When you envision a proofreader reviewing your writing, what do you see?
Do you see a person wearing a pair of coke-bottle glasses and an oversized sweater hunched over a stack of papers? Does he have a giant red pen in his hand and a condescending glare in his eye, a smirk on his face, just ready to tear your work to shreds? Is she setting out to edit your work until it fits her idea of perfection, even if it’s far from your original vision? Is he also using grammar and spell check technology to do all his work for him? If this is how you view a proofreader, you’re not alone. Luckily, however, this vision of a proofreader is simply a myth.
Read the common myths about proofreaders debunked below so you’ll have a clearer and more positive vision of what a proofreader is really like.
Myth #1: A Proofreader Is an Editor
Proofreaders review a piece of writing in its final draft meticulously, word-by-word and line-by-line, typically after it’s already been edited. They look for accurate spelling and grammar, and fix issues with the formatting and overall layout of a piece of writing. They also fix punctuation errors, typos, or incorrect use of language.
Editors, on the other hand, typically review a piece of writing when it’s in its first or second draft, with the intent to improve its overall flow and coherence. They may even rewrite and move entire sentences and paragraphs around in a document to make sure that it flows well. While some editors may correct obvious grammatical and spelling errors, their main objective is to verify the overall flow of a piece of writing.
Myth #2: Proofreaders Are Becoming Obsolete
This is the most widespread myth about proofreaders that needs to be squashed. It’s a common belief today that you don’t need to hire a proofreader to review your writing because grammar and spell check software will automatically catch every error.
While grammar and spell check software can be helpful at times, they are far from foolproof and their abilities are surprisingly limited. If your writing is jumbled or wordy, it’s more likely the software will recommend the wrong word or phrase for you when you make a mistake. For example, if you type “definantly” when you mean to type “definitely,” spell check suggests “defiantly,” but not “definitely.” Or if you type in a word that has a homophone (e.g., “whales” versus “Wales”), the software will not always recommend the correct option for what will fit within the context of what you’re writing. This is especially problematic with words that are commonly used, such as “your” versus “you’re” and “their” versus “there” and “they’re.” Additionally, grammar and spell checkers will not know industry-specific words and phrases, while an experienced proofreader will be able to identify them and ensure their proper use.
Myth #3 Proofreaders Who Are Not In-House Will Change the Focus and Quality of Your Writing
It’s understandable to think that an outsider won’t fully understand your organization’s voice or business objectives. But professional proofreaders, like those at ProofreadNOW.com, will encourage you to send them your house style guide so they can study it and use it. They will use the most appropriate style guide for your organization, and for the type of document you submit.
Proofreaders don’t want to follow a style guide just for the sake of following it, especially if it has nothing to do with what you need or want. They’ll work, line-by-line, to ensure that your organization’s voice and style are consistent with the rest of your communications and documents. They’ll verify your writing is free of errors, and that its formatting and style are consistent throughout, without ever compromising quality or the focus of your organization’s voice and objectives.
Myth #4 Proofreaders Thrive by Being Overly Critical
Many writers fear submitting their work to a proofreader because they’re afraid it will be ripped to shreds and altered until it’s completely different from the original text. Some writers may think proofreaders are even giddy when they encounter a piece of writing full of errors ready to be saturated with a red corrective pen. They even believe proofreaders will fabricate finding certain errors just to come across as know-it-alls.
Experienced proofreaders are conditioned to find even the smallest of errors in a piece of writing. However, their ultimate satisfaction comes from your writing being the best it can be, so that it can fulfill its purpose. They have reviewed a wide range of documents throughout their careers and their trained eyes easily see things that others’ eyes don’t. But they only want your writing to be clear, focused, and free of large or small errors that will mar your organization’s reputation.
Once you debunk some of the most common myths about proofreaders, it’s easier to see that their main goal is simply to put your writing in its best possible form.