What does a proofreader do?
Working with a proofreader is your last stop in the editing process. To ensure your book is ready to hit the presses (or digital publisher), a proofreader will step in and double-check everything. They’ll make sure that your files are free from spelling mistakes, grammar errors, missing punctuation, and other issues that could spoil a reader’s enjoyment of your writing. The term “proof” actually refers to a step in the traditional printing process. Typesetters would arrange tiles onto a metal plate that would print a single page. Once the tiles are set, they print a copy — a proof version — that gets sent to the publisher for a final check. The person who makes these checks will read the proof — hence, the “proof reader.” A professional proofreader not only has a keen eye for detail but a systematic method for spotting every subtle writing and content error and making sure the proof is free from typographical mistakes. A dedicated proofreader should have the attention of a devoted reader and the sharp mind of an editor — seeing everything, missing nothing. But where can you find a meticulous proofreader with the skills to make sure every last piece of punctuation is in the right place?
What is the difference between a proofreader and other types of editors?
The critical difference between a proofreader and other types of editors is the scope of their jobs. In print publishing, the proofreader doesn’t just root out spelling and grammar errors; they also focus on aesthetic elements, like page design and typesetting. If there is a table of contents, a proofreader will cross-check numbers and chapter names. For books with photos, they’ll check captions for style and accuracy, correct placement, and verify that credit is provided where required. To proofread a book involves a great deal of responsibility — it is the “final sweep” that will determine whether it is up to professional standards.
Is “line editing” another word for proofreading?
Line editing is a confusing term since its meaning depends on whether you are in the UK, US, or Canada. This difference is why we generally avoid using “line editing” in our editing services definitions. In the UK, “line editing” is the next (and final) step after copy editing, so it is more or less synonymous with proofreading. The difference is that the line edit is performed on the manuscript document, while the proofreading service is undertaken on the final document (PDF for print books). In the US and Canada, line editing is sometimes used to describe a mix between content and developmental editing — where the primary concern is the creative content and style. Other times it describes a slightly more detailed version of copy editing. If an editor’s résumé includes “line editing,” it’s best to clarify with them directly what they mean. Fortunately, all editors on Reedsy are categorized as developmental editors, copy editors, or proofreaders, so there’s no confusion about which services they can provide.
Can you proofread your own book?
Many writers can and will proofread their work. Simply reading back something you’ve written will usually reveal typos and ungainly passages. In situations where your writing isn’t intended for a massive audience (for example, in an email to your boss), you can usually rely on yourself or on writing software to find mistakes with spelling, punctuation, or grammar. However, when it comes to published works intended for a broad audience, nothing can beat the eagle-eyed service of trained proofreading professionals.
Do I need a proofreader if I’ve already worked with an editor?
While a developmental editor should pick up most inaccuracies in content, they work with the understanding that spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors will be addressed in later edits. In other words, your developmental editor will not read your manuscript with the aim of making it 100% error-free. Your copy editor will do that as part of their service, leaving the proofreader with the task of identifying rogue errors that have previously been overlooked. It’s important to note that the copy editor reviews the text before typesetting. In contrast, the proofreader reviews the (often printed) proof — that is, the book as it will appear in its final format, after typesetting. A proofreader will eliminate any typographical errors introduced during the production stage, either by the author adding revised text after copyediting or by the person responsible for typesetting. Spelling mistakes can still be present after several rounds of proofreading, which is why many best-selling authors employ four or five different professionals to proofread every one of their books.
How can I find the right proofreader for me?
On the Reedsy Marketplace, you can search for professionals by genre, location, and keywords, making it easy for you to find proofreaders with experience in your category and subject matter. If you want a nonfiction proofreader with an understanding of Lovecraftian naming conventions and Australian dialects, you can find them. Once you’ve narrowed down your shortlist, you can send your project brief to up to five proofreaders. This will be a short description of your book, including:
- What your book is about, its genre, and word-count
- Whether it has previously been edited by a professional
- A description of the style guide your editor may have used
- Whether you are publishing as an ebook, print book, or both
- Your budget and the ideal timeline for the proofread to be returned
The clearer you are in communicating your needs, the better the chances that our proofreaders will respond with an accurate quote. And for the best chance at landing your first-choice proofreader, send your requests as early as possible!