Health Sciences Editing and Proofreading

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): What is Proofreading?

What is Proofreading?

Following the copy-editing of a material, it is then sent to a typesetter or designer by the publisher. The material is then printed or displayed as the evidence that the work is ready to be published. Proofreading refers to the tidying up and quality checking of work. Several clients, however, expect more from proofreading services.

Even though papers can be proofread or marked on either a paper or on screen, most proofreaders reckon that they are able to find more errors in the essays on paper than when on screen. Proofreading is considered a blind task since the material is proofread on its own without considering the version that was edited.

The proofreader is not responsible for the copy-editor’s or writer’s work, but only serves to look for consistency in presentation and usage, as well as accuracy in the paper’s layout, text and images. Before commencing on the work, there should be an agreement concerning the reference terms of the proofreader.

What is Proofreading?

Publishing work is done by many organizations, such as schools, charities, businesses, local councils, and so on. If the staff of these organizations lack in editorial experience, they are unable to exactly specify what they want of what they need. The writing may be the effort of a team, therefore no one has gone through the entire content, or could alternatively be the work of a superior which ought not to be altered. In addition, the paper may not have arrived at the final proofreading stage, or may be so well worked on that very minimal changes are necessary, if any.

Although such clients may expect and require services beyond proofreading, they are often not aware of the important role that copy-editors can play in the task. This constitutes the universe of proofreading. The proofreader first determines what is required from the paper, and consequently negotiates a schedule and budget that will permit for extra editorial interventions and decisions.

What Does a Proofreader Do?

Draft web pages and page proofs often provide the last opportunity to visualize how everything (including tables, graphs, images, footnotes, and words) is integrated into the work before publication. At that time, the very limited changes can be accomplished as the work becomes more fixed.

The proofreader employs experience, knowledge, skill, care and judgment in ensuring satisfaction in the work of the typesetter/ designer, editor and author. The proofreader makes corrections and offers advice to the client concerning certain problems. This is all done with the goal of reducing the production costs and preventing publication delays, while optimizing the outcome/ quality of the paper.

Some of the tasks of professional proofreaders include:

  • Collating the alterations of the author with others, such as by querying or rationalizing instructions that pose conflicts
  • Liaise with contributing writers in order to advice the client or offer resolutions to queries
  • Confirm that the content is arranged in a logical manner and that it looks/ reads right
  • Make certain that the labels, captions and illustrations correspond within the text and with one another
  • Weed out confusing and inappropriate terms, page breaks or columns, such as ‘orphans’ and ‘widows’. This also include ensuring the use of short introductory and concluding sentences in paragraphs throughout the writing
  • Where necessary, insert or check cross-references
  • Using a previously agreed method, or the BSI (British Standards Institution) marks, note the necessary alterations and show proof for the changes (on screen or on paper)
  • Consider the necessity for certain changes with regards to the schedule and budget allocated. Altering certain words can often portend immense knock-on impacts
  • Look for and eliminate inconsistencies and omissions in content, layout and typography
  • Ensure consistencies in the styles, especially in terms of hyphenation and spellings, by adhering to a style guide, when provided, or using own style
  • Confirm accuracy of the table of contents in terms of the page numbers, end-matter and chapter titles. This includes indices, appendices, and so on
  • Check the page headings and the page numbers
  • Read the proofread material blindly or by comparing it with the previously un-edited version

A proofreader can also conduct light editing, although with considerable limits. However, the professional proofreading does not entail re-editing the paper. The proofreader only intervenes with a proper reason.

What Does a Proofreader not do?

  • Obtaining permission(s): Permissions to use copyrighted images and quotations ought to be obtained prior to the typesetting
  • Page design/ layout: This requires special skill and knowledge
  • Indexing: This is a special skill. The Society of Indexers can be contacted for reference to professional indexers
  • Copy-editing: Alterations during proofreading can prove costly. If the changes required are extensive, the proofreader first discusses with the client the situation of the paper

Could I be a Proofreader?

A large number of people suppose that proofreading only entails checking grammar, punctuations and spellings. However, these are just the basic features of the work. Therefore, if one is a slow reader (instead of opting to read slowly), has poor spelling, and with a vague grammar, they can thus not take part in proofreading tasks.

Proofreading demands an ability to express ideas in a fashion that is concise, a vocabulary that is wide, and good knowledge of the subject at hand. The proofreader must be reliable, disciplined and tactful. The proofreader should be capable of using limited money and time to complete tasks satisfactorily. The proofreader must do the best job for the author even if the proofreader does not agree or like the message or style of the author. One has to be on their best behavior when proofreading someone’s work. For a glimpse into the world of a proofreader, attemot the SfEP course, Proofreading 1: Introduction. For our ideas on what makes an excellent proofreader, please follow this link.