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.
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