How to choose a proofreader

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How to choose a proofreader

You have just completed writing your document. It could be an essay, book, journal article, or business report. You have checked through it so many times, completely revised it once or twice, but you are still not confident that you have found all the errors and inconsistencies that may be present. Perhaps English is not your first language and you need some help navigating modern English idioms.

You have decided to engage a proofreader or editor to make sure your writing is the best it can be and to give you peace of mind. You carry out a Google search for “proofreader” that yields more than 24 million results (2018 – try it yourself)! How do you choose? There are several points to consider in making this choice.

Do I need an editor or proofreader?

A proofreader will check your writing for spelling, punctuation, grammatical correctness, and proper English usage, without changing the content itself. This is usually sufficient for most documents, especially where there is a stipulation that the words must be your own, such as with a university submission. An editor can provide the services that a proofreader does but focusing more on offering corrections or suggestions on rewording the content and organization of the piece.

Editing takes longer and tends to be more expensive than proofreading services. Decide how much feedback and the type of feedback you require, before choosing between a proofreader or an editor.

Do I choose an individual or an agency?

A quick Google search will reveal there are many freelance proofreaders trading in their own names or agencies offering proofreading services. While large professional agencies may be able to offer a greater range of proofreaders and with more specialized training or experience, a freelancer can offer a more personalized service while still offering a great range of subject experience. There is likely to be greater continuity and the opportunity to build a trusting relationship with a professional freelance proofreader who can handle repeat assignments and be flexible in negotiating fees. There is no guarantee of continuity or flexibility with a large agency and clients may be offered different proofreaders for future work.

What about experience?

Some independent professional proofreaders may also have writing experience, for instance with blogs. How much experience does the written piece require for proofreading? A complex technical piece will require a proofreader with more experience than for emails and correspondence and this factor is often easier to ascertain with a freelancer. If English is not your first language, then look for proofreading services from a native English speaker.

Personal service or automated?

Some proofreading services are entirely automated. You are required to upload your document, which is the run through a computer without being checked by human eye. Computer checking is little better than a glorified spellchecker / grammar checker and will have difficulty in handling mistakes caused by non-native English speakers. Computer programs are less able to handle English idioms and slang.

Generally, if quality is important, use a service that has real people to proofread your documents. Where speed is more important than quality consider an automated service to give a quick spellcheck to your document.

How much time do you have?

Generally speaking the more time you can give the better so as to allow the proofreader to do a thorough job and to make sure your preferred proofreader will be available. Leaving proofreading to the last minute will often have a negative effect on the quality. Some proofreading services will charge an extra fee for a guaranteed turnaround at short notice. Look for a proofreader who responds quickly to your questions.

How much can you afford?

Some proofreaders charge by the hour, some per 500 or 1,000 words, while some will charge by an A4 page. Make sure that when comparing proofreaders you are comparing like with like.

There is an old saying: pay peanuts and you will get monkeys. Be prepared to pay a realistic fee for a quality service. Some specialized services and technical subjects will be charged at higher rates, while a proofreader who must concentrate just on the basics – spelling, punctuation, and grammar – will charge much less.

Check out the proofreader

More established proofreaders will have their own website where you can check the services offered and in what subjects. They may also have social media profiles and a blog that you can check. This is a good way of verifying their writing skills as poorly laid out web material containing many spelling and punctuation errors is an indication that you may receive poor quality work.


Personal recommendation from a friend or colleague is always helpful. If this is not available or the preferred proofreader is booked up (good ones usually are booked up a little in advance) then look for a proofreader who offers reviews or testimonials on their website.


No two proofreaders are the same, although they usually all work to the similar professional standards.

How does Stephen York Editorial Services match the above criteria?

See for yourself by visiting where you will find blogs, links to social media, feedback and testimonials from clients, and details of services, media, and subjects covered.