Proofreading: What is it and why do I need it?
We write and read so much content these days: blogs, newsletters, social media posts, reports, website content, the list goes on. Our content is the shop window for our businesses; it is through this content that people grow to know, like and trust us, and become our customers.
If you write as part of your day-to-day business you’ll know that proofreading your work can be a bit of a drag. It doesn’t have to be like this. I’ll tell you what a proofreader does, the documents they work with, how to find one and why you need one in your life.
Let your content stand out because of its messages, not because of its typos
What is a proofreader?
Proofreading is a level of editing. It’s usually the final check before writing is published or shared. A proofreader will check for errors and inconsistencies in grammar, spelling and punctuation. They will also check that your layout and formatting are consistent.
The next level up from proofreading is copy-editing (or line editing). In addition to the things a proofreader will check, a copy-editor will make sure your sentence structures are grammatically correct and that they make sense and read clearly. They check for wordiness and that the tone of your writing is right for your audience – whilst you may be an expert in what you do, using technical jargon may make it difficult for customers to engage with your content and therefore you.
To complicate things, proofreaders and editors often vary in what they offer. For instance, I call myself a proofreader, but I carry out all the copy-editor checks I mentioned above. To avoid confusion, always be clear about what it is you need help with and what your freelance proofreader actually does.
What do proofreaders check for that you don’t already know?
Are you using UK or US English conventions? Most people know spelling differences exist between the two dialects (ize/ise, or/our, judgment/judgement), but do you know that dialogue, titles and Latin terms are punctuated differently, and tenses can be used differently (e.g. US use the past participle ‘gotten’)? Proofreaders are skilled at spotting these details, so you don’t have to learn all this.
Are your verb tenses consistent? Do your subjects and verbs agree (e.g. ‘neither Katy nor the women were running’ and ‘neither the women nor Katy was running’)? Are your commas used correctly? Have you missed any punctuation? Are your bullet points punctuated and formatted consistently? Have you got words like ‘practice’ and ‘practise’ mixed up?
These are just a few examples of things a proofreader will check for. We love this kind of detail!
Where can I find a proofreader?
A quick online search should help you here, but the answer to this question can also depend on where a proofreader’s ideal client hangs out. LinkedIn is where my clients are based, but I do also have a smaller presence on Instagram and Facebook. There are proofreading groups on Facebook where you can reach out to freelancers for a project, though these groups aren’t always regulated. To protect yourself, always have a conversation with a freelancer first, check reviews and testimonials and be clear about their terms and conditions and your expectations.
The Chartered Institute of Editors and Proofreaders is a reliable, professional organisation where you can find a registered proofreader who has completed training and work experience in order to progress through the membership levels. It’s a trustworthy site full of very experienced professionals.
What documents will a proofreader work with?
This often depends on the proofreader and their niche, but basically anything that has been written can, and should, be proofread. Think about where you have seen cringey typos: menus, shop signage, catalogues, merchandise, online news, books, websites, social media posts, newsletters. Anywhere!
How does it make you feel when you see those typos? What conclusions do you draw about that business? This goes back to my earlier point about your content being the shop window for your business; proofreading protects your business’s credibility.
So now you know what a proofreader does, where to find one and why you need to hire one. People can be resistant to proofreading. I’m not sure why – perhaps it’s because so many people dislike doing it, or perhaps a lack of understanding has led to its diminished value. Regardless, having your work proofread is essential at a time when we’re producing so much content. Customers expect to see a business take pride in being accurate and consistent in their content because that’s what they expect from your service. I love being a part of that journey!
Get in touch with me today to chat about your proofreading needs.
© 2021 Emma Hewlett Proofreading