Proofreading, explained

Other terms related to proofreading: Proof reading, proofreader, proof reader, proofread, proofreading services, copy editing, copy editor, freelance proofreading.

Once you’ve written content and had it copy edited, you should next arrange for proofreading. Proofreading checks and corrects spelling, grammar, word usage, and punctuation errors in both the main body of the text and within captions, indexes, footnotes, and reference lists. A final proofread gives you confidence that your writing is free from mistakes and will position your content in the best possible way.

Proofreading should be used for any written content including articles, academic papers, marketing materials, reports, blog posts, website copy, and more.

Tips for proofreading

  • If you’re proofreading your own work, you should leave a few days between the writing and proofreading process. This makes it easier to spot mistakes as it’s easy to overlook errors in content we’ve written ourselves. Giving yourself some time means you can review the content with fresh eyes.

  • Don’t rely solely on built-in spelling and grammar checkers in your writing software. These tools are not perfect and can miss common errors. In many cases, a spell checker will ignore words that are spelled correctly but used in the wrong way in a sentence, for example, the difference between bear and bare.

  • Make multiple passes through the material looking for different errors each time. For example, look only for comma usage, then look only for spelling mistakes and so on.

  • If a sentence seems awkward try reading it aloud. It will help you decide if the sentence is running on or needs additional punctuation to make sense.

  • If you’re not confident in your proofreading skills, consider hiring a professional proofreader to review and correct your content.

The difference between copy editing and proofreading

Copy editing and proofreading are different skills. While a copy editor does pay attention to spelling and grammar mistakes, their main focus is on the “big picture” and strengthening the work so it’s perfect for your audience. This means editing and rewriting for clarity, conciseness, comprehensiveness, tone, and structure. Copy editing is often a collaboration between the writer and the editor.

Proofreading is a final review of the document for any mistakes that may have been missed by writers and editors. Proofreading reviews the entire document, line by line, and is intended to correct every error. Writing intended for the public will normally need both copy editing and proofreading to ensure the best results.

FAQs about proofreading

What services fall outside the scope of proofreading?

In general, proofreading does not include fact checking, rewriting, changing structure or meaning, indexing, layout, design work, formatting, or anything outside checking and correcting grammar, spelling, punctuation, and word usage.

While copy editors will focus on enhancing written content, a proofreader will not be editing for understanding, tone, style, strength of writing, or content organization. Ideally, once copy reaches the proofreading stage, it should have already been through copy editing.

What types of errors does proofreading find and correct?

Proofreading ensures the final published document is free of incorrect punctuation, spelling mistakes, typos, grammar, and poor word choices. If the copy has to adhere to a specific style guide the proofreader will also be checking that these standards are met.

What skills does a person need for proofreading?

Proofreading requires a deep knowledge of spelling, grammar, word usage, and punctuation. A qualified proofreader may have a degree in writing, journalism, communication, or education. A professional proofreader will work in a distraction-free way, meet deadlines, and be good at communicating with writers and editors.

Proofreaders, explained

Style guides, explained