyediting or proofreading your own work will take you more time and effort than someone else's work will, but it can be done. Remember to take your time and to question your own writing even more than another editor or proofreader would.

What is proofreading and how do you do it? ›

Proofreading takes place when editing is finished. Focuses on surface-level errors like misspelling and grammar errors.
Proofreading Techniques
  1. Read your paper aloud. ...
  2. Make a list of errors that you commonly make and keep an eye out for them.
  3. Read the text backwards.
Oct 14, 2020

Why is it important that you should never proofread your own copy? ›

The science behind the mistakes

The author (maybe that's you) focuses on the message or point they want to convey. However, when we proofread our own work, we miss potential typos and grammatical errors – focusing on the meaning of our words creates a blind spot to errors.

Why is proofreading so hard? ›

“When we're proofreading our own work, we know the meaning we want to convey. Because we expect that meaning to be there, it's easier for us to miss when parts (or all) of it are absent. The reason we don't see our own typos is because what we see on the screen is competing with the version that exists in our heads.”

Is proof reading hard? ›

Proofreading is highly essential but the skill for proofreading is not something that takes overnight to develop. It is something that is honed through constant practice, through proofreading the work of other people as well as your own. It is actually very difficult to proofread your own work.

What skills does a proofreader need? ›

Skills and qualities
  • sound knowledge of spelling, grammar and punctuation.
  • a sharp eye for detail and the ability to concentrate for long periods of time.
  • to work neatly and accurately.
  • organisational and time-management skills to meet deadlines.
  • to enjoy working on your own.

Do you need qualifications to be a proofreader? ›

You don't need special qualifications and certifications to become a professional proofreader, but most will have a bachelor's degree in a field like English, Journalism, and Communications. You can study in other fields as well, especially if you want to work on technical or academic content.

How many words can you proofread in an hour? ›

However, a basic rule of thumb for a straightforward, mostly text, publication is to allow for a proofreading rate of about 10 pages per hour with about 300 words per page.

What are the four things to look for when proofreading? ›

  • Basic Spelling and Grammar. Hey, I said it was the start. ...
  • Proper Nouns. This is something that people often forget when they're looking over the spelling in their work: Take a look at proper nouns to make sure they're spelled correctly. ...
  • Verb Tenses. ...
  • Sentence Structure. ...
  • Formatting. ...
  • Consistency. ...
  • Idioms. ...
  • Overall Flow.
Jun 19, 2020

How much does a proofreader charge per word? ›

What are proofreading rates per word? Among professional proofreading services, per-word rates range from $. 01 (one cent) to $. 10 (ten cents) for “standard” revision, which can include basic style editing, or simply proofreading or copy-editing.

Is editing and proofreading the same thing? ›

Editing strategies focus on making your text more readable by assessing clarity, style, and citations, while proofreading strategies focus on eliminating errors and mistakes in grammar, punctuation, spelling, and formatting.

What are the three main focuses of proofreading? ›

Instead, it's highly advised that you look for professional help at this important stage. The main purpose of proofreading is to improve the quality of the paper, ensuring there are no lingering mistakes, and correcting generalized discourse errors or writing inconsistencies.

How long does it take to edit 10000 words? ›

There is no simple answer to this question, but over the years at BubleCow we have come to understand that an experienced editor working with a well-written novel can expect to edit between 5 and 10,000 words per day. This means that for a novel of 60,000 words will take somewhere between one and two weeks to complete.

What does a professional proofreader do? ›

Proofreaders catch spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors. They also look at the formatting to make certain all elements are included and appear as they should—spotting things like a sentence appearing twice or accidentally getting omitted, a headline failing to show as bold, or the date missing from a document.

How much money can you make proofreading? ›

The national average proofreader salary is just under $53,800 per year. The typical range falls between approximately $47,000 and $61,000 per year. The bottom 10 percent of proofreaders make just over $41,000 per year, while the top 10 percent make just over $68,000 per year.

How many times should you proof read your work? ›

At a minimum, at least twice by you, once by someone else, and one check with a reliable online grammar tool. But the more times you proofread and check your work, the better. You might use a checking tool while you write or shortly after you finish your text.

Is proofreading a good job? ›

A career in proofreading can be a rewarding one, both financially and in terms of job satisfaction. Whether you've toyed with the idea, or never gave it a thought till now, you may want to consider it as a career option, especially if you have the skills.

How long does it take to become a proofreader? ›

You may have to have at least 2 to 3 years of proofreading or editing experience, sufficient computer equipment, and typing speed, and you may also have to take a test to qualify to work with them. Freelance marketing sites include Guru and Upwork.

How do I get a job as a proofreader? ›

Here are some steps you can take to find a job as a proofreader:
  1. Read different writing. ...
  2. Establish a career goal. ...
  3. Develop your proofreading skills. ...
  4. Consider earning a bachelor's degree. ...
  5. Network with other professionals. ...
  6. Create a strong resume. ...
  7. Look for jobs.
Apr 26, 2021

Should you be the only one to proofread your work? ›

Although the content of your essay is definitely your own, and you should take responsibility for proofreading your work as you do it, it's a good idea to let several other people look at it to see if you're making yourself understood and don't have any glaring errors.

How can I check my own work? ›

The following eight steps will help you help yourself:
  1. Check Your Attitude. "Attitude is very important," says employment consultant Rick Waters. ...
  2. Be Reflective. ...
  3. Assess Your Performance Against the Job Specifications. ...
  4. Keep a File. ...
  5. Find out the Supervisor's Expectations. ...
  6. Get Feedback From Others. ...
  7. Be a Team Player. ...
  8. Plan Ahead.

How do you edit your own work? ›

The Importance of Self-Editing
  1. Read Your Writing in a New Format. If you typed it, print it out. ...
  2. Take a Break. Let your writing rest for a few hours or overnight. ...
  3. Read it Out Loud. ...
  4. Remove Uncertain Language. ...
  5. Avoid Repetitive Phrases. ...
  6. Eliminate Filler Words. ...
  7. Remove Weak “To Be” Verbs. ...
  8. Remove Weak Adjectives.
Oct 11, 2017

What does it mean to proofread your work? ›

Proofreading means examining your text carefully to find and correct typographical errors and mistakes in grammar, style, and spelling.

What this handout is about This handout provides some tips and strategies for revising your writing. To give you a chance to practice proofreading, we have left seven errors (three spelling errors, two punctuation errors, and two grammatical errors) in … Continued

This handout provides some tips and strategies for revising your writing.. To give you a chance to practice proofreading, we have left seven errors (three spelling errors, two punctuation errors, and two grammatical errors) in the text of this handout.. If it is required to do so, does your paper make an argument?. (See our handout on paragraph development .). The important thing is to make the process systematic and focused so that you catch as many errors as possible in the least amount of time.. It’s easier to catch grammar errors if you aren’t checking punctuation and spelling at the same time.. Then read each sentence separately, looking for grammar, punctuation, or spelling errors.. Start with the last word on the last page and work your way back to the beginning, reading each word separately.. Because content, punctuation, and grammar won’t make any sense, your focus will be entirely on the spelling of each word.. You can also read backwards sentence by sentence to check grammar; this will help you avoid becoming distracted by content issues.. You’ll learn to identify the specific areas of your own writing that need careful attention, and knowing that you have a sound method for finding errors will help you to focus more on developing your ideas while you are drafting the paper.. Writing Clearly: Grammar for Editing , 3rd ed.

Taking a proofreading quiz is a great way to test your skills! Think that you can ace any proofreading test? Prove it! (Online quiz and PDF included).

That’s where proofreading exercises with answers come in.. But even if you simply have a passion for words and reading and are interested in the general field of proofreading, you will benefit from Caitlin’s free, comprehensive Proofread Anywhere workshop .. This free proofreading quiz covers the most common grammar errors that you can expect to see in the documents you’ll proofread.. Work hard on getting to the point where you can pass a practice test with flying colors before you enter the real world of general or transcript proofreading.. This will help you hone your skills and practice thinking on your feet.. A self test in proofreading will come in handy for both individuals who want to check their grammar and spelling skills, and for employers, who can assign these proofreading worksheets with answers (pdf) to their employees as a way to test their reading comprehension and attention to detail.

Proofreading is a great side hustle opportunity, but there are a few things you should know about how to become a proofreader.

An experienced proofreader can charge anywhere from $20 to $45 an hour, depending on the scope of the work.. Caitlin Pyle, a legal transcript proofreader and educator, earned just over $43,000 in her first year, working about 20 to 30 hours a week.. Copyediting comes first, checking for initial grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors.. Scoping is editing transcripts for court reporters.. You can find free quizzes to test yourself on Chicago and AP Style , but there aren’t many places to learn the skills needed to become a good proofreader.. Her training aims to take the learning curve out of proofreading and get students to make more money faster.. Checking for spelling, grammar, and formatting issues in newspapers, books, and other printed or online publications.. Legal transcript proofreading: Checking for accuracy of court reporter transcripts.. This type of proofreading is unique in that there’s no grammar or style correction.. Proofreaders are checking for accuracy between the audio and transcript and correcting punctuation.. Beginning freelance proofreaders charge anywhere from $10 to $35 per hour based on the document length, turnaround time, and skill set needed to complete the work.. Decide whether you want to start your own business and find clients on your own or take a job.. Grammarly is a free app for Google Chrome and macOS that detects grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors and allows you to fix them with one click.

Sending an email to yourself is the perfect way to keep track of reminders, shopping lists, attachments, journal entries, and more

Today we explore how writing yourself an email can be an effective life hack – plus how to email your future self.. Virtually all email providers allow you to send an email in which the sender and recipient are the same.. Just type your own email address into the To line and hit Send as you would with any other email recipient.. You can also include yourself in CC or BCC when you send an email to someone else so you have a file copy, or send an email from one of your alias addresses to another.. And if you write your shopping or to-do list as a mail, you can send it to any or all of your email addresses (or cc your partner or kids) – plus you'll be able to call it up on all your devices.. Then, for example, you can send yourself a photo as an email attachment as suggested above, give the email a specific subject line like “Family photo,” and have it automatically forwarded to a folder you’ve named “Photos.” Or you could create yourself several alias addresses for specific purposes, and automatically sort emails you send to those addresses into different folders.. Of course you are not limited to sending yourself emails in the future – you can schedule emails for colleagues, friends or family members as well.. Or you can schedule an email for a loved one on a milestone date, like your child’s 18 th birthday or your first wedding anniversary.To schedule an email in your Premium account, click the Clock icon in the lower right corner of your Compose E-mail window, select your desired sending date and time, and press OK to save.

You’ve probably heard the saying “good writing is rewriting.” It means good writing requires coming up with ideas, reviewing and organizing them,…

No matter what you’re writing, whether it’s a blog post, a screenplay, a research paper, or a book review, you’ll work through the writing process to turn your rough ideas into a polished, publishable finished piece.. Once you have a clear central theme for your writing and a strong grasp on your supporting arguments, it’s time to finesse your brainstorming results into a logical outline.. For example, if you’re writing an article about the rising popularity of mushroom-based health supplements, effective sources may include:. Usually, figuring out the right tone for your writing is easy—if it’s an essay or another piece of academic writing, it needs a formal tone.. Once you have a completed rough draft, the next step in the writing process is to shape it into a final draft.. At this stage, you’re content editing , line editing , and copy editing .Later, you’ll proofread your work and, depending on the content you’re covering, you might fact-check it as well.. One way to easily find areas where you can make your writing stronger is to read it aloud.. The last stage of the writing process is proofreading your final draft .. At this stage, you’re finished writing, but you’re not quite ready to hand in your assignment.


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