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An introduction to proofreading

Course Description

A module by the Publishing Training Centre
Welcome to An introduction to proofreading. We hope that you will enjoy the module, which will cover the fundamental aspects of proofreading.

The word ‘proofreading’ means different things to different people. Below we outline the four main users of such work, and what they are likely to expect.

Publishing companies:
If you work for a publisher (books and journals, whether in print or online), proofreading relates to checking the publication content in its final layout, with illustrations, tables, footnotes etc. in the most appropriate position. The proofreader will be looking out for errors made or missed by the copy-editor (see below) and for possible errors made by the typesetter – the person who put the material together for this stage. At this point, it is expected that only actual errors will be amended – the time for making ‘tweaks’ or giving the text a final polish is long past.

Other organizations:
Companies and institutions that produce publications – for example, company reports or financial advice to clients – want more than ‘simple’ proofreading. Of course, they want someone to correct any errors of spelling, grammar and punctuation. However, they might also want to make sure that the organization and structure of the publication is sensible and that the writing style is appropriate for the intended readers; this is more what a copy-editor does, as outlined below.

Independent authors:
Now that it is relatively easy to publish a book oneself, an increasing number of writers are ignoring the route via a publishing company and are self-publishing instead. These authors can ask someone to ‘proofread’ their book but might actually want it to be copy-edited (see below) and possibly to be critiqued, and for the ‘proofreader’ to help develop it into something ready to be launched into the world.

Many students want their thesis or dissertation to be ‘proofread’ before submitting it to their examiner. In some cases, a proofread is all that is required (as for a publishing company) but often such students are working in English as a second (or even third) language and want their text to be looked at for correct grammar and usage, making sure that what they have written is clear. This sort of work verges on copy-editing and might not be allowed by the student’s supervisors, as it means that the result is not entirely their own work.

To summarise, a ‘proofreading’ job can range from making a final check before publication of something that has already been thoroughly revised (copy-edited) and carefully laid out to doing detailed work on a ‘raw’ document from one or more writers.

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