What is proofreading?
Proofreading is carefully checking for errors in a document before you finalise it. It’s the last step in the writing process. It focuses on fixing spelling and punctuation mistakes, typos, formatting issues and inconsistencies.
If you’re looking for advice to boost a document’s written style, structure and overall effectiveness, we recommend editing.
What are the benefits of proofreading?
Proofreading ensures no embarrassing errors have slipped through the cracks, to avoid giving readers any reason to doubt your professionalism or credibility.
This includes checking that:
- grammar, spelling and punctuation is used effectively and correctly to make your meaning crystal clear. This includes correctly using apostrophes (no apostrophes for plural nouns, for example)
- respect is shown through capitalising words like Indigenous and using non-sexist terms like workforce rather than workmen
- client names, place names, technical terms and acronyms are used correctly
- you don’t unintentionally give an amateur, unprofessional impression through misusing words like:
principal and principle
practice and practise
licence and license
effect and affect
it’s and its
Acronymns and technical terms
We make sure acronyms, technical terms, and program names are consistent. We’ll ensure any assumed knowledge is uncovered and made clear.
We’ll also check that all key terms comply with your organisation’s style guide.
Attention to detail
When you engage us to proofread, you’re engaging a very specific skillset.
We can remember, when we get to page 74 of your report and see an organisation’s name written as ACRIOB, that it was written ACROIB on page 4. We’ll check which one’s correct, then make sure they’re all correct throughout the report. Some might not think this means much, but ACROIB might not be so understanding.
We’ll also tend to notice things like inconsistent spacing between lines and sentences, which might give the reader an unconscious negative impression of your document. We spot these things and fix them.
We know grammar, spelling and punctuation like the back of our thesauri.
We know the rules, and when to follow (or not follow) them. We keep your audience front-of-mind with all decisions.
But it’s not just about language. We’ll likely pick up other issues too.
We don’t just pick up on grammar and spelling. We’ll help save you time and embarrassment through spotting things like an error in a quoted price, a caption that doesn’t match the accompanying figure, or missing x or y axis labels on a graph – things a spelling or grammar checker won’t pick up.
Why might your document a proofreader?
Most of the time, you read to understand and connect whole ideas. Your brain is focused on getting the meaning. The bigger picture. And rightly so.
But that also means that when you’re reading your own work, your brain might fill in missing ideas or words without you noticing they’re not actually there on the page (or screen). Especially when you’re so familiar with the document.
This is also why you might check a report several times before approving it only to come back to it later and spot errors you didn’t see earlier.
But can’t we just use a spelling or grammar checker?
You can and should use these tools as a back-up. Definitely.
But in our experience, they cannot replace the eagle-eye of a human proofreader who can make human-centred content and wording decisions considering the audience.
We also know that the smallest changes can have the biggest impact.
Take this example, which shows the power of small changes: