How it works: Proofreading

The word “proofreading” is often confused with editing. See here for a post that explains the differences between editing and proofreading.

Proofreading is the very last step in the journey towards publication and works differently to editing. This is a follow up to the How it works post detailing how the editing process works.

Because proofreading is the very final stage before publication, a proofreader will not be making changes to a manuscript. The text should have been edited, the pages laid out and everything will be ready for publication. Proofreading is the final opportunity to catch the typos.

Photo by Wallace Chuck on

Therefore, when I’m proofreading, I’m typically working with PDF files. This means that I cannot change any of the text. Instead, I’ll mark up the text with a series of symbols that indicate what needs to be changed in the text.

There are, of course, different symbols for different changes and you can find a table of these symbols in the New Hart’s Rules and in the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook which are both invaluable for writers and editors alike.

Here’s how I, as a proofreader, approach working with a manuscript. It should give you an idea about what’s going on when you send your work off to someone.

  1. We agree a budget for the project, if it’s appropriate we’ll agree a focus for your proofread and I’ll get as many details from you as I can, including your style sheet or house style information. This is important at this stage as it gives me something to reference and check your writing against.
  2. You pay a small deposit for the proofread to commence, then send me the file or files, usually PDFs but Word documents work too.
  3. I get to work on your proofread, marking up the manuscript for corrections. For this, I’ll be using lots of tools, doing some research and tidying up the look of your manuscript.
  4. It might be that I need to ask you questions while I’m proofreading. It’s much easier for both of us if you’re aware and keep your eye on your email inbox!
  5. I’ll return the marked-up manuscript to you. There may be a separate queries list or illustrations box.
  6. You pay the remaining balance.
  7. If you have any questions, or something doesn’t make sense, feel free to email me and ask! I’m always happy to answer questions.
  8. You make changes to your manuscript and then publish it!
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

Proofreading is about little changes. Perhaps a comma has been dropped or an indent forgotten about. It’s not about changing massive sections of text: that should all be done at the developmental or copyediting stages.

If you’d like more information on proofreading or editing, I’m more than happy to answer questions. Get in touch and I’ll make sure you get a personalised response.

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Published by Nick Taylor | Editor & Proofreader

Editor, proofreader and writer. Available for hire!

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