What are the benefits of proofreading?
The benefits of proofreading are many as it can:
- provide objectivity and a fresh pair of eyes as the author of a business document or publication will often read what they expect to see
- check on word usage and identify or amend words or phrases that your spellchecker would not spot, such as using ‘that’ instead of ‘than’, or ‘to’ instead of ‘too’
- check spelling and correct misspelled words or identify words used in the wrong context, e.g. ‘their’, ‘there’ or ‘they’re’
- check punctuation, grammar, and capitalization style
- provide peace of mind and assurance that your document is the best that you can make it and will be understood by the reader
- help protect your business or brand from damage caused by documents containing errors or confused wording
- add value to your business in ensuring you produce correct, concise, clear, and consistent written communications that reduce misunderstandings and queries
- save money by picking up errors much earlier and avoiding costly reprints.
The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading have a useful page of FAQs on their website about using a freelance editorial.
What a proofreader does – checks carried out
The proofreader is usually the last line of defence to check your document or publication for accuracy and consistency before publishing or circulation, and as part of the proofreading I will normally carry out the following standard checks for accuracy and quality.
The obvious ones
- read the text word by word for sense
- ensure accurate and consistent styles of spelling, punctuation, capitalization, and hyphenation have been used
- check the consistency of spelling of authors’ and contributors’ names
- check page, chapter, and section numbers are consecutively numbered and ordered
- check page running headlines and footlines are correct
- ensure table, figure, and photo captions are correct and match text references to them
- check or insert page cross-references in the text
- check or insert page numbers listed in the table of contents and lists of tables, figures, and photos in the preliminary pages
- check footnotes or endnotes to the note cues or indicators in the text.
The less obvious ones
- watch for poor end-of-line word breaks that might cause confusion or offence, e.g. ther-apist (not the-rapist) and ana-lyst (not anal-yst), and divided words ending recto pages
- check works cited in the text to the references or bibliography section (but not the validity or accuracy of the references themselves) and ensure they are of a consistent style
- eliminate or alert the publisher or author to ‘widows’ (short last line of a paragraph at the top of a page) and ‘orphans’ (short first line of a paragraph at the bottom of a page)
- watch for inconsistent design, style, and layout, or material that may have been missed out during production
- raise queries with the author – for instance, if something does not make sense, regarding missing references, or where cited references at the end of the document or book do not match those in the text for spelling of authors, date of publication, and so on
- collate authors’ answers to queries and late corrections, or add updates to text (for example, due to the recent publication of new data or report, or to a change in the law) where requested to do so.
If I am proofreading a Microsoft Word file I can also use the software PerfectIt by Intelligent Editing that helps to search for inconsistencies of style, such as variant spellings and hyphenation, inconsistent capitalization and punctuation, such as in bullet lists.
The dangers of failing to proofread
Check for problems caused by lack of proper proofreading in my blog The dangers of failing to proofread.
The value of the benefits of proofreading
The proofreading stage is an important part of the document or publication production process as this is the stage at which all the tidying up is done. A proofreader can point out any errors or inconsistencies and offer solutions, avoiding you embarrassment.
Below are two examples where my proofreading input saved the client from expense and embarrassment, proving the value of proofreading.
Example 1: A text book
On proofreading a financial textbook, I reported to the publisher’s desk editor that a diagram of the accounting steps taken for a transaction was referred to in the text but had been omitted. It was large and appeared at the beginning of a long chapter and to insert an extra page to accommodate it would affect the book pagination and the index (which was currently being prepared). As there was a text reference to a previous diagram on the same page that related to a full-page diagram on the facing recto page I suggested that the diagram to be inserted should share the same page, with both being reduced in size and reoriented from portrait to landscape. Problem solved without awkward and time consuming renumbering.
Example 2: Annual Report and Accounts
I was proofreading a firm’s Annual Report and Accounts and on checking the list of directors found that one person was listed as ‘Director of Communications and Pubic Affairs’. The client was mightily relieved when I reported the correction I made to it to read ‘public’.
Do not gamble with the reputation and future of yourself or your business – invest in quality proofreading from Stephen York Editorial. The cost of proofreading could work out less than you think, but the cost of not proofreading could be substantially more!