What is a Proofreader?

Also known as: Content Editor.

Proofreaders are valuable assets in the publishing world. These are the people who correct spelling, grammar, and other important aspects of writing in documents before the pieces reach their audience of readers.

Before a magazine or newspaper goes to print, there is quite a process of editing and proofreading that must occur. Pages must be checked for errors; margins and spacing must be adjusted so the articles flow smoothly; and pictures must be placed within the articles for the flow to seem consistent. Proofreaders are often responsible for all of these important pieces. They are the people who make publications look their very best; and when errors are prevalent within a body of written work, that is a sign of a proofreading professional that could possibly be replaced by another candidate’s careful eye.

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What does a Proofreader do?

Proofreaders will check documents for simple and complex errors. Spelling mistakes and grammar errors cannot be in an article when it goes out for publication. Errors can impact the integrity of a publication. Proofreaders are the members of the publishing team that make sure that documents look and read their best before they are sent to print.

Along with being able to recognize errors in written materials, proofreaders must be able to correctly mark the documents for corrections. Some proofreading firms will have their proofreaders correct the documents while the writer reads the work out loud. Sometimes proofreaders will need to correct the same document numerous times. The job is not complete until the document is error-free.

Other aspects of proofreading corrections involve measuring the spacing and margins to ensure they meet the criteria of the publication before the work is sent through to printing. Proofreaders that work for newspapers and magazines may also be responsible for the positioning of headlines, articles, and photos.

Proofreaders must be able to work closely with writers and other proofreaders to ensure every word and paragraph is formatted correctly and free of errors before it is sent to the next step of publication.

How to become a Proofreader

Many proofreading positions are filled by a candidate that holds an associate’s, bachelor’s, or master’s degrees in the field they wish to enter. If the proofreaders will be working for a literary journal or similar publication, they may be required to hold at least an associate’s degree in English, creative writing, or journalism.

Though education is often a requirement, there are publications and companies that will hire proofreaders that have a large amount of experience but lack their degree. Some may also hire proofreaders while their degrees are in the process of being completed.

Candidates for jobs as proofreaders should have at least one to three years of proofreading experience. These candidates should have a keen attention to detail with pronounced oral and written skills. The ability to point out errors quickly and easily is one of the skills that any proofreader must possess, along with excellent communication skills and a strong work ethic.

Computer skills are also required. The resume of a proofreading candidate should be filled with word processing and spreadsheet experience as well as proficiency using Adobe software. Proofreaders should have experience using programs for Mac as well as PC.

Publications are more likely to hire proofreaders that have internship experience. Internships can be used to prepare a candidate for many different proofreading positions including editing and proofreading for technical writing, advertising firms, public relations, and literary journals.

To prepare for the task of attaining a proofreading job, interested candidates should achieve their associate’s or bachelor’s degree in a field that closely corresponds with writing or publishing, take communication classes that will improve public speaking skills and interpersonal communication, and take computer classes to become familiar with the latest word processing software such as Microsoft Office programs.

After those steps have been completed, a candidate should gain relevant work experience to continue as a competitive option for a proofreading position. Many companies prefer hiring individuals that have at least one to three years experience in a proofreading position. This can be done by training on the job, or attending a vocational training program. As a proofreading candidate, a person should have basic knowledge and comprehension of the field they are proofreading for.


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