What is Proofreading?
Almost everyone whose work involves communication knows that horrible ‘gotcha’ feeling when they learn too late about a proofing mistake in something they have written. Sometimes it feels like the keyboard must be conspiring against you, as MP Andrew Selous found out when he Tweeted that everyone should ‘lean English’.
Unlike Andrew Selous, not everyone’s mistakes make it to the tabloids or to Wikipedia. Yet it is proved to me every day that proofreading is vital. Errors can undermine the whole credibility of a text; who wants to hire someone whose CV says that they are a ‘fat worker’ rather than a ‘fast worker’, or, even worse, a ‘shit worker’ instead of a ‘shift worker’?
These sorts of mistakes creep past the spell check. What I do is act as a fresh pair of eyes that can pick out all these flaws; whoever wrote the text probably won’t be able to see these because they know the piece too well.
When I first started Proofreading London my biggest fear was that I would have to send a document back without making any changes to it at all. I kept thinking that sooner or later this would happen. However, I have been running Proofreading London for almost two years now and it hasn’t happened yet.
What I have learnt is that it is impossible to proofread your own work and that many clients are surprised by the mistakes they have skimmed over. There is absolutely no shame in this, as even proofreaders need a proofreader when it comes to their own writing.
If your message is less than clear, you won’t reach your audience—or your goals. Communication in the modern world is increasingly important, and so striking the right tone is absolutely invaluable.
Increasingly, what we call proofreaders are often copy-editors as well. Fixing typos will save embarrassment, but effectiveness results from taking a text and making it into a rounded document which speaks to the reader in the correct tone. It’s more rewarding for me, for my clients, and for their readers once a text has not just been cleansed of errors and inconsistencies but also made to make its point more powerfully and succinctly.
Lizzie is the founder of Proofreading London, a professional team of proofreaders improving the clarity and accuracy of written work for a wide variety of clients.
If you need a fresh pair of eyes to look over an important communications piece, or would like ongoing help to put your best foot forward, contact Lizzie at Proofreading London.