What is proofreading? The ultimate guide to become a proofreader

Without proofreading, no one can say that the piece of writing is up to the mark. If you ask someone in the publishing industry “What is proofreading?” you are likely to get a different reply than asking one of your teachers in college. Proofreading is the act of checking errors and correcting them in text and images before circulating them to a wider audience. It is the last step of the editorial process which focuses on fixing spellings, punctuation, formatting issues and any other inconsistencies. It is essential before any text or image is shared with an audience.


However, the process is rather similar and proofreading ranges from online publications to job applications and everything in between. Proofreading is the last step taken before a document is shared with its intended audience.


This article I will guide you how to become a proofreader in a proper way. Before getting deep dive, you need to know the history of proofreading a bit.


The history of proofreading can be traced back to the time of printing itself. Johannes Gutenberg invented the modern printer in 1439 A.D. and a contract written after 60 years in 1499 A.D. makes the author responsible for proofreading. The proofreading processes have evolved over the time but the endgame is fairly unchanged. 

What is the difference between editing and proofreading?

“What is the difference between editing and proofreading?” is a common question. Because we often think they are similar in terms of the work being carried out. Editing and proofreading are indeed similar because both involve revising a text.


However, editing includes major changes to structure, content and language, whereas proofreading focuses on spellings, punctuation and inconsistencies.

Steps are as follows-

As mentioned earlier, proofreading is the last step of the editorial process. So the steps are as follows-

The first step is content editing which focuses on revising an early draft to make significant changes like adding, deleting or moving several sections. It is an important part of content creation because content editing sets an outline for the content to flow in a certain direction in order to send the intended message. 


The second step is line editing which focuses on the use of language to effectively communicate ideas, stories and background. Some would argue it is the most important part of content creation. Every content is created to send a very specific message. Although the interpretation of the message varies from person to person, the challenge from the content creator’s side is to ensure the message is appropriate, understandable and has some sort of impact. 


The third step is copy editing. It involves checking each sentence to ensure correct grammar, making sure a particular style guide is followed and checking if the content is consistent. Copy editing doesn’t involve changing the content of a text but if a sentence isn’t clear or is sending a wrong message, a copy editor can work with the author(s) to clarify it.


The final step is proofreading. After the first three steps, that is content editing; line editing; copy editing, proofreading focuses on checking the remaining errors related to typos, misplaced punctuation and style-related inconsistencies. In case of publications, proofreading also involves checking the formatting like line spacing, alignment and page numbers.1.

Importance of proofreading

Proofreading is important as it represents sincerity. It shows that we take pride in what we do and it is the best we can do. If we want our readers to be immersed into our content and not distract them with our errors, proofreading is strictly essential.


When we produce something perfect, it immediately tells others that we pay attention to detail and care about the work we do. It is also an indication that we have authority over our writing and that it comes with an added strength.


Proofreading is the only thing that stands between us and our readers. So it is essential for us to deliver something that is clear, authentic, accurate and easily understood. In-depth proofreading creates a room for second opinion too. When an extra pair of eyes is involved, it creates an avenue for a different opinion.


The author can bring changes in terms of tone to accurately deliver his/her message. In some cases, proofreading can also avoid emotional overreactions that might occur throughout different drafts.

In different situations, we rely on our writing skills to reach out to someone new – be it an email to a potential employer or an application to college. We understand how our first impression is crucial in situations like this. Proofreading can ensure their impression on us is positive and that we are considered seriously.

Types of proofreading

Proofreading can be categorised into two types based on the language. 

Bilingual proofreading

Bilingual proofreading is carried out by proofreaders who have a high proficiency in both the source and target languages. A bilingual proofreader checks the original text against the translated text to ensure the translation is accurate. 

When the proofreader doesn’t speak the source language but instead is focused on the flow and target language without considering the original text, it is categorised as monolingual proofreading. The message, tone and style are more dominant aspects in case of monolingual proofreading compared to the accuracy of the translation.



Stylistic proofreading

Stylistic proofreading focuses on the aesthetics of a content. Mostly marketing materials require this kind of proofreading. The proofreader will focus on the style of writing and edit the text accordingly. Proofreading for print media is another type of proofreading.


It is arguably the most popular form of proofreading where the focus is on checking spellings, grammar and formatting. It is the last step between the author and the readers. Academic proofreading is another type. It consists of proofreading dissertation or assignments to mostly check the citations used.


However, depending on the intensity of an academic proofreading, a proofreader may also advise on the flow, tone and style of the writing.

Proofreading Career

Proofreading is a very rewarding profession considering the payment structure of a professional proofreader. The average annual salary of a proofread in the United Kingdom is £23,264.


Most companies that provide proofreading services tend to have a preset per-word or per-page rate based on the delivery time. On an average, $0.01-$0.05 per-word or $2-$4 per-page is the expected payment. However, both proofreading and editing services cost even more. 


On the other hand, freelance proofreaders charge an hourly rate which varies based on the length, quality and complexity of the document. Hourly rates can be anywhere between $20 to $50 per hour whereas depending on how long it will take to thoroughly proofread the document. 


If you are willing to become a professional proofreader, Euston College offers a Proofreading & Editing Course Level 3, 4 and 5 course that can help you give you an edge in the existing job market and let you firmly establish yourself in the publishing sector.

Proofreading & Editing Course Level 3, 4 and 5

Quality Licence Scheme endorsed, tutor support and assessment available

Tips to follow to advance your proofreading

Imagine finding the right job – the one with the right salary, right location, right position. We realise we are the perfect fit – the ones with the right qualifications and experience. We apply with excitement and carry on with our lives.

A few days later we accessed our email and realised that we had misspelled the job title. While it might not matter for some jobs, there are many jobs that require excellent English skills and the lack of proofreading can cost us our dream job.


It is to be noted that recruiters tend to reject applications based on careless mistakes of the applicants. If you want the job application to be taken seriously, it is necessary that we proofread before sending any document. As it shows sincerity and care, our applications have a higher rate of acceptance.

Similarly, in case of being students, if we are able to allow some time at the end of an exam to go through our answers, it can create a significant difference. We know that even one mark can bring a change to an entire grade. Perfection is what separates a great essay from a good essay.

As we head to the Tips section, it is recommended that you start with a clear mind every time you proofread any document. It will prove to be useful if you let go off anything that distracts you – whether it is your phone or the music in the background.

Here is a list of 12 tips that can help you become an efficient proofreader:

Tips on how to become an efficient proofreader

Eye for Detail

The most important aspect of a proofreader is an eye for detail. A proofreader must be able to look for mistakes that a normal person is likely to overlook. It is not a skill you can pick up naturally. It can only be attained through practice. Having an eye for detail is a prerequisite when choosing a career in proofreading.

Maintain a Checklist

Create a list of important things that you have to check. The list may include agreement of nouns and verbs, missing articles, punctuations, sentence structure, numbering, line spacing, etc.

Get a Printout

Proofreaders find it easier to proofread with a physical document. It is certainly easier and less stressful to read from a physical document than to read it on a computer screen. In addition, it is more convenient to mark changes with a highlighter or a pen on a hard copy of any document.

Fact and Spell Check

It is important to particularly check facts, figures, dates and names in any document. If the required information is missing and needs to be added in the last minute, make sure you highlight the omission prominently so that no one forgets to attend it.


It is easier to check for spellings in an electronic version of a document. So, before you get a printout of any document, don’t forget to check the spelling errors in it.

Read Aloud

There are two benefits of reading aloud. First, reading loudly forces a higher level of concentration compared to reading silently. Second, your ears are more likely to catch certain mistakes that your eyes might miss.


If you read a document, it is going to allow your brain to fill in gaps and fix errors in your mind which can help you make actual changes. It ensures that the sequence of each word and punctuation are verified. 


There are also online features that can read text aloud for you. Conveniently, you can use the text-to-voice feature to listen to the original document. Reading aloud also helps identify awkward sentences because it is likely to sound more awkward out loud than on the document. In order to make every sentence free-flowing, reading them aloud is highly essential.

Focus on One Line at a Time

When focusing on a single line, you are more likely to find subtle errors that you are likely to miss when focusing on multiple ones. It discourages you to read fast and significantly helps you proofread better. 

Follow Style Standards

Most organizations have style standards for external documents that ensure consistency in every aspect of their operations. The guideline may range from font choice to font size to margin size and more.


Page numbering, column alignment, headings, subheadings, captions, footnotes etc. are all part of any extensive style standard, so it is advisable that you have these guidelines close at hand while proofreading a document.

Avoid Excess Words


A writing that is direct and concise goes a long way to sending the appropriate message. Words that are unnecessary can distract the readers from the actual message. Without overstepping into editing, review and erase superfluous words that do not add any value to the text. 

Check Sentence Structure


A proper sentence must have a subject, a verb, an object, and should express a complete thought. Although it sounds really simple, yet, sentence fragments and run-on sentences can sneak into a good text and deteriorate the overall quality. So, don’t forget to check the sentence structure properly.

Explain or Erase Jargon

If used frequently, acronyms and specialized terminologies can distract the readers. An acronym should be elaborated when it is mentioned for the first time whereas an unfamiliar terminology should be explained adequately to help the readers connect.


Moreover, any term that is difficult for the readers to comprehend should be removed and replaced with common wording.

Make Corrections in One Go

It is better to make all the changes one by one after you are done proofreading a document. There is a chance that you might lose your flow if you make changes as you find them. As it is the second-last step of your proofreading process, you surely don’t want to make any more errors here.


If you are following your printout, make sure you mark the changes off as you correct them in your device. If you have written a significant portion, it is better to get another printout and proofread.

Proofread Again

Once you are done making necessary changes to your document, proofread again with the same thoroughness to see if it is error-free and free-flowing.


If someone believes that proofreaders are not useful anymore, he/she is badly mistaken. No matter how much Microsoft Word insists that your document is correct – it probably isn’t. Punctuation errors, missing words, repetitive words, misused words are just among many common mistakes that go unnoticed on online proofreading services.


Proofreaders have a far lower rate of false positives compared to any computer programs because real time experience and a human understanding of grammar will always beat an algorithm. From What is proofreading to advanced proofreading, the following PREMIUM course is recommended for you to became a professional proofreader.

Proofreading & Editing Course Level 3, 4 and 5

Quality Licence Scheme endorsed, tutor support and assessment available

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