Sometimes proofreaders get a bad reputation for being overly critical, pretentious, and boring. They’re often viewed as the holder of the red pen of doom, the crusher of written dreams. And they’re the people who hold things up in the publishing process because they get too involved in the nitty-gritty of your important work, and they’re overly picky with the corrections they make and suggest. However, these stereotypes attributed to proofreaders are a bit grandiose.
Here are a few things every proofreader needs you to know.
They Want Your Work to Succeed
Proofreaders want to give your work the respect it deserves. That’s why they scrutinize every letter and piece of punctuation, line-by-line, multiple times. They will make every effort to ensure both egregious and small errors are identified and corrected.
They don’t do this because they love using a red pen and get thrilled at the thought of marking up your work. They do this because they want your writing to be clear and focused, and to fulfill its purpose. They also want to ensure your writing is accurate and free of typos so your organization retains its integrity and positive public image. Their success depends on the success of your writing.
They’re Avid Readers
One thing is true: proofreaders read a lot. And they read a lot of different writing too. Even if they don’t read much for pleasure, they read a lot on the job, which shouldn’t be too much of a surprise since it’s a big part of their job.
Because proofreaders are avid readers, they encounter various types of documents, writing styles and tones, and formatting techniques all the time, every day. They know what works and what doesn’t, as well as the most common types of errors that occur in documents. They can catch such errors a lot faster than untrained eyes can because they’re typically reading most of the day, every day. Their judgment and discretion are incredibly valuable for this reason. Using an experienced proofreader is like tapping into a live Encyclopedia about writing and vocabulary.
They Cannot Easily Be Replaced
Not everyone can be a proofreader, because it takes patience, practice and diligence to become experienced at proofreading. This is no different than other professions. Like other professions, you must really want to become an expert to become one, and you must put in a lot of training and study time to perfect your craft. Proofreaders are always fine-tuning their skills. And they work hard to become experts.
Additionally, even the best technology won’t catch common writing errors the way that an experienced proofreader can. While certain technology is helpful when you’re compiling a draft, it won’t catch certain spelling and grammatical errors. For instance, spell check will never catch your use of “forego” when you should have used “forgo.” And an experienced proofreader will use industry-specific phrases and keywords in a way that software never will.
They Are Not Anti-Social
Too often proofreaders are perceived as being loners who don’t like working with other people. All they want to do is criticize others’ writing and be left alone. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Proofreaders actually have a pretty social job at times. In fact, working on a piece of writing with others can be one of the most social types of work out there. Proofreaders must connect with their clients, editors, publishing departments, management teams and, at times, other industry experts. To make sure your writing is the best that it can be, proofreaders are constantly sharing drafts, emails, and notes with others. They’ll regularly confer with their colleagues if they need to verify something. They have a tight and expansive network and rely on it often.
It’s also important to mention that proofreaders do laugh and have feelings. They try to present corrections as professionally as possible. But they can take a joke and aren’t out to be mean or rip your work to shreds for the sake of being rude or to seem like a know-it-all.
They Sometimes Make Small Mistakes… Sometimes
Obviously, egregious errors that call into question your professionalism and integrity are not acceptable in print or in material published online. However, every once in a great while a small typo, such as inserting “tht” instead of “that,” might happen. Sometimes technology can be unfriendly and will insert unwanted typos or change formatting specifications. And sometimes mistakes just happen, especially when a piece of writing crosses many desks and online platforms.
But rest assured, an experienced proofreader will fix any mistake, no matter how small, whenever and however they can. To be honest, they’ll probably feel much worse than anyone else the very few times a mistake makes it through and is published, and they’ll always fix it when they’re able to do so.
Essentially what proofreaders need you to know is that they’re human too. They modify written works to make them as perfect as they can be. They always tap into their knowledge banks and network of resources while they’re at work. And they use their extensive training and experience to polish a variety of different types of writing. Like other professionals, they also take a lot of pride in their work and expertise. But they are still, like other professionals, human beings.