10 Secrets Proofreaders Will Never Tell You

Proofreading: nobody likes it, but everybody has to do it. In an industry where writing, whether it be proposals, Opinion Editorials or Facebook or Twitter posts, is often the main focus, it’s important to take a close look at the text before anything gets out the door.

  1. They Start With What They Know: Does your client not use the Oxford comma? Do they prefer a double space after the end of each sentence? If you know that the person or organization you are proofreading for has a few basic grammar or stylistic requirements, make note of so those items will stand out to you from the get-go.
  2. They Invest in Highlighters: You know how the side view mirrors on your car have a note that says, “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear?” Sometimes, staring at a computer screen can distort our view, which is when printing out a hard copy can come in handy. Reviewing content on paper with a highlighter can give your eyes a break, and can also serve as a check list of what you caught to compare to your online copy.
  3. Proofreaders Talk to Themselves: Often times, reading a document out loud to yourself can be the best proofreading tool. When you read aloud, you it’s much easier catch misplaced commas, typos, and awkward sentence structures.
  4. They Don’t Make Spell Check Their Lifeboat: Spell check is a wonderful tool, and the squiggly red lines (that always seem to think my last name is a typo) are good indicators of when something isn’t right. However, you can’t depend on spell check to catch everything, especially words like affect vs. effect and other language that is technically grammatically correct, but not used appropriately in the piece of writing.
  5. They Like to Recognize Consistency: What fonts, margins, logos or color schemes has the person or organization you’re proofing for use? When in doubt, look at past published content to look at how they word certain terms or what font size and document format they prefer.
  6. Proofreaders Don’t Jump into the Deep End First: It’s helpful to do a general read through of the content before addressing edits. Note elements that stand out or highlight sections that you want to come back to—remember not to get caught up in everything at first glance and think of proofreading like yoga, breathe and go at your own pace and take a break when you need to.
  7. They Like to Play the Name Game: Names don’t often draw the same attention as sentences, but it’s equally important to double check the spelling and the individual’s title. If unsure, check AP Style on capitalization and order rules.
  8. They Sometimes Have Four or Six Eyes: If you have a daunting proofreading project, ask someone else to look at it, too. Then, compare notes. Your proofing partner might have caught something you missed, or have a different opinion!
  9. They Google it: Sometimes, something may be spelled right or look grammatically correct, but you just can’t put your finger on what’s wrong or off. Read it out loud a couple of times and if it’s still not clicking, try and look it up.
  10. They Communicate: Keep in touch with the author or owner of the piece—if you have a question or need clarification on the content, ask them!