As long as there are people writing, there will be a need for editors and proofreaders. However, becoming an editor or proofreader requires patience, skill, and a thorough understanding of what these professions involve.
The following list of resources is designed to answer all your questions about training to become an editor or proofreader and to outline what you can expect as you embark upon an editing or proofreading career. Need more convincing? Check out some of our resources and see what we’re talking about!
If you speak English (and if you’re reading this, you presumably do), you’ve probably confused two words that are pronounced or spelled the same but have different meanings. This is extremely easy to do, because English contains many homonyms, homophones, and homographs.
Hold on a minute—more words that are similar-looking and easy to confuse? I’m supposed to be helping you, not making this more complicated! While homonyms, homophones, and homographs make English much more difficult, that complexity also makes the language very interesting, and occasionally, very funny.
Understanding the difference between homonyms, homophones, and homographs is vital for communicating properly, so let’s dive in!
Homonyms (homo meaning same and nym meaning name) are words that sound alike but are different in meaning. They can be spelled the same or differently. It’s important not to misuse homonyms, though, because the meaning of what you want to say can change drastically if you confuse the word’s meaning.
For example, if your friend tells you that he saw a murder on the way home from work, you’ll probably want to clarify whether he means that he witnessed a violent crime or whether he saw a group of crows. This is because it will be difficult to tell which he means over the phone or in a text message, as the words are spelled the same and pronounced the same. (However, it will probably be easy to tell which he means in person, as you’ll be able to see what kind of facial expression he’s making!)
There, their, and they’re are probably the most misused words in the English language. They’ve been misused on restaurant signs, in Internet comments, and across bumper stickers. What is it about these words that makes their usage so tricky? The answer: they’re homophones.
Homophones (homo meaning same and phone meaning sound) are words that are pronounced the same but are different in meaning. They differ from homonyms because they are not spelled the same, as you can see in the example of there (indicating a place or idea), their (indicating possession), and they’re (indicating a contraction of they are).
Homographs (homo meaning same and graph meaning writing) differ from homonyms and homophones in that homographs are not pronounced the same. They are spelled the same, however, and are different in meaning. They are not so easily confused in spoken English, but they can be tricky to spot in written English.
Consider the word bow. Did you picture a tied-up ribbon? The front of a boat? The device used to play a string instrument? An actor lowering his upper body? The word bow is a homograph with different pronunciations and many different meanings. So you’ll have to consider the sentence’s context to determine the intended meaning.
By considering the differences between the words themselves—nym, phone, and graph—it’s easier to grasp and remember their definitions. Looking at common examples of homonyms, homophones, and homographs helps to display their differences.
While the English language doesn’t make it easy, understanding the differences between words that look or sound the same is important for getting your point across and for understanding others, both of which are key to successful communication.
A Quick Checklist for the Procrastination-Prone Student
It’s two o’clock in the morning.
For hours, you’ve been frantically writing a paper that is due tomorrow. By some sweet miracle, you’ve managed to stay away from Netflix long enough to finish writing the first draft of your paper.
You breathe a sigh of relief and prepare to crawl away from the perils of your desk toward the safety of your bed. But alas, you do not make it.
Instead, terror strikes your heart. You gasp and clutch your shaking hand to your sweaty chest, for you’ve just realized that the battle is not yet won. Though you’ve finished writing, you still face one more daunting task: you must proofread your paper.
How will you do it?
You open your web browser, and though it takes almost all the willpower you have left, you resist the urge to post a Facebook update about your progress (“Currently trading in my sanity for a degree in philosophy. On second thought, likely never had any sanity in the first place”). Instead, you go straight to Google and frantically start searching for proofreading tips that will allow you to get more than three hours of sleep tonight.
Search no more, my friend. Though they won’t replace a substantial edit by a pair of fresh eyes (nothing can), these proofreading tips should help you remove the most glaring errors from your paper. Finishing that home stretch while retaining your precious mental marbles just got a bit less stressful.
But first, a disclaimer: If you struggle with the rules of grammar and punctuation, even the handiest of proofreading tips may not help you polish your paper. Unfortunately, these tips will only be helpful if you’re familiar with the errors you seek. A short-turnaround proofreading service may be something to consider if you don’t have confidence in your own editing or proofreading abilities. With that in mind, here are some proofreading tips to try.
Consistency Proofreading Tips
Ask any editor, proofreader, or college professor what irks them most about student papers, and you’ll likely find that inconsistency takes the cake. No matter how you slice that chocolate torte, writing something five different ways in the same paper is just plain wrong. The best way to eliminate inconsistency, especially after a long night of writing, is to tackle each potential inconsistency error one by one.
1. Check Capitalization and Acronyms
Names, terms, titles, and headings should all be written the same way. To find inconsistencies, scan your document for every usage of a term, and make sure each instance is written the same way. Acronyms should also be used consistently. Each acronym should be defined the first time it is used, and it should replace the term it represents for every use thereafter.
2. Check Hyphens, En Dashes, and Em Dashes
It can be easy to mix up hyphens (-), en dashes (–), and em dashes (—). They look so similar! Check out this guide to using these pesky punctuation marks, then use Ctrl + F to search your document for each instance of hyphenation and dash usage. Pay special attention to hyphenated terms!
3. Check Spelling
Check the language setting of your word processor. Is it set to U.S., U.K., Canadian, or Australian English? To make sure the language is consistent throughout, select the entire body of text in your document (which you can easily do by pressing Ctrl + A), and choose the correct variety of English. Though this should help you find inconsistencies in spelling, be aware that Word will not catch all spelling inconsistencies. For example, realize and realise are both accepted spellings for the same word in Microsoft Word’s U.K., Canadian, and Australian English dictionaries. The same goes for words like labor/labour and labeling/labelling. To avoid inconsistencies, search your document for both versions of words that may be spelled inconsistently.
For specialized terms that Word doesn’t recognize, after checking the spelling using an online dictionary, add the terms to your Word dictionary so that every instance of the correctly spelled word is recognized. That way, only words that are actually being spelled wrong will be labeled as such.
4. Check Formatting and Headings
Read each of your headings individually, and make sure they are all formatted consistently. Then check that the indentation and spacing are the same across all paragraphs. Remember that most style guides recommend using only one space after a period, not two.
Other Proofreading Tips
Consistency obviously isn’t the only worry when it comes to proofreading. Grammar and punctuation errors are usually lurking in student papers—especially those written in a rush. If your grasp of grammar is decent, you should be able to solve most of your own problems. The trick, of course, is finding those problems. Here are three proofreading tips for detecting the errors that your eyes habitually overlook.
5. Print Your Paper
Though this will not be a feasible option for long papers, like dissertations, it can be a useful tip for shorter documents. (You’re definitely not trying to proofread your dissertation at the last minute anyway, right?) Giving your eyes a break from screen time can help make them more aware of errors that they missed before.
6. Change the Appearance of Your Paper
If printing isn’t an option, consider doing something else to change the appearance of your paper. Copying the content into a different document without formatting is one option, as is temporarily changing the font size or style.
7. Read Your Paper out Loud
There are two potential downfalls to this technique. The first is that reading a paper aloud actually takes much more time than most students allot for such a task, and the second is that it can be difficult to focus long enough to read the entire paper. These are the very reasons why reading your paper out loud is a handy proofreading technique: doing this forces you to slow down. It also helps stop your brain from automatically skipping words.
8. Find a Study Buddy
While not technically a last-minute tip, exchanging papers with a study buddy can be very useful when it comes to ironing the kinks out of your final draft. Make friends with a classmate at the beginning of the semester, and then send your papers to each other for a quick read before submission. One more disclaimer: make sure your study buddy is an adept proofreader!
9. Give Up . . .
. . . On doing it yourself, that is. If you’re running out of time and still not feeling confident about your final draft, check out Scribendi.com’s short turnaround times for essay editing and proofreading. For important assignments, enlisting the help of an expert editor may be the best proofreading tip of all.
Okay, so you have to proofread something. Deep breaths. Unless you’re a professional proofreader, you’re likely not too thrilled to find yourself in this situation. You’ve already spent eight hours sitting at your desk writing this document, and three more hours just editing it. Now, you have to proofread it, too?!
Yes, yes, you do. But it’s not all bad. I’m going to give you a choice. It’s time to pick (drum roll, please) . . . your proofreading hat!Proofreading hat? Really?
Yes, really. Putting on your proofreading hat (literal or figurative—your call) will help you get into the right frame of mind. The more you wear your hat while you proofread, the more you’ll associate your hat with proofreading and the more easily you’ll face the tasks that lie ahead.
I know it’s daunting, but at least you have a cool hat!
And luckily for you, we’ve compiled a proofreading checklist for you. All you have to do is follow it. Easy peasy, right? So, proofreaders, rev up your desk chairs, and don your proofreading hats proudly!
The Ultimate Proofreading Checklist
Complete a First Pass
Correct typos. Scan through the document, and make sure everything is spelled correctly. Changing to a different font type can help the eye to catch errors.
Thoroughly revise homophones (words that sound the same but have different spellings and meanings). The most common are their/they’re/there, but also consider discrete/discreet, persecute/prosecute, and farther/further.
Revise the document based on the conventions of your version of English and your preferred audience/style guide. While U.S. English calls for the serial comma, U.K. English generally does not. You can use the percentage symbol in technical writing, but you should spell out “percent” in most written paragraphs. All the words in your title are capitalized in MLA style, but only the first word is capitalized in most Harvard style guides. All these little rules should be followed according to your location and your audience. Always consult your preferred style guide.
Don’t forget to proofread figures and tables. This includes formatting. Make sure the numbering is consistent.
Check for faulty parallelism, especially regarding collective nouns. For example, the word “class” is treated as a singular subject.
Make sure you’ve used hyphens, en dashes, and em dashes appropriately. The hyphen is used to create compound words, the en dash indicates range, and the em dash is used to break up sentences.
Be consistent with spelling. All terms and names should be spelled the same throughout the entire document.
Ditto with spelling out numbers. Most style guides spell out numbers between one and nine, and use numerals for numbers 10 and up, unless you’re starting a sentence. Consult your preferred style guide for the correct formatting of dates, times, percentages, equations, etc.
Eliminate redundancy, and shorten run-on sentences. Eliminate verbosity. “Due to the fact that” should be cut and replaced with “because.”
Revise comma splices. If you’ve split up two independent clauses with a comma, you’ve spliced your sentence. Repair by separating your sentence or introducing a semicolon.
Introduce all acronyms. Before using an acronym, present it. There’s nothing more confusing to a reader than a series of letters with zero help from the author about what they mean. After you properly introduce your acronym, you can use it throughout the rest of the paper, except in titles.
Cut off the other hand. Sorry, that was graphic. I just mean that, if you’re transitioning with “on the other hand,” “on one hand” has to come before it. To remedy this problem, you can always just use “conversely” instead.
Consider tone and language. Verify that the word choice is appropriate for your intended genre/medium/audience.
Check that your paragraphs flow together nicely. Like a rickety bridge, any poor connections should be further supported.
Verify that your tense is consistent throughout. Slipping between past and present tense is a very common mistake that’s extremely jarring to the reader.
Make sure your vocabulary is varied. If you’ve said “in addition” for the last three sentences, try changing it up. If you’ve used the word “beautiful” 11 times in a document, a thesaurus can’t hurt. Just make sure you know the exact definition and connotations of any word you use and make sure it conveys the intended meaning.
Clarify everything. Ambiguous word choices and sentence structures should be eliminated.
Ensure that all your reference information is there. Conversely, do not cite something that does not appear in the work. Make sure the in-text citations match the ones in the reference page.
If you find that you’re making major changes, stop proofreading and edit instead. If you’re writing, you’ll probably introduce new errors into your document. Edit first, and make the big changes. Then go back to proofreading.
Take off your proofreading hat and walk away for a bit. Drink a cup of coffee, or step outside into the sunshine. At the very least, look at something far away from your desk for no less than 40 seconds. Then, take a deep breath, and get your proofreading hat back on. It’s time for your second pass. Don’t fret. If you’ve done a good job with your first pass, then you can take off your proofreading hat really soon. It’s sad, I know.
Complete a Second Pass
Use an automated spell-checker. Know when to accept changes and when to ignore them. Remember that the computer is not always correct.
Format the document according to your preferred style guide. This includes margins, headers, paragraphs, spacing, font type and size, etc. It’s finicky work, but it’s important.
Double-check your spacing. It’s very common for writers to accidentally space twice between words and sentences. Words should always have only one space between them, and a single space between sentences is quickly becoming the norm. Check your style guide to be sure which is preferred here, but whatever your decision, be consistent.
Make sure to quadruple-check important parts of the document. It’s embarrassing when a word is spelled wrong in the title or the conclusion.
Read the entire document one more time. Does it flow well? How does it look as a whole? Do you need to make any final changes?
Talk about hat hair! It’s time to hang up your trusty proofreading hat for another day. In the meantime, you can always learn to improve your proofreading skills with ProofreadingCamp. Or, hey, if you think you look weird in hats, we know some people with a collection of hats who would be happy to do your proofreading for you.
Think freelance proofreading is for you? Here’s what you need to know!
You have chosen a career as a freelance proofreader and have entered the realm of the self-employed. Congratulations! Being your own boss and working by yourself is exciting and liberating; there are no bosses and no office politics. However, the reality is that there is no boss, no one to hold you accountable, and no one to manage the particulars an employer typically handles. It’s all up to you.
Staying on task with your proofreading jobs when you’re self-employed can be challenging. As a freelance proofreader, you must develop good work habits and choose to work efficiently and effectively. You must work regular hours, meet all deadlines, stay up to date with your financials, and keep organized client files.
Let’s take a look at these, perhaps new, responsibilities and see how best to cope with them.
Managing your time
The challenge most freelance proofreaders often find the most daunting is time management, which needs to be taken seriously if you are to be successful and productive. You must manage yourself and your energy so you can accomplish your tasks and maintain a balance between your work and personal time.
Sometimes the hardest part about being self-employed is simply getting things done. Working as a freelance proofreader can be fun, profitable, and easy if you consider the following tips:
Get down to basics: follow a schedule; make a to-do list; set priorities; use a stop watch to allocate a certain amount of time per task; and use little pockets of time wisely.
Take care of one thing you dread each morning. Do it first and get it out of the way, otherwise it will distract you for the rest of the day.
Whether you are a night-owl or an early-bird freelance proofreader, take advantage of your own peak hours, however non-traditional they may be, to complete your tasks.
Take a break for five minutes (or 24 hours) to avoid burnout and bad habits. Do something to alter your business routine: go shopping, have lunch with a friend, take a drive to the lake, or go for a run. Incorporating a little R & R into your schedule rescues you from the monotony of your work and boosts your creativity. You will return to your work refreshed and full of new ideas.
Mistakes will happen. Don’t obsess over them. Apologize to your client, take responsibility for what happened, and then rectify the problem. The sooner you fix it, the sooner you can move on.
Brush up on your skills so that you are working as efficiently as possible. There are online forums to talk to other freelance proofreaders, or you can enroll in an online proofreading course to be sure your skills are up to snuff. Learning a few tricks and making sure you are proofreading to the best of your abilities will save you time and hassle in the long run.
Eliminate the distractions of e-mail and social media for a few hours each day. Your productivity will increase, and you will work efficiently through your to-do list.
Keep an accurate account of the actual time you spend working on each project using a stopwatch and a spreadsheet. Include a short summary of the work accomplished. This will help you estimate the time you might need for similar freelance proofreading work in the future, and it is useful when determining your rates.
Several online tools, such as Google Calendar and myMemorizer, can help freelance proofreaders avoid distractions, and others, such as Manic Time, can help you get a basic handle on time management.
As a freelance proofreader, staying focused requires mindfulness, which is essential to your success. The best parts of self-employment are also the things that can lead to stress and failure. Be aware of what you are doing each day, be honest about what you can do better, and forgive yourself when you make mistakes or aren’t as productive as you hoped.
As a freelance proofreader, you must take care of your own benefits, such as health care, handle estate and retirement planning, and pay any applicable taxes. Self-employed individuals often deal with financial issues that are more complex than those of salaried employees. Legal and accounting considerations are also important, and it is imperative that you keep accurate and detailed financial records of your business. If these responsibilities prove to be overwhelming, it might be wise to enlist the advice and support of professionals.
One of the nicer aspects of regular full-time employment is that your employer is required to withhold money from your paycheck and send it to the government to cover your taxes. As a freelance proofreader, however, that responsibility will fall on you. There’s no doubt that paying taxes can be daunting for the self-employed. You might need to consult an accountant or tax advisor if you have special concerns.
As a freelance proofreader, you should set aside a portion of your revenue from which to pay your taxes. The amount will depend on the amount of money you bring in, plus the deductions and tax credits you’re allowed to claim to offset your tax bill. This varies widely from case to case; there’s no standard guideline that fits the entire spectrum of home-based businesses.
If you’re self-employed, it’s a good idea to establish a bank account from which you pay taxes on all your income. That way, when taxes are due, you are prepared to pay them. A good way to handle your taxes is to pay them quarterly. This might seem cumbersome, but it is actually a safer practice than trying to pay just once a year because it forces you to keep money in reserve and be accountable at regular intervals.
Some final thoughts
There is a definite allure to being a freelance proofreader. After all, who wouldn’t want to be their own boss, work when they want to from almost anywhere, and have complete control over their income potential? However, remember that when you are self-employed, everything is your responsibility. Armed with knowledge and foresight, we are sure you will successfully navigate the jungle of red tape and enjoy your career as a freelance proofreader!
It takes a certain personality and skillset to excel in a proofreading job
Proofreading requires steady nerves and a focused mind. Certain people are predisposed to the job because they’re systematic and unhurried. High-energy people who prefer to focus on the big picture are often less successful as proofreaders. Instead, if the words “systematic” and “unhurried” sound like you—or if you’re willing to follow instructions to the proverbial “t” and are looking for a new career—you’ll find it easy to learn to proofread.
Even those who don’t like to focus on one thing at a time have to concentrate acutely on some everyday tasks. For example, when you’re completing a government form you have to concentrate to make sure you fill it out correctly. If you’re able to get through a form without stopping every five minutes to do other things, you can probably learn to proofread. Concentration might not come to you naturally, but by enrolling in a formal proofreading course and practicing, you can easily hone your concentration.
Maybe you’re reluctant to learn a new skill because you currently have no idea how to proofread. Don’t fret. When you learn to proofread, your training course will walk you through tried and true methods that will allow you to complete each task perfectly. If you can’t follow instructions, or if you’re always thinking of new ways to do things, you probably won’t learn to proofread quickly. But, if grammar, spelling, and style have always been your fortes, you’ll likely learn to proofread in no time.
When you first learn to proofread, you’ll be taught how best to manage your schedule so you don’t have to constantly put one task on hold to complete another. You might find yourself working from home as an independent proofreader, so look for a course that will teach you how to reserve hours each day for your job and how to complete your job efficiently.
Although personality is a fixed trait, attitude can be learned. Try to practice consistency and methodical, clear thinking as you learn to proofread. You should avoid jumping ahead and second-guessing yourself. Learn to trust only what you see on the page, but also be wary that your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you. When you learn to proofread properly, you learn all sorts of hacks that other professional proofreaders have been using for years.
Don’t scrimp on paying for a good course if you want to learn to proofread properly. You might think you can save money by buying a book or sourcing a cut-rate course from outside the English-speaking world, but resist these temptations. ProofreadingCamp is a comprehensive proofreading course that was created by Scribendi.com, one of the world’s most successful and trusted online editing and proofreading services. With lessons that will teach you the standard practices that Scribendi.com’s staff of professional proofreaders use daily, this is decidedly one of the best, most up-to-date proofreading courses available.
Once you plunk down your hard-earned cash for a reputable course like ProofreadingCamp, don’t waste the opportunity; actually learn to proofread. Follow the course material to the letter, and acquire the skills and methods you’ll need to become a successful proofreader.
The human proofreader vs. the proofreading program
With all the proofreading software available these days, you may wonder why there are still human proofreaders. For a one-time payment, you can get year-round instant proofreading for all your documents by putting them through your proofreading program. You don’t even need to know how to install the software on your computer; a whole range of online proofreading programs can be accessed online, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. So why bother hiring human proofreaders?
Some proofreading programs look like word processing packages. You write your documents in an editing window of the software, and side panels give you assessments and statistics on the spelling and grammar in your text. Another type of proofreading program is one that you add to an existing word processing program, like Microsoft Word or OpenOffice’s Writer. These programs add a tab on the menu bar that enables you to access the program’s proofreading functions.
An online proofreading program may follow one of two different formats. The first requires you to upload a file, which the program will then analyze. It will then either display or email you a report on the document. The second format in the proofreading program contains a text box into which you either type or cut and paste some text. After pressing a button, you receive a proofreading report on the contents of that text.
Many proofreading program options are available for free, or at least offer a free, simplified version of a more elaborate paid program. Those without heavy proofreading requirements might get by with a free version. There are also a number of freeware proofreading packages you can download and install on your computer. You may not realize it, but you probably already own a free proofreading program. Most word processing programs include a spell-checker that also checks grammar.
Given that there are so many convenient and free software options available for proofreading, why would anyone ever hire a human proofreader? Surely, those pursuing proofreading careers might as well pack up and pursue a more in-demand career instead. However, people are still taking proofreading courses and looking for jobs as proofreaders. Why?
Proofreading program reports
The trouble with proofreading programs is that you usually have to be a qualified proofreader to understand the analysis reports they put out. Here’s a common alert from Word’s grammar checker: “Fragment (consider revising).” Revise how? What’s a fragment? You could have a go at fixing the problem by trial and error, but if you don’t know why the sentence is wrong, you probably won’t know how to fix it. All the program will do is tell you what’s wrong and leave you with little advice on how to correct the mistakes.
Although a proofreading program can highlight spelling and grammar errors, it is unable to understand the subtleties of style. You may want to write a piece for a young readership and use slang to better connect with your audience. Anything to do with fashion, trends, and youth culture requires a fast-changing vocabulary, which a software program can’t help you with. Humor, double meanings, and irony are all lost on spell-checkers. Specialist language in science and engineering are also rarely compatible with a general proofreading program. Although the software option is adequate for many proofreading needs, a human proofreader is still not obsolete.
Finally, humans are able to recognize word usage and context in a way that a proofreading program cannot. For instance, if the word “pair” is used instead of “pear” to describe the fruit, a human proofreader is likely to catch the mistake; a proofreading program, however, might see that the word is spelled correctly (after all, “pair” is a real word that would be correct in a different context), but it would not necessarily understand the context well enough to notify you that the wrong word has been used.
Must-know tips that proofreading training can give you
Whether you get your proofreading training from a university, a specialized course, or on the job, there are many skills that you should expect to learn. Proofreading training will enable you to check manuscripts efficiently. There are certain common mistakes that you should always check for, and there are some forms of grammar and vocabulary that are specific to particular disciplines, like medicine or engineering. Checking for spelling mistakes is an important part of proofreading, and your proofreading training should arm you with insider tips on this task. Once you get basic proofreading training, you will eventually evolve your own hit list of errors common to your particular field of specialization, and you may find you need to adapt standard practices to fit the specific demands of your job.
Most proofreading these days is carried out in electronic format, which means you will be looking through a word processor file. Your proofreading training program should include the use of a particular word processor. Word processor packages all have spellcheckers, and some, such as Microsoft Word, also check for grammar. There is no shame in using this function. However, you should not just open the document in Word, look for red lines, and think your job is done. Your proofreading training will tell you to make sure you have set the dictionary language to the particular dialect of English used by the writer. There is a very distinct difference between American English and British English. Do not rely entirely on the word processor’s spellchecker.
As you read through a text, you will be looking for points of grammar and layout as well as spelling. Handle each of those classifications separately, and only focus on the spelling in the document in one pass. Proofreading training will teach you to read a document several times and to focus on one problem type with each read-through.
Each proofreader has his or her preferred reading method, which to many may seem quirky. For example, many proofreaders insist on reading a text aloud. This is a tip to ensure you read every word, rather than skim. Proofreading training will teach you other methods to ensure you focus on words, including reading the text backwards or even reading it upside down. If you are reading a hard copy of the text, you might follow standard proofreading training advice and use a card to cover the text not yet read or trace the words with your finger as you read.
Your proofreading trainer will tell you to organize your time and get a distraction-free environment for your work. You need all your powers of concentration to focus on proofreading. Don’t break off in the middle of a text, and don’t try to check several documents simultaneously. Proofreading requires a methodical approach; formal training and some good old-fashioned practice will help you develop a method that is suitable to your own circumstances.
Consider the many different careers in proofreading
Proofreading requires specific skills. If you have decided you have the right temperament for checking other people’s writing, you should think about the different jobs available in proofreading so you can tailor your career path. Although proofreading requires the same skills no matter what job you take up, careers in proofreading can diverge depending on the individual’s professional goals.
The biggest influences on which career path you take are your lifestyle goals. Do you want to travel? Are you prepared to move to find the right job? Do you prioritize staying with your friends and family in your hometown? Ambitious people who prioritize their work above their personal life will likely look for different careers in proofreading than will those who are just looking for a steady income. Opportunities in proofreading exist all over the world, but they are not evenly spread out. Take stock of your priorities before you decide which of the many careers in proofreading you want to pursue.
In-house vs. freelance careers
The biggest difference in proofreading jobs lies in whether you want full-time employment or prefer to be flexible and work independently on short contracts. If you have relatives or children to take care of at home, you may prefer part-time or home-based work. These days, that does not necessarily mean you have to settle for freelance work. Some employers are happy to allow their employees to telecommute. Similarly, some freelance contracts require proofreaders to work in an office. Site-based and home-based jobs exist in both the in-house and freelance worlds. Careers in proofreading offer any combination of these possibilities.
If you went to college and earned a degree, you have the option of extending your studies by proofreading the work of academics. Careers in proofreading that focus on academic writing require adherence to a different set of style guidelines than those for general publications. This means that the academic world looks for proofreaders who have followed a specific career path and have résumés packed with academic proofreading experience. You don’t necessarily need to be freelance to follow this career path. If you live in a town that has a large university, there is likely an editorial services company nearby that can give you permanent work checking academic papers. Remember, though, that to build a career, rather than just getting a series of jobs, you need to be discerning about which jobs you apply for. Make sure they always fit into this category if you want to establish a career in academic proofreading.
Advertising agencies offer a variety of opportunities for careers in proofreading. Sales materials include advertisement copy, TV ad scripts, sales brochures, flyers and leaflets, and brand promotion. Always remember that, to forge a career, you may need to specialize. The advertising industry offers different kinds of work for those pursuing careers in proofreading, such as checking the persuasive text of ads and proofreading factual documents, bids, and specifications for accuracy.
When considering careers in proofreading, most people probably think of the publishing industry as a source of work. Publishing is still one of the main sources of work for proofreaders and is very diverse in the kinds of formats you can work in. Books, magazines, and newspapers all need to be checked for spelling and grammar. However, many proofreaders manage to do jobs without ever working on printed material. Material published online also needs to be proofread, which has opened up even more career opportunities. Remember, however, that it pays to specialize. Choose a career path, and stick to it.
Proofreading employment offers a stability that freelance positions can’t provide
Freelance opportunities in proofreading are a great way to get extra part-time work that you can do from home. However, the freelance lifestyle is not for everyone. If you only want to work as a full- or part-time employee but don’t want to have to move across the country to chase jobs, a number of options are still available by which you can gain proofreading employment.
You will greatly improve your chances of getting proofreading employment without moving if you have your own transportation. Big cities have extensive public transport networks, but getting from one end of the city to the other may involve several bus and rail changes, with long waits for the next leg. Having your own vehicle extends your search field for proofreading employment to cross-city opportunities. Also, residents of small towns can consider neighboring towns within driving distance if they own a vehicle. The wider your search area is, the more likely you are to find multiple opportunities, and this will greatly enhance your chances of finding proofreading employment.
The organizations most likely to offer proofreading employment are publishers. You may think that all publishers are in cities like New York or London, but you would be wrong. Many publishers are based in small towns to reduce costs. Take a look through your Yellow Pages, or do a quick search online to find publishers that might offer you proofreading employment.
Types of publishing
When people think of “publishing,” they probably think of book publishing houses. However, don’t overlook your local newspaper. Track down printing companies in your local area, and ask them if they will let you contact the companies that bring them printing work. Anyone who gets anything printed will need a proofreader. Take your résumé when you go to meet the manager of the printing company. Maybe the printer will consider hiring you so it can offer a proofreading service along with its printing services. Many printers offer typesetting, layout, and graphics services to their customers, so this may be an avenue to explore for proofreading employment.
Advertising agencies produce a lot of written work and need proofreaders. Look in your local paper for ads from advertising agencies, and send them a copy of your résumé. Proofreading employment could even help you get started in an advertising career.
Chances are, your town has one big employer, and you probably already know people who work there. Big companies produce in-house magazines, sales brochures, user guides, and operational manuals, as well as a whole range of other printed literature. It’s possible that the company outsources much of its sales brochure work to an advertising agency, but that will not be the case with its internal communications. Network among your friends and neighbors to find a contact within a company if you think it could offer you proofreading employment. Ask around to find the right person to send your résumé to.
If you don’t want to be a freelancer, you probably don’t want the loneliness and stress of starting your own business. Instead, consider going into partnership with other proofreaders you might know. If you gather together the copywriters and editors in your contacts book, you might be able to form a company. In this scenario, you would get all the benefits of proofreading employment, such as professional insurance, health coverage, and a pension. A cooperative is a useful midpoint between self-employment and corporate work.