Proofreaders check publications for errors before they go to print or appear online. They mark where errors have been made, for example, in spelling, grammar and punctuation. They usually work alone, and often from home.
Proofreaders work on a wide range of materials, including books, magazines, brochures, reports, websites and academic journals.
Traditionally, proofreaders receive an author's work after it has been copy-edited and typeset. The proofreader checks the page proofs against the edited version word by word, making sure the typesetter has followed the copy-editor's marks correctly.
However, proofreading is now often 'blind', meaning that the proofreader doesn't have an edited version to compare against. Also, proofreaders increasingly work on-screen.
Proofreaders often use special, standard marks in the text and page margins to show what and where the errors are and how they should be corrected. Traditionally, they'll use red ink to show the typesetter's mistakes and blue ink for any errors missed (or made) by the copy-editor. Proofreaders who work on-screen might use a 'track changes' feature to mark the text.
Proofreaders' tasks include:
- marking spelling, grammar and punctuation mistakes
- checking that page numbers are in sequence
- ensuring consistency by following a house style guide
- making sure captions for illustrations (diagrams, maps and photos) match what's being shown in the illustration.
Proofreaders don't check facts, suggest rewriting, comment on page layout or put together indexes.
Proofreaders usually work on their own, although they might contact the copy-editor and/or author to discuss queries. They use dictionaries and other reference books to check details they are unsure about.
Personal Qualities and Skills
- 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.
- The ability to use standard proofreading symbols or onscreen 'track changes' features.
- Organisational and time-management skills to meet deadlines.
- To enjoy working on your own.
- Good communication skills when dealing with clients and authors.
- Computer skills.
- Knowledge of the processes involved in producing books, other printed materials and websites.
Pay And Opportunities
Typical employers of proofreaders
Proofreaders are often employed in publishing companies (either large organisations that cover a wide range of publications, or small, specialist firms that deal with just one or two publishing areas), graphic design agencies, printers, government bodies and any organisation that publishes written material, whether print or online.
Entry routes and training
There are no set entry routes into this career.
You might be at an advantage if you have a degree or experience in a particular field because specialist knowledge is useful for some publications.