Editing Course: Getting Started in Proofreading

Today’s topic was long! This topic is where the learning really begins. It took a lot longer than usual, but it was more exciting as there were a lot of practical exercises included. I am not going to share the practical exercises. I am only sharing a summary of the theory notes. Some of the notes below are reiterating things already discussed in previous topics, which is good because I don’t take everything in the first time it’s said.

4: Getting Started in Proofreading

“Proofreading” means undertaking the checking and correcting of proofs.

The proofreader reads the original manuscript (written and submitted by the author) and compares it to the proof (typeset by the publisher) to ensure they are exactly the same and contain no errors.

A novel, short story or other printed document riddled with mistakes affects the credibility of the author and the publisher and will result in loss of future sales.

It is critical for a proofreader to have patience and tolerance. However, it is not uncommon to find errors in printed copy. Unfortunately, when a person works on their own manuscripts/documents they can become too close to them. They will see words they expect to see instead of the words that are actually there.

Editors and copyeditors usually mark up with a blue pen. Proofreaders usually use a red pen.

In publishing, a copyeditor marks up text directly on the copy, in between the lines, unless the copy is provided single spaced. In this case, they would place their marks in the margin. A proofreader will always mark up copy by placing corrections in the margin, no matter what line spacing is used.

Remember, a proofreader only checks for errors between the original manuscript and proof copy or the edited copy and proof copy. They never make changes. If two documents are being compared and the proofreader notices inconsistencies in the copy, such as missing punctuation in both the manuscript and the proof, it should NOT be corrected but should be brought to the attention of the editor or author.

It is important that the proofreader reads slowly, looking at each letter of every word along with checking all punctuation.

Proofreader’s Checklist:

  • spelling and punctuation errors, typos and literal errors
  • grammar
  • word breaks and hyphenation
  • orphans and widows
  • paragraph indentation
  • spacing between lines and words
  • preliminary pages
  • page numbering, headers and footers
  • numbering lists
  • heading: chapter headings and sub-headings
  • table of contents and list of illustrations
  • tables, diagrams and figures, and their captions
  • footnotes and references, cross references
  • contacts, addresses and phone numbers
  • endmatter: appendices, bibliography, index, etc.

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