What is proofreading?
Proofreading is the final stage in the preparation of a document that is to be used by other people. It involves checking for clarity of expression, spelling, punctuation, grammar and consistency in formatting. English-speaking documents are checked for consistency in use, for example, of UK English or US English, throughout.
What is the history of proofreading?
Proofreading takes its name from traditional printing presses, where ‘galley proofs’ were mockups of a printed manuscript to see how the published document would look. These proofs were checked for mistakes and corrected before being used to print the final piece.
Why does proofreading matter?
1. Reputation is protected and, possibly, enhanced
Do you want to give the best possible impression to your clients or perhaps a prospective employer?
Documents that are expressed clearly and without errors convey the message that the individual or business cares about their image. It demonstrates the organisation or individual took the time to make sure that their work was presented in the best possible way.
2. Clarity of message: ensures we say what we mean
When the intended message is clear it allows the reader to focus on the information, not the mistakes, and contributes to the overall positive impression you are trying to achieve.
For example, punctuation – in this case, commas – can show completely different outcomes:
Woman Without Man
A professor wrote the following sentence on the board and asked his class to punctuate it:
Woman without her man is nothing.
Half of the class punctuated the sentence in the following way:
Woman: without her, man is nothing.
The other half of the class responded with the following:
Woman, without her man, is nothing.
It’s clear, from this example, punctuation is indeed, important!
Typing errors can also alter the intended message:
ABC Company is not seeking new staff to join its team.
ABC Company is now seeking new staff to join its team.
3. Can save money
Mistakes found after a document has been printed/published can lead to funds needing to be spent on reprinting. This leads to waste in marketing budgets and/or limitations on other projects. It can also prevent embarrassing or expensive retractions.
4. Improves the chances of getting a job
When applying for a job, you want to give the best impression possible. Documents being used in an application need to be carefully proofread to improve your chances of being selected for an interview. First impressions count.
How to proofread
Proofreading is a highly detailed skill and can take time to master. Once your document is ready, check it yourself and then ask someone else to check it. Finding errors in your own work can be difficult as your brain is seeing what it thinks was written. Handing drafts to a colleague from another area of the business is useful as they will be able to spot an error the rest of the team has missed due to viewing the document multiple times.
Always use the spellcheck function in your word processing program and pay attention to whether you have chosen UK English or US English eg. programme vs program. Make sure you are consistent in your spelling.
“I’d really like to eat grandpa.”
“I’d really like to eat, grandpa.”
10 of the most common proofreading errors are:
When proofreading your work, it’s a good idea to keep an eye out for these types of mistakes.
Professional proofreaders are available. A Google search will list those available close by. They have years of experience at document preparation prior to publication/printing. We highly recommend engaging one. We offer proofreading as an additional service to artwork and content creation. Please contact us to discuss further.
Suggested Reading & Resources
Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation. Lynne Truss, 2003
Have You Eaten Grandma? Gyles Brandreth, 2019
Australian Government Style Manual. https://www.stylemanual.gov.au/
Examples above are in general usage on the internet.