Reasons people think they don’t need a proofreader… 

and reasons they really do.


“Anyone can do it”

A friend’s teenage daughter recently commented to me “I could be a proofreader”. While I admire her confidence, unfortunately a good grade at GCSE English isn’t really going to cut it here.

I must admit, the challenge presented by the Publishing Training Centre’s Basic Proofreading by Distance Learning course was a bit of a surprise to me. After all, I had a grade A English A-level and a 2:1 English degree to my name, not to mention 15 years in TV graphics developing an eye for detail. I’d even completed the SfEP’s Proofreading 1 introductory course. This was going to be a breeze, right?

Not quite. I got an encouraging score in my first module, confirming I’d chosen the right path, but complacency got the better of me in Module 2 and my marks dipped. Feeling defeated, I put the course down for nearly 6 months (I know… but I’m not good with disappointment). Then, with the encouragement of my husband, I decided I just needed to change tack. Time to knuckle down and really work hard at this. So I made notes that I read and re-read, checked over each exercise and learnt from my mistakes. I let my assignments “breath”, by which I mean I would finish them, then put them down for a couple of days before going over them one last time and sending them off to my tutor for marking. (It’s amazing what a difference that makes, giving yourself space over a project when time allows really helps in finding tiny errors.)

The hard work paid off. Steadily my marks improved and, in the end, I felt happy with what I’d achieved.

But this is not meant to be an autobiography entitled ‘How I Got My Proofreading Qualification’. The point is, there’s so much more to being a proofreader than many people realise. I know not everyone will care that I can use the BSI symbols, or deal with orphans and widows (that’s a publishing thing, by the way, not a social responsibility!), but I think most clients would be reassured to know I have the skills to look for what is not there, as well as checking what I can see. I think it matters that I care as much about the overall appearance of the piece, how it looks on the page, as I do about the words within it. It counts that I understand the knock-on effects of my changes when it goes to print. I’m sure everyone appreciates my clear and concise comments, and that I only amend what really needs to change because a) changes cost pennies and b) this is your work, not mine, I’m not going to re-write it and stifle your voice.

The main thing I’ve learnt? There’s always more to learn! So I look forward to working my way through further courses as I progress my career. And when people say “anyone can do it”, I have to say, “they really can’t”.

posted 16th October 2018

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Twitter @JoHobbis