Let’s Talk About Proofreading

One of the things I often see on ads for freelance writers is that “You must be able to 100% accurately proofread your own work.”

So, this is not a reasonable expectation. First of all, even a professional proofreader misses stuff here and there. No matter how experienced and good you are. I missed a missing space and fortunately spotted it on a second pass only last week.

It’s a truism in publishing that the best time to find a typo is five minutes after it went live. (If any wit finds one in this, please feel free to humorously point it out).

But there’s another issue to: It is hard to proofread your own work. Why? Because you know what you mean. You know what that word is supposed to be, what that sentence is supposed to say, and your eyes will gloss over it.

Ah, but spellcheck! Grammarly! These tools are highly useful and I use them all the time. They are not 100%. They don’t always spot word choice errors, they need tweaking to spot name consistency if you’re using names that are invented or simply uncommon in English speaking areas.

So, no, you should not expect 100% proofreading accuracy from your writer. The ideal is to hire a professional proofreader. If you can’t afford it, here are some tips:

For writers:

Read it out loud. You spot a lot more errors this way. When I’m proofreading or copyediting I read the entire thing out loud as I proofread. It really works.
Read it in a different format. When I publish a book, I always read through the print proof before publishing the ebook. Print it out. Change the font. Change the background. Make it look different and your brain will see it as different content.

Absolutely use spellcheck, but don’t rely on it.

For clients:

If you can’t afford a professional proofreader, then always have somebody other than the writer read it before it goes out. This can be anyone with a bit of downtime and attention to detail. I’ve seen people ask the receptionist, if they have one.

Then have somebody (ideally a different somebody) read it again as soon as it’s posted to your website or blog, to counter the Murphy’s Law of “Five minutes after you publish.”

Proofreading is important! If you can afford a professional proofreader, chat with me. I do proofreading and copy editing of most types of content at a reasonable price. If you can’t, never expect the person who wrote the content to do all the proofreading!

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