Posted by: wordsmithsuk | April 2, 2010

The importance of proofreading

Proofreading with red penProofreading is a vital role which carries a high level of responsibility. The publishing world has many horrifying anecdotes about huge print runs or expensive publications which had to be pulped because of a crucial proofing error that everyone failed to spot. In other sectors, people often devote only a few minutes to proofreading, hoping to catch glaring errors as they jump out from the page. But such a quick and cursory scan will always miss a lot of problems. The only way to be confident that your publication is ready for production is to work with a definite proofreading plan which helps you to search systematically for specific kinds of errors.

Proofreading is the last step in the editorial cycle and is therefore a vital part of ensuring that there are no mistakes in the finished publication. Even the most impressive document will have its credibility undermined by mistakes that should have been identified and removed before publication. The way a document looks affects the way others judge it, and careless errors will distract readers from its message. Proofreading effectively means paying attention to the details that help to make a good impression. The time spent in detailed, rigorous proofreading pays a huge dividend.

But although proofreading might at first seem to be an easy task, it is in fact a specific skill that must be learned. This is because the human brain imposes a pattern on what it sees and tries to correct errors automatically. Someone who is not trained in proofreading will often fail to see errors such as missing or repeated words, incorrect grammar or punctuation or spelling mistakes – because their mind is showing them what it expects to see.

Proofreading problems

Proofreaders face a number of common problems in carrying out their important function:

  • The task can seem boring and requires a lot of concentration.
  • Proofreading takes a long time.
  • The proofreader may be uncertain about the rules and conventions of grammar and punctuation.
  • Mistakes can be hard to spot.
  • It is not always clear where the task of the copy editor stops and that of the proofreader begins.
  • Getting interested in the content means forgetting to proofread.
  • No matter how thoroughly we examine a text, there’s always one more little blunder waiting to be discovered.
  • The person who discovers that little error will inevitably be the first person who picks a copy of the print run.

Do you have any tips or techniques for effective proofreading? What are your proofreading horror stories? Let us know and we’ll pass them on to other readers.

Look back here in the next couple of weeks for two more posts on the role of the proofreader.

Our audio book ‘Effective Business Writing for Success’ has helped many people to develop their skills in both proofreading and writing. It is fun, easy to use and not at all expensive! Look at our website for more information.


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