What a proofreader does

Proofreading 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:

  • 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
  • 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 footnotes or endnotes to the note cues or indicators in the text
  • 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.
Proofreading is a labour-intensive task aided up by computer software
Proofreading is a labour-intensive task aided up by computer software

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.


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